By T. Wampler
Coach Chad Griffin and the Hart County Raiders continued their magic carpet ride knocking off the Glasgow High School Scotties 28-21m ending their season in round three of the state playoffs. The mighty Raiders run their record to a perfect 12-0.
In the 1968 song by Steppenwolf, the lyrics read: “Well, you don’t know what we can see…Why don’t you tell your dreams to me. Why don’t you come with me on a magic carpet ride.”
The 2023 Raiders have taken their fans on a “magic ride,” and it is not over yet.
Coach Griffin and the Raiders’ seniors saw what others could not see. In the Hart County News-Herald special fall sports section, the seniors envisioned a district championship, a region title, and a possible trip to the state finals at Kroger Field in Lexington.
Those were their exact words in several senior interviews. The Raiders were after trophies, not just a “good season.” They wanted hardware to go with their victories in 2023.
The Raiders took another step toward those goals by winning their round three game. The Raiders high RPI – .74637 – the second highest in Class 3A football, is only behind Christian Academy-Louisville at .77631. The Centurions are above the Raiders in the KHSAA standings with an 11-1 record. Their lone defeat was to 2A perennial power Lexington Christian, 14-12, in the 4th game of their season.
The next line in the Steppenwolf song says, “Fantasy will set you free.”
The Raiders and their coaches believed they were a very good football team and were capable of putting together a great season, but did they even believe they would be the only undefeated team in 3A football?
Fantasy is reality for the Raiders.
Coach Griffin and the Raiders played a tough schedule in and out of their district, and it paid huge dividends giving them continued home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This Friday night Hart County will host the Union County Braves.
Union County edged Franklin-Simpson 23-22 to advance.
It is hard in football to beat any team twice in the same season especially against a rival and district opponent. Add in to those tough parameters prior to the 2022 season, Hart County had only defeated Glasgow one time in football in the two schools’ histories.
Now, the Raiders have beaten the Scotties three times in a row, including last year’s 38-30 win and this year’s district 22-19 victory.
The Raiders’ punishing ground game was evident in their sustained drives against a tough Glasgow defense. The strides the Raiders defense has taken from the 2022 season is another big reason for their success in 2023.
In those same interviews, Coach Griffin and his players said they knew their defense had to improve if they were going to win 3A District 2. The coaches and players worked hard all summer in the weight-room and workouts to ensure that not only could they score, but they could limit their opponents’ trips to the end zone and win close games.
The Raiders defense has done just that in 2023. The offense and defense have played near perfect “complimentary football” this season.
It is hard to go undefeated in any sport, but is especially difficult in football. The Raiders romped for their first seven games of the season and then won when it counted the most, edging the Scotties 22-19, the Wildcats 21-18, and Campbellsville Eagles 21-14.
Two of those three wins in the district, coupled with their 33-22 victory over Adair County, gave Hart County the 3A District 2 Championship.
Hart County was not challenged by Webster County, winning easily 43-8 in round one of the 3A 2023 State Football Finals.
The Raiders made bruising hits from the opening kickoff. Glasgow won the toss and took the football. A bone-jarring hit by junior Linebacker Brenan Griffin welcomed the Scotties to Hart County. A great tackle by Konner Walters and the other Raider linebackers contributed to that first defensive stop.
But the Scotties defense answered and forced the Raiders to punt on their first possession. HCHS contributed to their own early struggles with penalties, something Coach Griffin will address and clean up before their next playoff game.
The next Glasgow possession was an early turning point in the game.
Glasgow moved the football to the 19-yard line, but the HCHS defense stiffened with a huge defensive stop.
The first quarter ended with the score 0-0.
The Raiders offense then took over and showed out their powerful running game going 86 yards in 16 plays burning up minutes off the clock and scoring the first touchdown of the game despite 2 more penalties. JD Crump cashed it in from 1-yard out. A bad snap prevented the PAT kick, and HCHS led 6-0 with just over 4 minutes left in the 2nd quarter.
Glasgow answered quickly on a 2-play drive. Cameron Bulle caught a 51-yard pass from Easton Jessie and after Jared Malagon kicked the extra point, GHS led 7-6.
That score only took 22 seconds off the clock.
The Raiders ran the kickoff back to the 51-yard line. Clark Rexroat caught a beautiful 40-yard touchdown pass near the home team’s sideline from Jacob Shoulders for a touchdown. Before the score, Coach Griffin had his punting team on the field and was going to punt facing 4th and 9.
GHS called a timeout.
Griffin put his offensive unit back on the field, and the gamble paid off big time. After Rexroat’s score, the Raiders went for the 2-point conversion. Hunter Monroe crashed into the end zone for the successful conversion and HCHS led 14-7.
Rexroat would intercept a Hail Mary pass, and he returned it 50 yards. There was a flag thrown on the play, but the half ended with the Raiders on top 14-7.
The Raiders took the second half kickoff and went 83 yards for a score. JD Crump ran 13 yards for the touchdown. Johnathan Gardner booted the extra point, and HCHS led 21-7 with 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Griffin tackled Scottie Rico Crowder on the kickoff, and Walters made a nice play to break up a pass. Jaxson Shoulders tackled Scottie QB Easton Jessie on another nice play, but the Scotties drew the Raiders offside on 4th and 7 to give Glasgow new life.
Glasgow ate up some clock on a long drive, 14 plays and 70 yards. Cameron Bulle caught a 19-yard TD pass from Jessie to pull the Scotties within 21-14.
At the start of the 4th quarter, the Raiders’ ground game went back to work on a 9 play 66-yard scoring drive. Jordan Bradley proved a great juggler on this drive. Bradley juggled the pitch and made a long run, but it was called back for holding. Jaxson Shoulders caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from brother, Jacob Shoulders, and HCHS led 28-14.
Glasgow answered with a good drive of their own, 10 plays and 80 yards. Mason Arms scored on a 2-yard run to make it 28-21 with time winding down in the 4th quarter.
The Scotties defense would finally stop the Raiders’ running attack thanks in part to the play of GHS senior lineman, Frankie Cianci. Cianci had 4 tackles in the game, and one of those was a key sack that gave the Scotties back the football and gave Glasgow a chance to score.
Glasgow had the football with under two minutes left with one time out, but a 51-yard punt by AD Mibly meant the Scotties would have to score from their own 19-yard line.
Glasgow tried passing near the sideline so the receivers could get out of bounds and stop the clock, but the Raiders defense rose to the occasion, preserving the 28-21 victory.