Not too many people would have guessed that the Paducah Tilghman Blue Tornado would still be playing football this late in the year. Coach Sean Thompson and his team are well aware of this, but are choosing to use the doubt as motivation to keep going.
The Blue Tornado will play their third playoff game in class 3A after beating Trigg County 55-22 to start their playoff run and Union County 31-28 last week. They will play Christian Academy-Louisville (11-1) on the road in Louisville.
This year’s third-round game is already one game more than Tilghman played last year, when it fell to Union County 35-21 in the second round of play.
With a record of 6-6, it might seem that the Blue Tornado are the underdogs going into the game against the Centurions, but Thompson believes their tough regular season schedule has prepared them for this matchup.
“If you think about it and the schedule that we’ve had, we have been prepared for this game all year,” Thompson said. “We have played a lot of good football teams, so we feel like throughout the year we’ve seen these guys without seeing them.”
Playing Union County (10-2) once in the regular season and once in the playoffs is a great example of playing a good football team. The first meeting between the two schools might not have ended in favor of the Blue Tornado, as they lost 21-19, but keeping close to that team and beating them weeks later in the playoffs proves they can keep up with the good teams.
“They (Christian Academy) are a great football team, so we know that we need to be at our best, but I feel like we are in a good place,” Thompson said. “Hopefully we don’t get caught up in the emotions and that trap that comes with finally overcoming the obstacle of beating Union County.”
Tilghman is coming off a high that comes from winning in the final seconds of play off a field goal, to beat Union County.
The Centurions play a well-rounded game of football, led by quarterback Cole Hodge who has connected for 26 touchdown passes on the season with 1,861 passing yards. Easton Messer has hauled in 16 touchdown passes and has racked up 1,120 receiving yards, averaging just over 100 yards per game.
For the Blue Tornado, quarterback Jack James has also completed 26 touchdown passes like his upcoming opponent. He has thrown for a total of 2,154 yards, averaging just shy of 200 yards per game and 2.4 touchdowns per game. James is coming off a night where he threw for 255 yards, three touchdown passes and three interceptions.
Malachi Rider and Camdon Marshall led the way on the rushing and receiving ends of the ball with Rider rushing for 145 yards and one appearance in the end zone while Marshall pulled in 118 yards, completing two plays for TDs.
“We have to play a clean football game, if we don’t play a clean football game they are a team that will capitalize on those mistakes and we won’t be able to overcome it,” Thompson said. “So we’ve got to make sure that we come out from the jump, start fast and finish fast.”
One thing that Thompson has tried to make clear to his players is the phrase “You get from the game what you give to it,” meaning the dedication that they give to practice and training and game time will pay off on game day.
“They’ve given enough to go as far as they want to,” Thompson said in regards to his phrase.
He believes, and has tried to ingrain it in his players heads that they have given enough to the game to make it this far and can make it much further if they keep their heads down and focus on the task at hand.
The Blue Tornado will look to prove that on the field on Friday night with a 7:30 p.m. EST kickoff.