“Defense wins championships!” is the mantra you hear from every football coach.
That may be the case, but offense wins the hearts of the fans, and the Fort Campbell Falcons didn’t disappoint their coach or their fans Friday night against district rival, Trigg County.
“They’re a good football team. They’re well-coached, big and physical and they have good skill players,” said Head Coach Shawn Berner during warm-ups. “We’re going to have to execute, be just as physical and follow the game plan and honestly, we haven’t completely done that yet this season.”
It didn’t take Berner long to see that his maturing team was going to make him a happy man at the end of the night.
After two unsuccessful drives by each team to begin the game, Trigg County’s running back Chris Acree fumbled the ball and set the Falcons up with great field position.
Falcons quarterback Aaron Hills scored just a few plays later on a shifty keeper and the route was on. The point after was missed by Jaemin Ko to make the score, 6-0.
The mistakes for the Wildcats began to mount on the ensuing kickoff as their special teams players were unable to pick up the live ball kicked off to them by Jaemin.
It only took three plays for the Falcons to put the ball in the end zone again as Hills hit speedy wide receiver Muhammad Shahid in stride for a 24-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion was good and the lead was pushed to 14-0.
Trigg County simply had no answers for the high-flying Falcons.
Even after retaining the ball on a roughing the kicker call on the following drive, the Wildcats fumbled the ball two plays later at mid-field as Marcus Tucker jarred the ball loose from receiver, David Wease.
The call was overturned by the referees and that left the Fort Campbell sidelines and fans even more energized.
Trigg County could muster no offense even with the penalty and wound up punting the ball deep into Falcons territory.
Playing field position was all for naught for the Wildcats, however, as Hills found Tucker wide open on the very first play of the possession for a 91-yard touchdown pass to put Fort Campbell up 21-0 with 10 minutes left in the first quarter.
After the Wildcats next punt, Hills, Shahid, Tucker and Marcus Pratt went right back to work on the Wildcats defense, which were noticeably taller and bigger than the Falcons.
Hills drove the team down the field to the Wildcats red zone once again on the back of 6-foot, 205-pound running back, Pratt.
The Wildcats defense tried to stiffen as they held Pratt out of the end zone at the half-yard line on third down.
Realizing a failure to convert would possibly shift momentum to the Wildcats, Berner went for it on fourth down.
The call paid off as Hills rolled out wide right and hit Shahid at the corner of the end zone to drive the Falcons lead to 28-0 with 5 minutes left in the game.
Trigg County continued to sputter as time ran out in the half.
“Man, I’ve been waiting on that one, but we just want this win,” said Tucker, speaking of his 91-yard touchdown reception as he walked into the locker room at the half.
The second half was totally opposite of the first and was controlled by both defenses.
Following a nine-yard loss to a motivated Wildcats defense, the biggest play in the second half came in the third quarter when Hills connected with Shahid, the fastest man on the field, for an 82-yard touchdown pass to make the score 35-0 for the Falcons.
Trigg County’s defense played much better in the second half, but the Wildcat’s offense never really got on track because of names like Chance Von Dette, Timothy Nikolao, Trae Jones, Drayton Simmons and J.D. Swails, who helped hold the Wildcats to 118 yards of total offense.
“We played a lot better than we have the past couple of weeks,” added Nikolao.
“I feel like we’re a team now and tonight it showed up just in time for district,” said Pratt.
Nikolao and Pratt joined their other teammates around an elated head coach who sang nothing but praises for his team’s efforts.
“From game one against Clarksville, we blew a lead and just laid down in a lot of ways, but we’ve persevered and have overcome some adversity,” said Berner. “Each week these kids have grown up and have answered the challenge, and we play a tough schedule, but they don’t bat an eye to those challenges.”
The Falcons don’t have time to bat an eye this week because the Paducah Tilghman Blue Tornadoes await them Friday night.
Even with another tough opponent in the wings, Hills put the Falcons’ success succinctly.
“Coach always tells us, ‘practice like you play,’ and we’ve been going at it hard,” he said.
Fort Campbell vs. Trigg County
Fort Campbell: 14 14 7 0 – 35
Trigg County: 0 0 0 0 – 0