The Purples overcame a slow start to score on six straight first half possessions on their way to a 49-7 win over the Wildcats Saturday at the Franklin-Simpson Pigskin Classic.
Both teams were bitten by the turnover bug early, but once Bowling Green was able to shake off the miscues they were able to utilize the big play and good field position to build a 42-0 halftime lead.
“We were outmanned by them. I don’t think they are that much better than us, but we lost some breaks early and turnovers early hurt us,” Wildcat head coach Curtis Higgins said after suffering the school’s worst loss since a 42-19 loss at Hancock County in 1999.
The loss was especially sour for Higgins, who felt some of his players mailed it in after falling behind early.
“I think some did, but after reviewing the game film, it wasn’t as many as I first thought. We didn’t match Bowling Green’s intensity and physicalness early and that’s what cost us the game,” Higgins said. “We could have had a lot better showing.”
Both teams combined for 11 turnovers, with Trigg County responsible for seven that led directly to 21 Bowling Green points.
There were three turnovers in the game’s first 30 seconds as each team put the football on the ground once.
Trigg appeared to be the first team to take advantage of the mistakes when Tommy Woodall scooped up a Bowling Green fumble and raced 80 yards for a score. However, the score was nullified by a Wildcat clipping penalty 20 yards behind Woodall as he approached the end zone.
Two plays after the penalty, the Wildcats drove to the 20-yard line but Woodall’s pass to Jamaal Boyd was picked off at the goal line by Bradley Barlow.
Then the carnage began.
Trent Steelman hit Derek Hayes on a short pass that turned into a 61-yard gain that set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Avery Hibbitt with 5:54 left in the opening quarter.
After a Wildcat punt, Steelman connected with Hibbitt out of the backfield for a 67-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Trigg County fumbled on the first play of their next drive, and Rondale McMillian scored on a 3-yard run with 3:14 left for a 21-0 Purple lead.
Another fumble on Trigg’s next series set up a McMillian-to-Hibbitt scoring play on a 41-yard pass across the middle for a 28-0 Bowling Green lead with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Purples added two more big plays – a 58-yard run by Chris Reynolds and a 68-yard quarterback keeper by Steelman – to complete their first half scoring.
“Steelman’s veer play bothered me the most because that kind of play shouldn’t happen against us. There was no back side help, and that probably upset me the most,” Higgins said.
All of this was done with two Trigg County players on the bench. Linebacker John David Fourqurean suffered a sprained ankle, and All-State lineman Jeffery Adams had an adverse reaction to the heat on the field. Neither played after the midway point of the first quarter.
Bowling Green had 323 yards of offense in the first half despite three turnovers and failing to score in the red zone three times in the first 24 minutes.
“Our defense played exceptional, but I’m as disappointed offensively as I’ve ever been with a team,” Purples head coach Kevin Wallace said. “We didn’t execute on offense and didn’t hold on to the football, and that wasn’t a winning level of football for us.”
The Wildcat offense was somewhat effective against the Purple defense, totaling 187 yards and eight first downs in the first half. But they couldn’t overcome the six first half turnovers and four dropped passes by Wildcat receivers.
The Wildcats averted the shutout when Woodall scored from three yards out with 8:47 left in the game.
“To hold Trigg to seven points with the athletes they have says to how exceptional our defense is. That’s a really good 2A football team that had bad things happen to them. This game isn’t an indicator that they are going to struggle this year,” Wallace said of the Wildcats.
Bowling Green had 430 yards of offense but just five first downs in the contest, while Trigg County had 270 yards.
Woodall completed 17-of-38 passes for 225 yards, but was picked off four times.
Jamaal Boyd was Trigg’s leading receiver with five catches for 124 yards after being shut out against Madisonville in the season opener.
Both Woodall and Rick Woods led Trigg County in rushing with 27 yards. The Wildcats totaled 45 yards on 28 carries.
Steelman led Bowling Green with 74 yards rushing on four carries and threw for 128 more yards on 2-of-3 passing.
Hibbitt had 37 rushing yards and 115 receiving yards as the Purples improved their record to 1-1.
“Bowling Green is a real good football team. You’ve got to be on top of your game when you play one of the elite programs in the state. You can’t have seven turnovers and expect to win,” Higgins said.
EXTRA POINTS -- Tommy Woodall’s 17 completions were two shy of the school record held by four different quarterbacks…Trigg County avoided being shut out for the first time since 1999, keeping alive their streak of 64 straight games without being shut out. The school record is 68 straight games from 1968-73…The last time Trigg County played an opponent on a neutral field was the 1989 state championship game…Next year, Trigg County will play Franklin-Simpson in the bowl game, while Bowling Green will play Christian County…Bowling Green’s 28 first quarter points were the most allowed by Trigg County in a single quarter since Monroe County scored 34 in the second quarter of their 75-35 win over the Wildcats in the 2002 playoffs.