The Hopkinsville Tigers won a first-round playoff game for the seventh-straight year and avenged a disappointing regular-season loss with a 21-17 victory over hosts Calloway County on Friday night. After turning the ball over five times in a late September setback, the Tigers played turnover-free at Jack D. Rose Stadium to set up a second-round matchup at Logan County.
The Tigers may have been experiencing deja vu when the Lakers marched down the field on their first possession and jumped ahead on a 30-yard touchdown run by Kanyon Franklin with 5:51 left in the opening quarter. Freeman Reinhardt’s extra-point attempt was no good, and the Lakers led 6-0.
However, Hoptown answered quickly on some strong running by Jayden Dillard. On 2nd down from the Calloway 19, Dillard found his way to the 3-yard line, before punching it in on 1st down for a 7-6 Tiger lead.
On the first play of the 2nd quarter, Calloway went for it on 4th and 4 from its own 46, but Hoptown came up with the stop to take over just inside midfield. On 1st down, Treyvon Jefferson found Ryan Myers down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown to double the Tiger advantage with 11:46 left in the half.
The Tigers’ first possession of the second half appeared to have bogged down at midfield, but a roughing the passer call extended the drive and they made Calloway pay. Dillard ran to the Laker 19 on 1st down, and Ventrell Baker followed with a 19-yard scoring run to seemingly put Hoptown in control with 6:55 left in the 3rd quarter.
But the Lakers weren’t done. With 3:31 left in the 3rd, Calloway’s Aaron Fennel ran around the right side and broke a 40-yard touchdown run to once again trim the lead to one score. Zachary Orange added the 2-point conversion for a 21-14 score.
After a successful fake punt from their own 25-yard line, Calloway chewed up some clock and set up a 35-yard Reinhardt field-goal attempt. He split the uprights, cutting the Tiger lead to 4 with 5:53 to play.
The Lakers were pinned deep in their own territory on their next possession and were forced to punt. Hopkinsville was initially called for roughing the punter and the Lakers thought they had a reprieve, but the flag was waved off and the Tigers took over on the Calloway 45 with 2:36 left.
Hopkinsville was unable to run out the clock and was forced to punt the ball back to the Lakers. Punter Zach Moss pinned the Laker returner deep, and the Tigers brought him down at the 3-yard line with just over a minute to play.
Calloway tried to throw deep on 1st down, but Hoptown’s Daisjuan Mercer picked off Franklin’s pass and returned it to the Calloway 25-yard line to seal the victory.
If Hopkinsville is going to avenge another regular-season loss in the next week, they have to figure out how to slow down a Logan County ground attack that posted 387 yards in a 31-7 Cougar victory on October 16. The Tigers have lost three of the last four meetings with Logan County and haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2017.