After holding a slim 14-0 lead at the half, the Hardin-Central Bulldogs left little doubt as to who the District 1 champion would be in the second half. With a couple of key injuries cutting the Bulldog numbers to just nine players, Hardin-Central put 26 points on the board in the third quarter and 22 more in the final as the Dawgs clinched their second consecutive district title with a 62-8 win over their long-time rival Norborne Friday night at Lee Meador Field.
The Bulldogs will take a 7-3 record into Saturday’s quarterfinal game, as they will host 6-2 Stewartsville in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Hardin-Central defense, despite losing All-State lineman Lukas Milligan to a knee injury on the first play of the game, held the Pirates to 174 yards on the ground and 55 more through the air.
“We played outstanding defense tonight,” Hardin-Central Coach Kirk Thacker said. “They gave us a good game the first half and it took us a while to get going, but when we did, we really took off.”
The Pirates committed nine turnovers in the game and Hardin-Central took advantage of them all. Mark Carpenter had a pair of fumble recoveries to go along with his 11 tackles. Chris Herring came up with 3 Norborne fumbles, while Patrick King and Joe McMichen recovered one Pirate fumble apiece. Daniel Carpenter led the Hardin-Central tackle chart with 14 stops, while Chris Wilson was in on 11 tackles.
The Bulldog offense also lost fullback Randy Estenbaum in the second quarter, but the offense managed to grind out 425 rushing yards with King completing 6 of 10 passes for an additional 78 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“Patrick, Wilson and Mark (Carpenter) all had nice games, but they will be the first to tell you that it was all because of the nice line blocking we had,” Thacker said. “We knew they would load the box and try to stop our run, so we threw a few times to loosen them up and we hit the jackpot with Mark.”
Carpenter hauled in 4 passes for 59 yards and 3 touchdowns. His first came on a 7-yard catch in the second period that gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead. In addition to his arm, King led Hardin-Central with his legs as he rushed for 214 yards on 21 attempts with a pair of touchdowns. His first score, a 3-yard run, got the Bulldogs on the board in the opening period.
King’s 73-yard burst on the first play of the second half boosted the Hardin-Central lead to 20-0 before the Pirates got on the board with a J.J. Storey 34-yard run and 2-point conversion.
Wilson, who added 191 yards on the ground on 25 carries, scored the first of his four touchdowns on a 7-yard run, followed by a King to Carpenter 16-yard pass play. Wilson found the end zone again before the third quarter ended on an 8-yard run to give the Dawgs a 40-8 cushion heading into the final period.
King and Carpenter teamed up for a 25-yard scoring strike, followed by touchdown runs of 1 and 18 yards by Wilson to wrap up the scoring.
Photo: Hardin-Central’s Randy Estenbaum II (33) goes eye-to-eye with Norborne’s Walter Walker (7) and Lucas Matthews (8) in Thursday’s game. Hardin won 62-8 and plays Stewartsville on Saturday. (Photo by JoEllen Black/The Daily News)