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Cats ranked No. 1 in Class 3A

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By Tommie Kendall

Sports editor

After opening its season with two runaway victories, including a 40-0 win over Ludlow during the opening weekend and a 56-0 win over Trimble County this past Friday, Henry County is now the team to beat in Class 3A.

The Wildcats are No. 1 among Class 3A teams in Kentucky after the first Litkenhous Ratings were released Monday afternoon. And the Cats, who were pre-season ranked 10th before being propelled to the top of the list, are ranked 16th in the entire state. Their recent 112.0 rating, which is based on a computer-produced analysis of the scores of all sanctioned games involving state teams, gives them a 5.9-point edge over No. 2 Central and a 19.3-point edge over No. 3 Elizabethtown. Henry’s District Four opponents were back in the mix with Western Hills at No. 12 (74.7), North Oldham at No. 13 (74.5) and Spencer County at No. 27 (53.6).

In Henry’s recent victory — the shutout win against the visiting Trimble Raiders — the offense put the points on the scoreboard but it was the players on the defensive side that really shined. So far, they have not allowed a single point this season in 96 minutes of play.

“Once again, our defense played extremely well,” said Chris Engstrand, whose team ended last season with a 9-4 record and lost to Paducah Tilghman in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. “Our defense played about as good as they could had. When you look at it, it takes 11 guys and they all got to the ball really, really well. It was another complete effort. It’s great to have guys step up and get the job done for this team.”

While it was a cohesive team effort, first-year player Steven Tillett provided an extra spark at corner, Steven May played another solid game at middle linebacker and the entire defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the contest. Henry held Trimble to just one first down, 14 rushing yards and 22 passing yards, while Brett Downey returned one fumble, and Patrick Mahoney and Matt Long picked off one Trimble pass each.

Erick Butler, who was the team’s centerpiece last year at middle linebacker, was not clear to play for the second straight weekend, and might not be cleared to play in this Friday’s game either. The junior injured his knee in a scrimmage three weeks ago and is still waiting on a doctor’s release to allow him to suit up at game time.

On the other side of the ball, Henry was just as dominant with 275 yards rushing, 155 yards passing and eight touchdowns. Luke Magness led the charge with 6-of-20 passing for 137 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing nine times for 49 yards and another touchdown. Hayden Yancey came in late in the game to complete 2-of-2 passing for 18 yards and one touchdown. Neither quarterback threw an interception.

The Wildcats’ rushing attack was led by Cody Miracle with eight carries for a team-high 86 yards. Chase Spears had four carries for 53 yards, Lance Timberlake had two carries for 37 yards, Jaccori Baldwin had four carries for 23 yards, and Mahoney had four carries for 16 yards to complete the ground game.

Henry revenged last year’s game against Trimble, when the senior-dominated Raiders sent the Wildcats back to New Castle with a 36-14 loss. This time around, the tables were turned with the Cats dominating the contest from the get-go and cruising in for an easy, unchallenged victory.

“Obviously, we played well enough to win 56-0, but at the same time Trimble is a little down from last year so it’s not a fair comparison,” Engstrand explained. “While we played well at times, there’s a whole lot of things we can still greatly improve on. That’s the good thing: seeing how good we can actually get.”

During the first quarter Friday night on Henry’s home field, the Wildcats scored with 7:34 on the clock when Magness kept the ball and ran 30 yards into the end zone. Then, early in the second quarter, Magness connected with Yancey on a 33-yard pass play for the second touchdown, and Mahoney kicked the extra point to put Henry ahead 13-0.

The Wildcats managed to squeeze in three more touchdowns during a big second quarter for 28 points during the 12-minute stretch. Mahoney intercepted a Trimble pass and ran 44 yards for a touchdown with 11:32 on the clock; Magness connected with Jimmy Sampson on a 28-yard play with 11:13 left; and Mahoney ran three yards across the goal line with 8:11 left. Zach Rahm scored one two-point conversion and Magness kicked one extra point to put the Cats in front 34-0 at the half.

After the break, Henry scored two more touchdowns during the third quarter and added another in the fourth to stretch its advantage to 56-0 before the final horn sounded. Miracle ran 45 yards into the end zone and Magness connected with Yancey on a 9-yard touchdown play during the third, and Yancey connected with Tillett on another 9-yard touchdown play during the fourth. Yancey ran in one two-point conversion and Mahoney kicked the final extra point.

After the perfect 2-0 start, the Wildcats will play their first game on the road this Friday when they travel to Owen County (1-1 record) for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.