In the fourth quarter, those factors caught up with the Wildcats, who lost their season-opener 42-28 Friday against Union City, Tenn.
Trigg led 28-14 entering the fourth quarter despite playing the third quarter without senior Andrew Stewart, who took a helmet to the knee late in the first half and did not return to the game. His absence on defense made it even more difficult for the ‘Cats to contain Union City’s Keylon Hyde, who ran for 289 yards in the contest, including 121 yards and three touchdowns in the final frame alone.
“Our quarterback went down, and we came back with something different offensively than what we did in the first half, and we were able to pick up positive yards,” Trigg head coach Shannon Burcham said. “In the end, we didn’t have an answer for Hyde defensively. We tried several different things, but there’s nothing you can do when you can’t bring him down.”
Trigg started the game by absorbing a long Union City drive that spanned half of the first quarter but ended with a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Victor Panetta. Stewart was intercepted six plays later, and the teams traded possession twice more in a scoreless first period.
After forcing a Golden Tornado punt early in the second quarter, the ‘Cats went to work on their first scoring drive of the season, a seven-play, 45-yard stretch that ended with a 6-yard pass from Stewart to Nick Watkins. Stewart also kicked the extra point to put Trigg ahead 7-0.
Union City answered with another sustained drive, marching 64 yards in nine plays and tying the game on a 20-yard run by Deandrez Williams.
With 1:21 left in the half, Stewart hit Hakeem Tyler for 20 yards to put Trigg into Union City territory, but two plays later, Stewart suffered his injury and left the game. Hunter Allen took his place and, after an incomplete pass, was forced to fall on a bad snap, ending the drive.
Beginning in the third quarter, Burcham employed an offense similar to the one the Wildcats found success with in the final half of the 2009 season – run, run, run. On the fourth play of Trigg’s opening drive, Deondre Wilson found a hole and ran 40 yards for a touchdown. Ethan Sweno added the extra point for a 14-7 Trigg advantage.
Union City’s next drive didn’t last long as Trigg defensive lineman Alonzo Lewis forced and recovered a fumble by quarterback Chase Bowling. Two plays later, Tyler scored from 24 yards out on an end-around to extend Trigg’s lead. Sweno’s PAT was blocked.
Union City scored again less than a minute later thanks to Hyde, who returned the kickoff near midfield and then ran for 23 yards, earned a 15-yard facemask penalty and then scored on a 14-yard run.
After a pair of three-and-outs, Trigg started its final scoring drive of the game. The ‘Cats lined up to punt on 4th-and-3 near midfield, but a Union City player was called for roughing the kicker, David Wease, and after a 37-yard run by Deondre Wilson on the next play, Akeem Wilson scored from three yards out. Toddrick Wilson ran the ball in for a two-point conversion to put Trigg ahead 28-14 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
Hyde capped another six-play drive with an 8-yard score with 11:11 left in the fourth quarter, and Bowling tied the game with a 5-yard run four minutes later.
Trigg managed one first down on the next drive but couldn’t consistenly move the ball. Union City’s go-ahead drive began on the Golden Tornado 26-yard line with 4:23 left, and the ensuing 10-play drive was capped by Hyde’s 22-yard run.
Union City’s Tymaine Strickland forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Hyde scored again on the very next play from 27 yards away.
“It was a good ballgame heading into the fourth quarter and even late in the quarter,” Burcham said. “We continued to battle, and to our credit, we had some guys that were dinged up this week and came out ready to play. They’re dinged up again now, so we’ll have to work through that.”
Stewart went 6-for-9 with 73 yards, an interception and a touchdown, while Allen was 3-for-8 for 40 yards. Burcham said the first half gave an indication of what Trigg should be able to do on offense this season, while the second half highlighted that the running game is still a viable option.
“That’s a big part of what we’re going to do,” Burcham said. “We’re going to throw the ball and run good routes. Andrew is a great quarterback, and we were glad that we had another answer coming out for the second half without him, handing the ball off and gaining yards that way. If we can do them both, we can be very good offensively.”
As for Union City, the defending 1A champion in the Volunteer State, the Golden Tornadoes entered Friday’s contest replacing 17 starters from last year and having played five scrimmages and practiced most of the summer in their indoor facility. Burcham said Trigg’s performance against Union City should be viewed in positive terms considering those factors and in comparison to last season’s 45-6 loss to the same team.
“They’re a good football program and they’ll continue to be one,” Burcham said. “We’ve talked about their facilities, and nobody does better in terms of what they do to prepare their kids to play the game. They’ve got guys that are iron men, and it doesn’t matter what grade they’re in. They’re like Mayfield in that they reload.”
Trigg can develop a side-by-side comparison of Union City and Mayfield when the Cardinals host the ‘Cats in the second game of Saturday’s Jackson Purchase Alliance Bowl.
“They’re Mayfield and they know it, but we’re Trigg County and we’re trying to become that year in and year out,” Burcham said. “To do that, you’ve got to play tough competition, and we’re definitely doing that.”
– Stewart’s status for Saturday was unknown at press time. Burcham said the senior quarterback/linebacker was scheduled for an MRI early this week. Initial reaction Friday was that the injury was a strain and that Stewart could be ready to play at Mayfield.
– Sweno arrived at halftime of Friday’s game after helping Trigg’s soccer team to a 4-1 victory over Paducah Tilghman at the Graves County Invitational.
– Saturday’s gametime is not definite. Graves County is scheduled to play Trousdale County, Tenn., at 6 p.m., and the Trigg/Mayfield contest will begin after the completion of the first game.