A year later, they couldn’t stop the Wildcats’ version of Thunder and Lightning.
Using the power running of Steven Wadlington and Taylor McGee and a powerful performance by their offensive line, Trigg County ended 65 years of frustration at the hands of Mayfield and dealt the Cardinals a 41-27 loss Friday in the 2004 Integra Bowl at Perdue Field.
The win was Trigg County’s first in 26 career meetings.
“This was a big win for us, and I didn’t think they could stop us all night,” said Wildcat Head Coach Curtis Higgins, who was congratulated after the game by many of the Wildcat faithful who filled Perdue Field. Higgins even joked about running for mayor of Cadiz after the win.
But it was the duo of McGee (thunder) and Wadlington (lightning) that did the running for Higgins Friday, racking up 227 of Trigg County’s 264 yards on the ground.
McGee used his 275-pound frame to bowl over several Cardinals, rushing for 72 yards on 12 carries and scoring twice.
Wadlington, who has been battling the flu for the past week, rushed for 155 yards on 16 carries, with 102 yards coming in the second half when the Wildcats ran 20 consecutive running plays without attempting a pass.
“They couldn’t stop us. There was no reason to pass,” Higgins said. “We just needed to stop them.”
The latter proved to be tough for the Wildcats early in the game.
Trigg County opened the scoring by marching 87 yards in eight plays.
Tommy Woodall connected with Jamaal Boyd on pass plays of 32 and 23 yards that set up a 1-yard scoring plunge by McGee with 5:50 left in the opening quarter.
Woodall completed all six of his pass attempts in the first half for 80 yards and was named Trigg County’s MVP for the game.
“I know I have guys who can catch the ball. I just have to throw it to them. Jamaal is a great receiver. He’s a big guy who can go up and get them,” Woodall said.
The junior was expected to share snaps with fellow junior Dylan Sonnek, but his quick start made Higgins stay with Woodall.
“Tommy was awesome tonight. He was not only good on offense, but he was great on defense,” Higgins said. “We didn’t see a need to change quarterbacks that early. Dylan played a lot on defense in the second half and came up big on some plays late in the game.”
Mayfield countered with an air attack of their own.
Sophomore Adam Shelton found junior Blake Rust with a floater that went over the outstretched arms of Wildcat defender Jake Wallace for a 25-yard score.
Like Trigg County, Mayfield missed the point after to keep the game tied at 6-6 with 1:27 left in the opening quarter.
Shelton rushed for 21 yards on Mayfield’s next drive, but a fumble by Chris Williams was recovered by Jeff Adams at the Wildcat 25-yard line.
McGee capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring run with 2:36 left in the half. The two-point conversion pass failed, giving the Wildcats a 12-6 lead.
Two bizarre plays marked the next 27 seconds that opened the door for the Cardinals before halftime.
Rust caught the Wildcat secondary asleep and hauled in a pass at midfield with nothing between him and the end zone. At the 20-yard line, the Cardinal back lost the grip on the football and dropped it on the ground where Rick Woods recovered for the Wildcats.
On the next play, Higgins inserted Dylan Sonnek at quarterback. His pass was intercepted by Tristan Dumas near midfield.
Six plays later, Rust held onto a Shelton pass for an 11-yard touchdown that gave the Cardinals a 13-12 lead at halftime.
“That was stupid on my part,” Higgins said about calling the pass play. “I was going for the jugular. I looked at the clock and wanted to bury them before the half, but it backfired.”
In the second half, the Wildcats began to wear down the Panthers, using their depth and hard-hitting defense to create some breathing room.
Woodall capped a 9-play, 74-yard drive to open the half with a 1-yard run. Boyd hauled in the two-point conversion pass for a 20-13 Wildcat lead with 7:33 left.
Mayfield answered by inserting Dumas in at running back. He accounted for 32 of Mayfield’s 69 yards on the ensuing drive, including a 1-yard run with 4:33 left.
Kewanis Kennedy broke through the Cardinal line to block to extra point to preserve Trigg’s 20-19 lead.
Frank Russell, who made a touchdown saving tackle of a Mayfield runner before Dumas reached the end zone, ignited the Wildcat crowd with a 59-yard kickoff return to the Cardinal 26-yard line.
Wadlington’s 18-yard run up the middle set up Woodall’s second 1-yard scoring run two plays later. Jacob Wadlington added the extra point kick for a 27-19 Wildcat lead with 3:03 left in the third quarter.
Mayfield answered with Dumas picking up 28 yards on three carries and were aided by a pass interference penalty on the Wildcats.
Shelton and Rust hooked up for the third time on a 43-yard scoring pass across the middle on the first play of the fourth quarter. Rust finished the game with 113 yards on four catches.
