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Dawgs’ rival final hurdle to district crown

You just knew the District 1 title would come down to long-time rivals Hardin-Central and Norborne. The Bulldogs and Pirates will get together Thursday night at Lee Meador Field with Hardin-Central looking to grab its second straight district championship.
“So far we’ve done what we had planned on doing,” Bulldog Coach Kirk Thacker said. “We’re taking it one game at a time and worrying about the opponent and not looking ahead. Now we have a chance to win the district outright. They get fired up for this game, the same as we do, so anything can happen.”
The Bulldogs are 6-3 overall and will bring a 3-0 district mark into the 7 p.m. kickoff. Norborne, a potentially very dangerous team, according to Thacker, opened the season with three consecutive losses, but rebounded to win its next three, and are 2-1 in district competition.
“They’ve been down a little bit in weeks past, but they’ve made a good run the last few games,” he said. “We’re not going to sell them short. We know what can happen when we do look past a team like that.”
While Hardin-Central was blasting Chilhowee 72-0 last week, the Pirates ventured out of district play and defeated Kansas School for the Deaf, 72-24.
The only other team in district with a chance to move on, Miami, is finished with district competition and is 3-1, so a Norborne victory Thursday would put three teams at 3-1 and into the points system to break the logjam.
“They’ve got something to play for and so do we,” Thacker said. “We want that district crown and we want to be undefeated as far as districts go, and they want in the playoffs awful bad. It could be a real good game.”
The Pirates will give Hardin-Central another look at the spread offense – an attack that has given the Bulldogs problems the past couple of seasons. Quarterback Walter Walker is the triggerman for the Pirate attack. The former running back can give the opposing defense some problems, according to Thacker.
“He’s a good player,” he said. “He throws the ball well and I think he might be a little more accurate than Norborne’s quarterback last year. He likes to scramble and create, so he’s going to cause some problems because he is a threat to run and he has done that in several games.”
His main target, Chris Desselle, from Stet, was lost for the season a couple of weeks ago with a broken arm, but Thacker said there are other talented receivers to keep an eye on. The running attack is led by J.J. Storey, who rushed for 136 yards two weeks ago, and 150 more last week.
“They like to spread the ball around and that’s where we’ve had our troubles,” Thacker said. “I would think we would see it and that’s what we are preparing for. That’s what I would run against us.”
Thacker is also looking forward to the battle up front between Norborne’s 6-5, 240-pound center, Michael Gervey, and his own Lukas Milligan, who owned the line Friday night at Chilhowee with 20 tackles.
“He is really controlling the middle,” Thacker said of his senior lineman. “He wants to play college ball somewhere so he knows people are watching him. We might move him around a little. Gervey is pretty big and we might have Lukas utilize his speed for a big guy against him.
He’ll have some help behind him. Daniel Carpenter is a very sure tackler and his brother Mark is about 90 percent back from before he injured his ankle so that’s been a big help.”
Thacker also said another wounded Bulldog, Randy Estenbaum, could be recovered from his concussion and be ready for Thursday. The Bulldogs had just 10 players available last week.

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