The 2009 season opener didn’t go as planned for coach Kirk Thacker and his young Hardin-Central Bulldogs. With a lot of first-year starters, the Dawgs learned some valuable lessons in a 50-12 loss to Nodaway Holt.
“We’re going to take a few of those to get our kids up to speed,” Thacker said. “They have never played any varsity competition before. They had to take a few hits and make a few mistakes and I think they’ll be better for it this week.”
Friday night, the Bulldogs face another team in a rebuilding mode as they travel to Stewartsville to meet the Cardinals. The Cardinals are coming off a season opening 68-22 loss to visiting North Andrew.
The Stewartsville defense allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers in the loss and Thacker said that plays into the type of game his offense likes to operate.
“That’s good news for us, because I would much rather run the ball and control the clock than toss it around too much,” he said. “We like to get the lead and milk it. We don’t like playing catch up and we don’t do it very well.”
The Dawgs will also be seeking a little bit of revenge. The Cardinals handed Hardin-Central two of its losses last season, including a 50-16 setback in the state quarterfinals.
In addition to a youth movement, the Bulldogs also had to go into the first week with a few holes to fill due to injuries. Going into the second week, Thacker has moved a few more pieces of his offensive puzzle around as Jake Harris moves to quarterback and Randy Estenbaum moves back to his regular spot at fullback. Harris, who battled an off-season hand injury, moved into quarterback late in last week’s game.
The junior completed 2 of 3 passes for 42 yards, a touchdown and one interception, while rushing twice for 18 yards.
“We think he’s kind of a diamond in the rough that we will be able to use for a while,” Thacker said of his new signal caller. “We get Randy back at fullback – his natural position. He’s short and squatty and takes them right on. He’s not afraid of anybody and just an excellent blocker.”
Thacker knows that although Stewartsville lost a few key players from last season, they still have some talent left over. The Cardinals return a pair of all-district defensive ends, along with all-district wide receiver Dakota Dunlap who provides a good target for quarterback Ryan Graeff.
Nick Chandler paced the Stewartsville ground game last week with 135 yards on 9 carries.
Thacker said the game plan for each team will not be that complicated.
“Coach Kevin Heyde has been there 13 years so they know his system and we pretty much know what he’s going to do,” he said. “He has the same offensive system we have here and we’re not going to change. Both teams are just going to line up and try to stop the other.”