“They have a heck of a team,” Higgins said. “Rust is as good as they come.”
Shelton found Anthony Moss for the two-point conversion to knot the game at 27.
The lead didn’t last long as Wadlington’s 56-yard scamper on the first play of the ensuing drive set up his 4-yard touchdown run two plays later. The extra point kick was blocked, giving the Wildcats a 33-27 lead with 10:51 left.
Mayfield’s line appeared to be worn down by the start of the final quarter, with the Wildcat defense limiting the Cardinals to 26 total yards over the game’s final 11 minutes.
Woods, Kennedy, and Pierre Grubbs joined forces to sack Shelton twice on Mayfield’s next drive, forcing them to punt.
Dennis Acree fielded the kick and returned it 49 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
“I caught the ball over my shoulder and got some good blocks,” the senior said of his return. “They made the wall. I was pointing them out, and I took it to the house.”
The punt return is the second in as many seasons for Acree, with the last one coming against Lone Oak last year.
“I’m trying to make something big happen every time I get it,” he said.
Steven Wadlington ran in the extra point for a 41-27 Wildcat lead.
Mayfield threatened only once more, driving to the Wildcat 24-yard line.
Jake Wallace, who had been victimized by two of Rust’s previous touchdowns, stepped in front of a Shelton pass at the 4-yard line to preserve the Wildcat win and set off a wild celebration on the sideline.
“They were trying to pick on me, but we freed up two men in the secondary in the second half and were able to get them,” Wallace said.
The Wildcats finished with 349 yards of total offense, including 264 rushing yards. In the second half, Trigg totaled 182 yards on the ground, racking up nine yards a carry.
Mayfield had 343 yards of offense, with Shelton completing 8-of-15 passes for 165 yards and three scores.
The game was a hard-hitting affair, marred by breaks in the action due to players on both teams suffering from cramps.
For Mayfield, Fred Brown suffered a possible broken collarbone after making a catch, while fullback Chad Saxton, and defensive players Travis Brown and Chance Sherrill both left the game after taking hard hits.
“We’d see one of their guys on the ground, and that pumped us up on defense,” Wallace said. “We tackled better in the second half and let them know we were here.”
Unlike last year’s game that ended with 9:31 left in the second quarter when lightning followed by heavy thunderstorms moved through the area, Friday’s first game escaped the predicted thunderstorms.
Despite looming clouds and lightning in the distance, there were no delays this time.
“I saw the lightning and thought it’s going to be a long night, because we’re playing until the final horn. There was no way I was going home even if we were ahead,” Higgins said.
Minutes after the game ended, the rains fell at Perdue Field.
And so did the frustrating reign Mayfield has enjoyed over Trigg County for the past 65 years.
EXTRA POINTS – The 41 points against Mayfield was only the fourth time in 26 meetings that Trigg County had scored 20 or more on the Cardinals…Trigg County is averaging 29.5 points in their last six season openers…The Wildcats are now 23-5 at Perdue Field under Higgins…Friday’s win came in Higgins’ 100th career game as a head coach. His career mark stands at 58-42, including 41-18 at Trigg County…Wadlington’s 100-yard rushing night was the tenth of his career.
Strauch makes most of opportunity
Wildcat lineman Josh Strauch went from the outhouse to the penthouse in a week.
The 160-pound junior saw the most minutes of his career against Mayfield, playing left guard.
“Josh went from standing on the sideline the entire Hopkinsville scrimmage (last week) to kicking guys’ butts at practice on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday,” Higgins said.
Jeff Adams started at tackle, but Higgins inserted Strauch into the offensive line so that Adams could play defense exclusively.
“Jeff is a big load to play both ways, and he wore down a bit on offense, but came up huge on defense,” Higgins said.
Adams is making the shift to a two-way starter after playing all of last year on the defensive side of the football.
“It’s weird,” Adams said about playing offense. “It will take some time for me, but I’m getting used to it.”
Woodall now has the family bragging rights
25 previous senior classes had hopes of becoming the first Wildcat players to defeat Mayfield.
Now, junior quarterback Tommy Woodall can brag about something his three other brothers can’t – beating Mayfield.
Older brothers Nate and Sam both lost their only game against the Cardinals.
Nate was a sophomore and one of 19 players in uniform for the Wildcats in their 67-20 loss to the Cardinals in the first round of the 1998 playoffs.
Sam played line for the Wildcats in last year’s loss at Perdue Field.
Phil Woodall, a three-year lineman for the Wildcats, was sandwiched between the Mayfield games and never played against the Cardinals.
That gives Tommy something to brag about when the Woodall brothers get together. But not for long, he said.
“They’re still a whole lot bigger than me.”