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Wildcats run away with opening-round win

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Henry County blows past Moore High School, hosts Elizabethtown this Friday

By Tommie Kendall

The Henry County Wildcats scored 35 points in a big second half Friday night against Moore and came away with a convincing 57-27 win in the opening round of the Class 3-A state football playoffs.

The Wildcats, who improved their overall record to 9-2, finished with 424 yards rushing, moved the chains for 27 first downs and had a number of players step up when they needed them the most. They host Elizabethtown this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the second round.

“I thought we played a lights-out second half. Moore came out in the first half in a defense we had not seen before on the field or in film, so we had to make the adjustments,” Henry coach Chris Engstrand said. “I think our kids played really, really hard. I have to give Moore some credit, though, they had some athletic kids.”

Henry’s ground attack was led by quarterback Luke Magness with 19 carries for 130 yards, Lance Timberlake with 11 carries for 123 yards, Pete Baldwin with 12 carries for 95 yards and Conner Johnson with nine carries for 69 yards. Engstrand calls Timberlake’s performance a breakout offensive game, while he also pointed out Johnson for his play late in the game when Baldwin was given a rest. The offensive line also stepped up, Engstrand said, which helped pave the way for all those rushing yards. Magness was 6-of-19 passing for 70 yards to give Henry 494 total yards, opposed to Moore’s 307 yards off 192 rushing and 115 passing. Defensively, Zach Rahm and Justin Hartlage had one fumble recovery each.

Midway through the opening quarter, Erick Butler caught a pass from Magness, spun around a defender and got to the 1-yard line. Butler, who finished with five catches for a team-high 69 yards receiving, then ran up the middle on the next play for the game’s first touchdown. Dylan Doll kicked the extra point to put the Wildcats in front 7-0. Neither team scored again until the second quarter.

Henry was in position to score later in the opening quarter but could not get the ball across the goal line and missed a field goal attempt. Butler caught a high pass from Magness across the middle of the field, bounced to the outside, stiff-armed a player and was knocked out at the 14-yard line in a spectacular play. But the Wildcats couldn’t get much going and missed a field goal to give the ball back to Moore.

At the 10:50 mark in the second quarter, Magness threw a pass to Butler for a 15-yard touchdown play and Doll kicked the extra point to put the Cats ahead 14-0. With just 11 seconds left in the quarter, Rahm recovered a fumble and returned it 10 yards into the end zone. Rahm also ran in the 2-point conversion. Henry was in front 22-7 at the half.

The Wildcats broke open the contest with three touchdowns during a high-scoring third quarter. Timberlake scored on a 38-yard run at the 11:36 mark; Magness scored on an 8-yard run at the 8:04 mark; and Magness scored on a 10-yard run at the 3:26 mark. Doll kicked two extra points.

During the final quarter, Johnson scored on 2- and 27-yard runs separated by six minutes. Hartlage completed a 2-point conversion pass to Butler and Doll kicked another extra point to give Henry the 57-27 victory.

The Wildcats move on to the second round of the playoffs against Elizabethtown this Friday night. Elizabethtown is 5-6 overall against a tough schedule and defeated North Oldham, 37-30, in the first round last Friday. The winner of that game plays either Central or Western Hills the following weekend in the Region Two finals.

“Elizabethtown is traditionally a very strong football program,” Ensgtrand said. “They’ve been here before so this isn’t anything new to them. They have very good athletes. But if we can come out and play the way I know we can, we will be fine. Every week from this point forward we have to come out ready to play.”

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