Curtis Higgins would like to see that same caliber of play in the other three quarters.
The Wildcats overcame an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Graves County 36-32 Friday at Perdue Field.
"When you win a big game and come back and win another one, then I think you’ve got a pretty good football team," the Wildcat head coach said after his team moved to 2-0 on the season. "We’re showing a lot of guts late in the game, but we have to come out and play right off the bat."
Graves County used the big play early and often to knock Trigg County back on their heels and keep them playing catch up all night.
Quarterback Donnie Thacker connected with receiver Brad Alred seven times for 212 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
"Their defensive backs are way out of position, and you saw what can happen," Graves Coach Mike Rogers said. "That’s their scheme. They’re going to get a sack or give up a touchdown. That’s what happened, and Curtis knows that."
Rogers, a graduate of Fern Creek High School in Louisville who had been an offensive coordinator at Nelson County before moving to Graves County, has seen the same style of defense played by Male.
"He knows the defense, and he made the adjustments early. I should have known better, but we made an adjustment the last two series where we sacked them. I should have done that a long time earlier."
Zach Atkins scored on a 9-yard run on the last play of the third quarter to give Graves County a 32-21 lead.
The Wildcats responded with a 10-play, 83-yard drive, with quarterback Tommy Woodall and running back Steven Wadlington accounting for 61 rushing yards along the way.
Wadlington’s 3-yard scoring run and Woodall’s bootleg conversion run with 7:27 left pulled Trigg to within 32-29.
Graves lost 11 yards on their next series and were forced to punt from their own 10-yard line, giving the Wildcats prime field position at the Eagle 39.
Three plays later, Woodall found Jamaal Boyd on a quick pass. The junior receiver ran 25 yards to the end zone to give the Wildcats their first lead of the night. Jacob Wadlington’s extra point gave Trigg a 36-32 lead with 4:45 left.
Graves County appeared to have some energy left, with Thacker and Alred hooking up for a 35-yard pass to the Trigg 23-yard line on a 4th-and-7 play.
Two penalties on Graves helped the stall the drive that ended with two incomplete passes at the Wildcat 27-yard line, sealing the win.
Higgins said a late game adjustment helped his linemen get more pressure on Thacker.
"We bumped the line a man and treated it like an unbalanced line. That left Jeffrey (Adams) unblocked, and he was able to get the pressure on Thacker," the Wildcat coach said.
Trigg County rolled up 375 yards of offense, with 266 coming through the air. Woodall was 10-of-16 passing with three touchdowns, all to Boyd.
The junior receiver caught four passes for a career-high 122 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown that saw him stumble near midfield twice and still manage to outrun the Eagle defense. That score tied the game at 14.
"The difference between this year and last year is we have more kids who can make big plays," Higgins said. "We were young last year, but this year we can throw to more people who can make a huge catch."
Wadlington rushed for 68 of his 89 yards in the second half as the Wildcats totaled only 109 yards on the ground.
Defensively, Graves County amassed 500 total yards, with Thacker completing 10-of-20 passes for 278 yards.
A fumble by Trigg at their own 23-yard line set up Graves’ first score, a 15-yard run by Jon Ladd, who finished with 114 yards on 20 carries.
Trigg County quickly answered when Frank Russell took a handoff from a teammate on the ensuing kickoff and raced 95 yards through would-be tacklers for the score.
The Wildcat frenzy didn’t last long as Thacker and Alred hooked up on an 80-yard pass on a fly route down the right sideline.
While Graves County was efficient on offense early, their special teams didn’t equal the task.
In addition to giving up the kickoff return for a touchdown, they didn’t convert an extra point kick, run, and pass on their last three scores.
Kicker Zack Simms also missed a 39-yard field goal in the first half that the Eagles sidelines thought was good but missed right.
The Eagles tried to line up for a field goal before the end of the first half but time ran out in the confusion over why an official tossed Graves’ kicking tee off the field as they were lining up.
In special teams, we were minus seven, but the officials blew the first field goal and threw our tee off the field and started the clock before halftime," Rogers said.
The Wildcats now have a week off before entering district play against Reidland Sept. 10 at Perdue Field. After a pair of hard fought wins in the first two weeks, the open week comes at a good time for Higgins and the Wildcats.
"We need it. I’m emotionally drained," he said. "We weren’t sure about the timing last year, but it has come at a good time this year."
Big plays crack record book
The game was filled with several big plays, three of which made the Wildcat football record book.
Frank Russell’s 95-yard kickoff return in the first half was tied for the second longest in Wildcat history.
Other Wildcats with 95-yard kickoff returns are Ronnie Diggs (1972), Vic Grubbs (1994), and Charles Alexander twice in the 1978 season.
The longest kickoff return in Wildcat history was by Bobby Acree against Webster County in 2002.
Russell’s return for the score was the first one since Trey Diggs returned a kick against Heath last year.
Tommy Woodall’s 81-yard touchdown pass to Jamaal Boyd in the first half tied for the fourth-longest in history, equaling Bruce Higbee’s 1970 scoring toss to Steve Oliver.
The longest pass play was 94 yards from Dan Moser to Justin Martin against Crittenden County in 2000.
On the other side of the football, Donnie Thacker’s 80-touchdown pass to Graves receiver Brad Alred was the fourth longest against the Wildcats.
The 32 points allowed in the win was the most by the Wildcats since Trigg beat South Fulton 56-33 in the 2001 regular season finale.
August blues gone?
Trigg County entered 2004 with just a .343 winning percentage in the month of August.
After a 2-0 start this season, the Wildcats have won ten of their last 12 games in August dating back to 1999. Both of those losses came in the Integra Bank Bowl.
TCHS has a .421 winning percentage in September, .507 in October, and .449 in November.