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Henry County's football players will have a long time to think about the state playoffs this Friday night - four and a half hours to be exact.
That's how long the bus ride is expected to take to reach Paducah, which is plenty of time to get the Wildcats mentally fired up for the Class 3A, third-round showdown against the Paducah Tilghman Blue Tornados. The Wildcats hope to survive the storm.
"We have to go in with the right mentality and attitude to compete with them," Henry coach Chris Engstrand said of the Paducah squad. "We will have to execute and eliminate turnovers to win this game."
Paducah has won three state football championships (1973, 1980 and 1985), has been to the state finals four more times (1987, 1988, 1989 and 1992), and has won 17 district titles. And, surprisingly, football isn't even the Blue Tornado's best sport.
In track and field, Paducah has won a combined 40 state championships, 26 on the boys' side, including the previous seven titles. And those same sprinters and jumpers are on the football team as well.
"The kids definitely double-dip in sports," Engstrand said. "As far as speed goes, there's no comparing them to anyone we've played this season. There's no position on the field that's not fast."
Paducah finished its regular season at 6-4, with wins over Webster County, Union County, McLean County, Allen County-Scottsville, Muhlenberg South and Heath, and losses to Christian County, Graves County, Fort Campbell and Mayfield. Paducah defeated Webster County (42-16) in the opening round of the state playoffs and Union County (59-20) in the second round to advance to the Henry matchup.
Henry finished its regular season at 7-3, with wins over Casey County, Owen County, North Oldham, Eminence, Western Hills, Carroll County and Spencer County, and losses to Trimble County, Pendleton County and Scott.
Henry defeated Western Hills (20-7) in the opening round of the state playoffs and North Oldham (15-7) in the second.
The winner of the Henry-Paducah game will host the winner of the Russellville-Central game the following Friday, with the winner of that game playing for the Class 3A title at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Dec. 7.
Game time this Friday night is set for 7:30 p.m. at Paducah Tilghman.
A Blue Tornado is brewing, and Engstrand hopes his Cats can escape with a win.
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