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By Russ Green-Sports Editor
Hardin-Central Coach Kirk Thacker puts a lot of credit for his team’s recent success on the improved Bulldog defense. The Bulldog defenders have been vital in their current five-game winning streak that has put them into Friday night’s District 4 championship tilt at Southwest of Livingston.
Hardin-Central’s streak gives the Dawgs an 8-3 record as they face the top-seeded Wildcats and their 8-2 mark at Ludlow in the 7 p.m. kickoff. One of those two Wildcat losses came in week No. 3 – a 34-18 decision to the visiting Bulldogs. Hardin-Central has won three of the last four meetings between these two schools, which has turned into a pretty good rivalry, according to Thacker.
“The last five or six years it has been a tight game between us and Southwest,” he said. “It’s been hard fought all the way to the end and neither team likes to lose to the other and we both have a lot of respect for the other. I think it’s exciting that it has come down to the two of us.”
The average spread between the two teams in the last four meetings has been 11 points with this season’s earlier win of 16 points by Hardin-Central the largest. In that game, the Bulldogs spotted Southwest an 18-0 lead. Hardin-Central did not get on the board until 4:00 remained in the first half.
After that Bulldog victory, Hardin-Central slipped into a three-game losing skid as the defense struggled to stop opponents through the air. The Dawgs fell the next week to North Andrew 58-0 and after holding a halftime lead against St. Joseph Christian, surrendered 40 unanswered points in the second half in a 46-20 loss to the Lions.
“They started connecting in the second half and really showed our weakness to the pass,” Thacker said. “Then the next week, Hughesville really showed us. So we’ve spent a lot of time on that and I think it has turned from a negative into a positive for us. We’ve turned it in to something we’re pretty good at and confident in.”
The losing skid reached three when Northwest spoiled the Bulldog Homecoming, 54-26, but since then Hardin-Central has strung together five impressive victories, including last Friday night’s revenge win at Northwest 58-14.