A week after Caldwell County's most convincing win of the early season in a drubbing of Apollo, the Tigers were left to wonder what could have been in a 42-14 loss at The Stadium of Champions on Friday night, as Caldwell County had their 2-0 start snapped at the hands of Hopkinsville (2-1) and wide-receiver Reece Jesse (three touchdowns and 12 catches for 210 yards) as he climbed the record books Friday night.
DeEric Hollowell had a much tougher time against a stingy Hoptown defense, but still rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown late in the third quarter (12 total carries), while quarterback Russ Beshear had the other score to make the deficit manageable at halftime at 14-7.
Beshear finished with nearly 150 passing yards in the air, completing 14 of his 21 passes after throwing a perfect first half against Apollo (12-for-14 overall in week 2).
Hollowell and Beshear will have to have others step into the forefront if Caldwell County is to bounce back with a 3-1 start, and Tate VanHooser (three catches for nearly 40 yards last week), Barren Wells (five catches for 59 yards) and Logan Smiley (two catches for 15 yards in game 3) will be prime targets if head coach Waynee McGowan elects to go with a more pass-heavy blueprint.
Ben Holt finished with a team high 15 tackles against Hopkinsville, and half of Devin Kilgore's takedowns were all by himself, but Hoptown just kept coming, steadily increasing their offensive production in each quarter (14 points apiece in the third and fourth quarters after one touchdown in each of the first two quarters).
"We tried to rally them up and make some plays," Coach McGowan said. "We got the ball to start the second half. You always want to come out and establish an offense or get the ball moving down the field. We've just got to go back to the drawing board, look at the film, make corrections, and get a good week in next week and get ready to go next week."
A new challenge awaits in Week 4, as the Tigers continue with their first road trip of the season at 3-0 Crittenden County.
The Rockets come in with an undefeated streak, all three of their wins on the road.
Friday will be the Rockets' first home game of the season under Coach Sean Thompson, scoring at least 43 points in each game so far in what is expected to be another explosive offense much like Hopkinsville brought fourth.
But, for anyone who has watched Thompson and the Rockets in recent years, this should come as no surprise.
Caldwell County enjoyed a 32-20 win over Crittenden County last season, handing the Rockets (11-2 in 2018) their only loss of the regular season.
Caldwell County put up 65 points on Crittenden County in 2017, and demolished them 49-0 the year before that.
The Tigers have beaten the Rockets nine straight times since September 25, 2009, and will be going for their 10th straight win in the season series.
In those nine straight wins, Caldwell County has outscored Crittenden County a combined 448-79.
Former Crittenden County running back stalwart Devin Nesbitt (1,457 rushing yards with 24 TDs a season ago) and star QB Hunter Boone (154 pass completions in 247 attempts with 2,308 net passing yards and 33 TD pass completions in 2018) are gone after 2019 graduation, but it hasn't stopped the Rockets from blasting off.
Though their wins haven't come against the most high quality opponents (Fort Campbell, Webster County and Ballard Memorial), the Rockets have had some producers step up.
Xander Tabor has amassed 287 rushing yards and four TDs in his first three games at running back in 30 carries, and Hunter Jones has 17 pass completions in 29 throws, throwing for 400 total passing yards and seven TDs so far.
His top target in the air, receiver Tyler Boone, has two of those scores with 239 yards total in eight catches.
Caden McCalister will be the other receiver to watch for Crittenden, who has three touchdown catches in just four total receptions.
Defensively, McCalister has also forced two fumbles, and is tied for second with 21 total tackles.
The Rockets have many players playing on both ends of the field, as Boone is not only their top receiving threat, but the leading tackler on the defensive end.
Boone has a team high 29 total tackles through three games. Twenty-one of those have been all by himself.
As the Tigers ran off two of the most emotional wins in program history after the recent passing of longtime head coach David Barnes, the Tigers expect to be plenty motivated for this one after a lopsided loss that many thought Caldwell County would win.
"You would hope so, that it will be a motivating factor. We just lost the ball game, so that should motivate you to want to improve and get better to win your next ball game," McGowan said. "You have to do the things Monday through Thursday in order to make it right on Friday night."
At least the Tigers still have a mostly full bill of health after the first three weeks, with the slight exception of junior linebacker Travion Samuel, who continues to have an ongoing nagging ankle problem, considered day to day and hopeful for this week's ball game at Crittenden County.
"We're doing pretty good, with the exception of Travion. He's still a little tender on that ankle. We'll work him out this week and see what we get out of him this week," McGowan added.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday night at Crittenden County as the Tigers look to hand the Rockets their first loss of 2019 and extend their winning streak in the series to 10 straight.
Week 3 Box Score
HOPKINSVILLE 42, CALDWELL COUNTY 14
Hopkinsville 7 7 14 14 - 42
Caldwell County 0 7 7 0 - 14
H:Reese Jesse 4-yards from Bland (PAT good) 7-0, 2:55 1Q
H:Lane Rushing 15-yard score (from Bland, PAT Good), 14-0 4:57 2Q
CC: Russ Beshear 3-yard rush (Blake Vivrette PAT Good) 14-7, 2:50 2Q
CC: 52-yard field goal attempt by Blake Vivrette, NO good
H: Reese Jesse 18-yard catch (PAT Good) 21-7, 8:06 3Q
H: Jayden Dillard 3-yard rush (PAT Good) 28-7, 6:11 3Q
CC: De'Eric Hollowell 4-yard rush (Blake Vivrette PAT Good) 28-14, 1:18 3Q
H: Reese Jesse 38-yard catch from Bland (PAT Good) 35-14 11:51 4Q
H: Jayden Dillard 21-yard rush(PAT Good) 42-14, 3:12 4th
Caldwell County Individual stats:
CC: DeEric Hollowell 18-125, Russ Besheaer 16-37, Logan Smiley 4-14, Tate VanHooser 1-5
CC:Russ Beshear 14-21, 149 yards
H: Javier Bland 17-27, 264 yards.
CC: Baron Wells 5-59, Tate VanHooser 3-37, Logan Smiley 2-15, Ben Holt 1-14, Tripp Branch 1-14, Clayton Wood 1-6, DeEric Hollowell 1-4.
H: Reece Jesse 12-210
Blake Vivrette 5-5 PAT, 0/1 field goal (52-yard attempt)
CC: Ben Holt 15 (6 solo), Max Kramer 8, Tate VanHooser 7, Devin Kilgore 6 (3 solo), Russ Beshear 4 (2 solo), Drew Davis 3, Baron Wells 3, Max Ashley 2, Brady Coleman 2, Jon Paredes 2, Elijah Shaheen 2, Riley Orange 2, DeEric Hollowell 1, Gavin Board 1, Jamus Carneyhan 1, Canyon Richardson 1.
Carneyhan, Wells, Shaheen
Caldwell County 2-1
Week 4, Caldwell County at Crittenden County, 7 p.m.