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A 30-point outburst in the second period kept the Hardin-Central Bulldogs’ playoff hopes alive Friday night as they stopped the visiting Chilhowee Indians 54-26. After struggling the past couple of weeks, the Bulldogs, now 1-1 in District 1 play, and 5-4 overall, simplified its offensive approach.
“We changed up our offense and went with a smaller playbook, and pulled out some plays we have not used for a few years,” Bulldog Coach Kirk Thacker said. “We tried to establish our running game early and that opened up the pass. We came out fired up and really got in and played hard.”
Randy Estenbaum paced the Bulldog offense as the sophomore ran for 102 of Hardin-Central’s 185 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while also completing 17 of 24 passes for 229 yards and five more touchdowns.
“Randy had a huge game at quarterback and really gave our team a lift,” Thacker said. “Our defense stepped up and did a great job. We got behind a few times, but never quit.”
Both teams traded scores in the early going. A Chilhowee touchdown gave the visitors a 6-0 lead after the opening period, but the Dawgs answered with Estenbaum scoring on a one-yard sneak, and then giving Hardin-Central its first lead by running the conversion. The Indians grabbed the lead back on Derrick Stoneking’s second touchdown of the night – an 18-yard run followed by a run for conversion.
The rest of the half belonged to Hardin-Central with Estenbaum hitting Chris Wilson for a 48-yard touchdown pass, and then finding Scott Spencer in the end zone for the conversion. Estenbaum followed with two more touchdown passes to Mark Carpenter covering 27 and 18 yards with another conversion as the Dawgs took a 30-14 lead at the half.
Carpenter ended the night with 113 yards on a half-dozen receptions, and had Hardin-Central back on the board to open the third quarter with a 34-yard scoring catch. Chilhowee pulled to within 10 points early in the final period, but the Bulldogs put the game away with three more touchdowns. Estenbaum hit Spencer for an 11-yard strike, and then added scoring runs of 2 and 36 yards.
Wilson picked up 79 rushing yards for the Dawgs, in addition to grabbing 8 passes for 95 more yards.
Carpenter also helped key the defense with 18 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries, with Spencer and Tyler Snitker in on 8 tackles each. Spencer also had an interception, with Snitker and Joey Gorham getting two quarterback sacks each.
PHOTO: Quarterback Randy Estenbaum was a double threat for the Bulldogs in their 54-26 win over Chilhowee. The sophomore made his first start and ran for 102 yards and 3 touchdowns, while also passing for 229 yards and five more touchdowns. (Photo by JoEllen Black/The Daily News.)