After three weeks of positive traction in wins against Calloway County, Trigg County and Murray, Paducah Tilghman found itself derailed last week after a 36-6 loss to long-standing rival Mayfield at War Memorial Stadium.

To be fair, teams rarely take the knee in the roost of the Cardinals. Mayfield, winners of 15 straight in the century-long series, however, looked more like Pecos Bill against the Blue Tornado last week, rather than the preferred alternative for Paducahans.

Losses don’t offer much consolation, but in the past two seasons under Jonathan Smith, Tilghman has responded extremely well after defeats to Mayfield. After the 2018 game, the Blue Tornado went 7-2 and came painfully short of a regional championship appearance after a gritty second-round game at Elizabethtown. In 2019, the Blue Tornado went 6-3 down the stretch and found themselves hosting a regional championship against Taylor County.

Step 1 of moving on from Mayfield? Playing well this Friday night at Morganfield against the Union County Braves, where a win would all but lock up a Class 3A, District 1 title.

“Union County is a very physical team, and has a really, really good running back (in Corithian Seales-Portee) ... which has obviously been a serious problem for us the last few weeks,” Smith writes. “Defensively, they have great defensive line play, and their linebackers play downhill versus the run. Murray just wore them down (last week, an 18-6 win for the Tigers), and they gave Mayfield all they wanted (a 36-20 loss for the Braves) ... unlike us.

“We’ve just got to get back to the basics of what good football is about: blocking, tackling and being self-disciplined. Our running game has been terrible, and stopping the run hasn’t been good for us, either. Both, to me, are simply unacceptable. We have the ability to be a pretty good football team when it matters, I think, but we definitely have more things that we need to address and fix this week.”

Smith’s assessment might be a bit self-critical, but the Blue Tornado haven’t been as bouncy in the ground game as he states. In a 31-21 win at Murray, Tilghman’s backs combined for 85 yards on 24 carries and just one score. Against the Cardinals, they got 20 carries and 102 yards.

These aren’t poor performances, until one considers that Tilghman was averaging nearly 300 yards rushing after the first three weeks of football. Murray and Mayfield also each ran for more than 200 yards against the Blue Tornado, in what some would describe as “a dose of one’s own medicine.”

Union County, meanwhile, is 0-4 and looking for its first win — despite more than 300 yards rushing already from Seales-Portee (who also leads the team in tackles with 43, and tackles-for-loss with seven) and strong wide receiver performances from Ben Shreve (19 catches, 262 yards, one TD) and Kristopher Hughes (14 catches, 249 yards, three TD; 13 rushes, 45 yards, TD).

The Braves, through four games, are surrendering 258 yards of offense.

Last 11 Meetings

Nov. 15, 2019: Paducah won 36-7 in Paducah

Oct. 18, 2019: Paducah won 49-13 in Paducah

Oct. 12, 2018: Paducah won 43-10 at Morganfield

Oct. 13, 2017: Paducah won 30-10 in Paducah

Oct. 14, 2016: Paducah won 54-0 at Morganfield

Oct. 8, 2010: Paducah won 21-18 in Paducah

Nov. 13, 2009: Paducah won 34-7 at Morganfield

Oct. 9, 2009: Paducah lost 21-13 at Morganfield

Sept. 26, 2008: Paducah lost 41-35 in Paducah

Nov. 16, 2007: Paducah won 59-20 in Paducah

Sept. 21, 2007: Paducah won 14-0 at Morganfield

McKee, Wimsatt meet againGraves County is one bad second half against Mayfield away from a 5-0 start under second-year coach Nick Kemp, and while defense “wins championships,” this offense is truly flying right now.

Junior running back Clint McKee is making a considerably strong case for Paducah Sun “Player of the Year” honors, already toting 16 rushing touchdowns and 903 yards on just 136 carries. Adding eight catches with another 123 yards and another score, he’s scoring on 11.8% of his touches and averaging more than seven yards per carry/catch.

Around him, an array of air support: John Ben Brown has more than 980 yards passing, with Mason Grant (19-448-5), Race Richards (13-191-1) and Kyler Madding (7-142-1) the biggest benefactors.

It is just the arsenal needed to match point-for-point with Owensboro this Friday, as the Red Devils possess “the best quarterback in the state,” according to Kemp, in the Power-5 bound Gavin Wimsatt.

“They are a complete team,” Kemp writes. “They are loaded across the board on offense, with great tackles, speedy wideouts and the best quarterback in the state. Their defense is so fast and flies to the football.

“We have to have our best offensive performance of the season ... which, our offense has been clicking this season — except the second half of the Mayfield game. I think the difference of the game could be in the trenches. If we can get five yards a carry with McKee, we will take that all night and try to play keep-away from Wimsatt.”

Wimsatt, with more than 20 Division I offers, hasn’t really had to carry his team just yet with big wins over Owensboro Catholic, Muhlenberg County, Ohio County, Daviess County and Apollo. But the dual-threat quarterback (11 passing TD, three rushing TD) has the capability.

He has four receivers with more than 200 yards in five games (Ben Flaherty, Treyvon Tinsley, Khalil Rogers, Steven Stevenson), and if the offense isn’t rolling, the defense — led by future FCS linebacker Austin Gough (52 tackles) — can create turnovers.

Already, the Red Devils have four team interceptions and six recovered fumbles, averaging two forced turnovers per game.

If Owensboro has any supposed weakness at this point in the season, it’s a susceptibility to a strong running game, as Apollo and Daviess County each piled up more than 200 yards on the ground. The Aces, in a 28-14 loss to ‘Boro last Friday, ran for more than 100 yards.

Last Nine MeetingsNov. 15, 2019: Graves lost 43-0 at Owensboro

Oct. 18, 2019: Graves lost 27-8 in Mayfield

Oct. 19, 2018: Graves lost 47-6 at Owensboro

Oct. 20, 2017: Graves won 24-17 in Mayfield

Oct. 21, 2016: Graves lost 35-6 at Owensboro

Oct. 23, 2015: Graves lost 20-19 in Mayfield

Nov. 4, 2005: Graves won 14-0 at Owensboro

Aug. 21, 2004: Graves won 42-16 at Murray State University, Murray

Nov. 2, 2001: Graves lost 20-18 at Owensboro

Follow Marlowe on Twitter @dreamarlowe85, call him (270) 575-8661, or email him at emarlowe@paducahsun.com.

Follow Marlowe on Twitter @dreamarlowe85, call him (270) 575-8661, or email him at emarlowe@paducahsun.com.

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