While Trigg County isn’t sweating their test in the same way Barry Bonds would fret over an impromptu steroids test, their upcoming opponent does worry Higgins.
The Wildcats will face Bowling Green Saturday in the first game of the Pigskin Classic at Franklin-Simpson High School.
The Purples are ranked number one in this week’s BluegrassPreps.com Class 3A Poll after losing to defending 4A state champion St. Xavier 13-7 in a game they had a shot of winning.
Trigg County entered the 2A Poll this week at #8.
“It’s a big test for us. Bowling Green is a solid club all around,” he said. “They have a lot of size and speed. On defense, they can close fast on the ball and stop a potential big play.”
The Purples’ strong suit appears to be their defense, where they return nine starters from last year’s 11-1 squad. Two of them – safety Bradley Barlow and defensive end Brendan Nestor – were named to the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Top 32 Seniors List. Trigg County’s Jeffery Adams is also on the list.
Barlow (5-11, 172, Sr.) had five interceptions last year to lead Bowling Green’s 3-4 defense, while Nestor (6-5, 225, Sr.) was the team leader in sacks (four).
Bowling Green’s size up front on defense will be a much tougher test than what Madisonville offered last week.
Joining Nestor on the Purples’ defensive front are juniors Stephen Johnson (6-2, 270) and Shawn Finney (6-2, 220), and senior Anthony Jones (6-3, 245).
The Purples are equally impressive in their linebacking corps were juniors Chris Tucker (6-0, 197) and Tucker Jackson (6-2, 227) were Bowling Green’s top two tacklers last year.
While their defense is as good as advertised, the Bowling Green offense isn’t up to normal standards yet.
The Purples have inexperience at the quarterback position, with sophomores Rondale McMillian and Trent Steelman splitting time last week against St. Xavier.
“They run the veer some. They run some option, and they will spread the ball and throw it. They have several different looks on offense,” Higgins said.
Junior Avery Hibbitt (5-10, 176) rushed for 684 yards last year and scored 21 total touchdowns. He ran for 91 last week against St. X.
Up front, the Purples average 245 pounds across, led by senior Slaven Demir (6-0, 236) and junior tackle Stuart Hines (6-4, 276).
Trigg County’s smallish offensive line struggled in the preseason but responded well in last week’s Integra Bowl over Madisonville. This week, they will have to continue their upward trend in the improvement department.
“We still need to work on some things, but I was impressed with how we played last week. We need to continue to improve on our o-line, and we have to be able to run the football,” Higgins said.
The Wildcats had a nicely balanced offensive attack against Madisonville, rushing for 210 yards and throwing for 200.
“Offense, defense, and special teams. If we can win two out of three, I feel good about our chances,” Higgins said. “They don’t outclass us tremendously, but we will have to play a real good game to beat them.”
With the 5 p.m. start, there are some who are leery about the heat, which caused several delays across western Kentucky last week. Saturday’s high temperature is expected to be in the low 90s.
“Our kids weren’t bothered with the heat, and I think that’s why we won the game. We had a few that were bothered by cramps, but they were all ready to play no matter how hot it was,” Higgins said.
Saturday will be the first meeting between Trigg County and Bowling Green in football. The 1964 TCHS team played Bowling Green High Street, the African-American school that was desegregated the following year. The High Street building is now a community center.
The game will also mark the first time since 1951 that Trigg County has played at Franklin-Simpson. TCHS is 2-4 against the FSHS Wildcats.