Friday, Trigg returned the favor, winning 41-14 and advancing to the second round of the 2A state tournament.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Trigg head coach Shannon Burcham said of the Trigg/O’Cath rivalry. “It’s been frustrating for several years. It’s great for the kids, but it’s also a great win for this program.”
Burcham said the mindset of his players led to Friday’s win and will be key to the team’s success Friday against defending state champ Fort Campbell.
“This group of kids doesn’t quit,” Burcham said. “Their attitude has been great. They’ve stuck with us and believed in what we want them to do. It’s taken a little mending here and there, but it’s probably the best group I’ve ever worked with in terms of being coachable and doing what we ask.”
Against the Aces, Trigg had a slow start. Catholic opened the contest with a 10-play, 84 yard drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Evan Harvey to Cole Sturgeon.
The ‘Cats turned the ball over on downs on their first drive, and Catholic quickly moved into scoring range, but Harvey missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.
Trigg wasted little time in getting on the board, tying the score four plays later on a 52-yard run by Dillon Cionko.
Midway through the second quarter, Trigg took the lead after taking possession at Catholic’s 35-yard line. Cionko ran the next three plays, moving the ball to the 6-yard line, where Akeem Wilson punched it in.
Leading 14-7 at halftime, Burcham said discussion in the locker room revolved around Catholic’s comeback win in a similar situation last season.
“We talked about being up 14 and them coming out, making adjustments and beating us,” Burcham said. “We made adjustments tonight, and they worked.”
Trigg took control at the start of the third quarter, engineering a seven-play, 63-yard drive capped by Wilson’s 8-yard touchdown run.
On the third play of Catholic’s ensuing drive, Jaron Gilbert intercepted Harvey’s pass on third-and-2 and ran the ball back to Catholic’s 5-yard line.
“We settled into a defensive scheme that we’ve run a lot and has gotten us beat against Catholic in the past,” Burcham said. “It worked tonight.”
After a false start penalty, Andrew Stewart scored on a 10-yard run.
Cionko scored again early in the fourth quarter on a nine-yard run, and after Sturgeon scored on another 15-yard catch, Trigg answered with a 31-yard touchdown from Josh Adams to Nick Watkins on a sweep pass.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things right for a while,” Burcham said. “We’ve got options offensively, but we haven’t really had to throw the ball yet. We still can, but we need to maintain possession and not beat ourselves.”
Burcham said he was concerned with Trigg’s penalty total – 17 for 154 yards – and that a similar performance next week would be crippling. However, he praised his team’s offense, which racked up 479 rushing yards.
“There are things we put in this week that we didn’t show,” Burcham said. “We had another option defensively, but we didn’t show it because what we were doing worked.”
Cionko led the way with 263 yards on 20 carries.
“The holes were there today,” Cionko said. “Everybody did their jobs, it wasn’t a single person that did it. It was a team effort.”
Burcham echoed Cionko’s praise of the entire offensive unit, particularly the offensive line.
“When the defense changes looks, our offensive line is smart enough to check to something else if they need to,” Burcham said. “They did a great job tonight.”
Trigg also had solid efforts from Adams (nine carries, 96 yards), Wilson (13 carries, 81 yards) and Stewart (eight carries, 50 yards.
Facing a meeting with an undefeated Fort Campbell squad looking to repeat as state champions, senior linebacker Jamus McAtee said he and his teammates will focus on themselves more than the Falcons.
“Coaches tell us it doesn’t matter who we play, it matters how we play,” McAtee said. “We’ve got to step up, stop big plays and if we can control the clock, I think we can do well.”