"I’ll guarantee there will be one," the Wildcat head football coach said this week as Trigg prepares to open the 2004 football season against the Class 1A power Cardinals at Perdue Field.
Last year, lightning halted the first regular season matchup between the two schools since 1990 with 9:31 left in the half. Mayfield led 20-7 after the Wildcats fumbled the ball out of the end zone on a drive.
The two teams waited out the lightning, but a strong thunderstorm followed shortly and caused the game to be postponed because of the amount of water on the field.
Mayfield was given the opportunity to come back the following day, but declined, saying it was too far for them to travel on consecutive days. The KHSAA ruled the score stood and counted as a victory for Mayfield and a loss for Trigg County.
For the past 51 weeks, Wildcat fans, coaches, and players have stewed over the results of the game and have circled Friday’s date on their calendar as a chance for redemption.
"It’s the most eagerly anticipated opener I’ve had since I’ve been here," Higgins said of Friday’s opener.
Not because it’s just Mayfield and the circumstances surrounding last year’s game, but also the fact Trigg County returns 15 starters from last year’s 9-3 team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Add to that Mayfield’s 25-0 career record against the Wildcats, including losses in consecutive years from 1974-90.
Higgins calls Trigg County’s dislike for Mayfield similar to what he experienced in Louisville with 4A powerhouse Trinity.
"At Waggener, we hated Trinity. They were our most hated rival in our district. When I moved to Male, I had to learn to develop that hatred for St. Xavier, who was their district rival," Higgins said. "I didn’t realize how much hatred there was here for Mayfield, but I have a taste for it now. Nothing against Mayfield, but I didn’t like the way the game ended last year."
Mayfield lost a ton off last year’s 10-4 team that lost to eventual Class A state champion Danville in the semifinals.
While some are calling this year’s Cardinal squad the weakest in several years, don’t buy it.
Mayfield posted a pair of impressive scrimmage wins over Class 4A Owensboro and Milan, Tennessee, who is ranked third in Tennessee Class 2A.
This year will be a rebuilding year of sorts for Joe Morris, whose roster contains a talented group of sophomores and juniors.
Mayfield has to replace their starting quarterback, entire backfield, and an all-state lineman. In addition, the Cardinals lost a returning starter on their line when 6-0, 225-pound senior Andrew Heath injured he knee in a summer league baseball game. He will likely miss the entire season.
Adam Shelton (6-0, 160, soph.) replaces Greg Cook at quarterback for Morris, who has a history of starting young players at the signal caller position.
Mayfield’s new look backfield includes junior Blake Rust (5-11, 175), and junior fullback Chris Williams (5-9, 170).
"We have to shut them down. They’re both run hard and will hit you," Higgins said.
Shelton’s likely targets through the air should be sophomores Fred Brown (5-10, 165) and Chance Sherrill (5-11, 140).
Both offenses find themselves operating behind reworked offensive lines.
All-State lineman Micah Jones has graduated and is a member of the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Heath was expected to pick up some of his slack, but his injury forces Morris to look at his younger brother Landon Heath, a 6-2, 235-pound sophomore.
Quinton Taylor, a 6-5, 350-pound senior, will take Jones’ place on the line, while Adrian Lawson (6-2, 280, will also provide help on the line.
Trigg County also finds themselves looking at some new people on the line.
Higgins was less than pleased with his line’s play in last week’s scrimmage loss at Hopkinsville.
Lineman Pierre Grubbs suffered an injured finger, but should be ready to play Friday.
Quarterback Dylan Sonnek missed last week’s scrimmage after suffering a mild concussion in practice.
Running back Steven Wadlington, who rushed for 1,176 yards last year but has not played in either preseason scrimmage, was suffering from the flu last week.
Higgins said both Sonnek and Wadlington are expected to return to practice this week and should be ready to play Friday.
If Sonnek and Wadlington are both healthy Friday, the Wildcat offense should be ready to break out of their doldrums that dogged them in their scrimmages.
"We have to make them chase us around and let them realize how many threats we have and use the whole field," Higgins said.
Rust and senior defensive end Anthony Moss (6-1, 220) are a couple of the few returnees for the Cardinals on defense.
With eight starters back on defense, Higgins wants a better showing from the Wildcats than last year when the unit gave up 98 yards on just eight plays.
"We’re going to have to start off better on defense. The referee missed a call on their first score, and we had bad punt coverage that set up the second score. We have to do the little things right Friday," he said.
With everything on the line for Friday’s game – the season opener, a chance at revenge, a chance at history, and Bluegrasspreps.com preseason rankings (Trigg County third in 2A and Mayfield sixth in 1A), the Wildcats still have to concentrate on the game itself.
"I don’t worry about us getting too hyped to play," Higgins said. "They know what they have to do, and it will let us know just how good of a football team we really are."
Higgins has already guaranteed a final horn for Friday. He also guarantees the fans will get their money’s worth.
"It will be a hard-hitting football game. We’re not a smash-mouth type of team, but you’ll see some hitting Friday, and it will be a great football game."
Following Friday’s 6 p.m. Integra Bank opener, Hopkinsville will play Memphis Ridgeway at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets for the event are $6 and can be purchased at any local Integra Bank branch or in the TCHS office.
Athletic Director Taylor Sparks said fans that purchase advanced tickets can enter Perdue Field at the lower west entrance and avoid lines via the express lane.
TWO-MINUTE DRILL – Friday’s game will mark the 100th for Higgins as a head coach. He was 17-24 at Oldham County from 1991-94 and 40-18 in five seasons at TCHS for an overall mark of 57-42 (.575)…Trigg County is 10-22-1 (.318) in season openers at home since 1938…Trigg County has opened their season with Mayfield three times, losing 39-0 in 1942, 24-7 in 1987, and 20-7 last year…Trigg County is 17-33-1 (.343) in games played in August since 1938…Mayfield is one of four schools Higgins has never beaten while at Trigg County. The other three are Murray, Monroe County, and Glasgow – all playoff losses…Friday’s game will be the 646th in Wildcat history dating back to 1938.