The Wildcats (2-4, 1-1 in district) got off to about as bad a start as they could against the Tigers (2-4, 0-1). Trigg lost the first of five fumbles on the opening kickoff, and Caldwell’s Brandon Sigler scored from nine yards out on the next play. Baxter Boyd scored on a trick two-point play to put Caldwell ahead 8-0.
“In about three plays, they faced about as much adversity as we had all season,” Trigg head coach Shannon Burcham said. “We kept turning the ball over, giving them a short field to score.”
Caldwell took over for its next possession at the Trigg 22-yard line and scored six plays later on a one-yard run by Blake Hodges.
Trigg scored on its next drive, an 80-yard push highlighted by a 44-yard run by Dillon Cionko and capped by a 14-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams.
Caldwell scored on its next two drives. Hodges passed 17 yards to Aggie Capps for the first score, then 55 yards to Austin Phelps for the second to give the Tigers a 29-8 lead.
“That wasn’t us in their first three scores,” Burcham said. “We found a way to get into something that would work.”
With 5:17 to go before halftime, Akeem Wilson scored from six yards out, and a two-point run by Cionko cut the gap to 29-16, the halfime score.
“Our kids have heart,” Burcham said. “I walked in the locker room at halftime and felt as good as I’ve ever felt coming back out for the second half.”
Burcham said he and his coaching staff debated whether to change the game plan and open up the offense or stick with the running attack that’s been effective so far this season.
“We decided to just make it simple and let the kids play,” Burcham said. “They did an outstanding job.”
That job started after Trigg’s defense stopped Caldwell’s opening drive of the second half and gave the Wildcats possession with 9:59 on the third-quarter clock.
Trigg held the ball for the next 10:30, driving 87 yards in 21 plays and converting five third downs, including a big 3rd-and-11 pass from Andrew Stewart to Nick Watkins. Wilson ended the drive with a four-yard touchdown run, and he also punched in the two-pointer to make the score 29-22 with 11:29 to go in the game.
“We found a way to finish,” Burcham said. “When you get inside the 20, you’ve got to concentrate and find a way to finish the drive, and we did that repeatedly tonight.”
Caldwell’s last good chance to score came after the Tigers recovered a bad snap to punter A.J. Williams, who stepped in for Ethan Sweno, who missed the game after suffering a concussion in Thursday’s soccer game. Caldwell took over at the Trigg 15-yard line with 7:46 on the clock, but the ‘Cats stuffed two running plays and ended the scoring threat when Cionko intercepted a Hodges pass on third down.
Trigg punted on its next drive, then forced and recovered a Caldwell fumble. The next Wildcat drive ended when Jamus McAtee was tackled two yards short of a first down on 4th-and-5. McAtee had run for 29 yards on the same reverse play earlier in the contest.
Caldwell took over on its own 35-yard line with 1:32 on the clock. With Trigg still having two timeouts, the Tigers lined up in shotgun formation. A bad snap to Hodges led to a botched handoff attempt, and Trigg recovered the ball with 1:26 to go.
Stewart opened Trigg’s final drive with a nine-yard pass to Jaron Gilbert and an eight-yard run. Then, from the Caldwell 18-yard line, Stewart’s pass to Adams was tipped, but Adams kept concentration, caught the ball and was tackled at the 3-yard line. Three straight one-yard runs by Stewart pushed the Wildcats into the end zone, and the offense remained on the field for the game-winning two-point try.
As they had twice before, the Wildcats ran a toss to Cionko with McAtee doubling back for the reverse, but Cionko faked the handoff and rumbled ahead into the right corner of the end zone for the conversion.
“I wasn’t going to stop until I was in,” Cionko said. “It was a rivalry game, and we did what we needed to do.”
Cionko ended the night with 124 rushing yards, leading a Trigg attack that finished with 288 yards on 65 carries. Trigg’s defense held Caldwell to five rushing yards on 20 tries.
Burcham said the win was a great ending to a week of practice that saw the Wildcats improve each day.
“We’re in better position, but mentally, we’re in much better position,” Burcham said. “I told them I’d be proud of them whether we won or lost, and they said they were having fun. That’s what it’s all about, but to get the win makes it that much better.”
Trigg will look for its second straight district win Friday at Reidland (3-3, 0-2).
JV/Freshmen: Trigg County’s junior varsity and freshmen teams each lost last week
Thursday, the freshmen fell 36-8 at Marshall County. Eric Huff scored the touchdown and two-point conversion for the Wildcats.
Monday, Trigg turned the ball over inside the 10-yard line on more than one occasion in a 12-6 loss at Union County.