Wildcats playing past Turkey Day for the first time

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By Tommie Kendall

The price for Lyndon Johnson's amusing but realistic head painting before Friday's game - around 50 dollars. The price to fix the one-bar-up, one-down goal post following Henry County's 15-7 win over North Oldham - just Tim Rahm's hard work. The price for a hotel room in Paducah this Friday night - around 70 bucks.

The price of watching the Wildcats storm the field in a history-making victory over the Mustangs - priceless.

Priceless indeed.

Well, it comes with bumps, bruises and sore backs, but you get my drift. The Wildcats went from flirting with history, to making history, to completely rewriting the record books. The win pits them against Paducah Tilghman this Friday night, and moves them one step closer to playing for the Class 3A state championship, held on Dec. 7 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

After the legendary win Friday night, Henry County players and fans sprinted onto the field in celebration. Though it wasn't wrapped or under a tree, their Christmas present came sooner than expected.

Chris Engstrand, who took the team from a 3-7 record last season to 9-3 heading into the third round of the state playoffs, gave a heart-felt speech. A few players wiped away tears of joy. And some student-fans tried to tear down the goal post but only managed to wrestle one bar to the ground.

Here's a memo to the students: you better keep those cross bars up, because if the Wildcats can squeeze past Paducah, they will be back at home the following Friday against either Russellville or Central. Then, with another potential win, it's off to play for their first state title in any sport since the school opened in 1962.

Now that would be a game worth tearing down a bar for. Maybe the entire goal post this time.

Henry got down early against a heated North Oldham squad, who went ahead 7-0 and held a 7-6 lead at the half. But the Wildcats clawed their way into the lead during the third quarter and held off the Mustangs in so many gut-checking plays that I eventually lost count.

I don't think I was seeing things, but running backs Cody Miracle and Josh Rahm were running harder than I've seen them run all year - I mean hard. And it was during the fourth quarter, when they should have been huffing and puffing for air. Instead, they were running over the tiring North Oldham defenders while the clock ticked down in Henry's favor.

And don't get me started on Henry's defense. Sorry I can't name all of the players, but they stopped North Oldham in enough heart-pounding fourth-down attempts to keep me on my toes. There were some big plays, and the Cats came up big.

In the end, it led to a 15-7 victory and another week tacked onto their season. It's been a season full of historic wins and memorable moments.

"We're playing on Turkey Day boys," Engstrand screamed to his excited players after the game. It was a line he's been waiting all season to say.

But the Wildcats will have their work cut out for them against Paducah, an 8-4 squad who fields a very fast and agile team, this Friday at Paducah. I've never seen them on the football field, but they sure can move on the track.

Repeat me: F-A-S-T.

It has led them to 26 state titles in boys' track and field, including seven straight and counting. I know for a fact they can run up the homestretch fast, I've seen it first hand. Now let's put some tacklers and blockers in front of them and see how quick they really are.

With Thanksgiving the day before the game, hopefully the speedsters eat too much food and it slows them down a bit. That's secretly what I'm hoping for anyways. (Oops, I guess it's no longer a secret).

As for the Wildcats, turkey or not, something's working for the upbeat squad. Now I just hope that something is enough to ride out the Paducah Blue Tornados this Friday night.

As for me, all I want for Christmas now is another HCHS football home game to write about. That, and some turkey of course.

Tommie Kendall can be reached at sports@hclocal.com.