By John Thornton:
West TN Game of the Week- Quarter Finals: Hardin County at Lexington
3 wins away. That is what is on the forefront of those high school football teams in the state of Tennessee that are fortunate enough to still be in the playoffs. 3 wins away from making history and bring a state championship back to your school. As each week passes, the tension grows, and the fields continue to be whittled down.
In West Tennessee, the best teams are rising to the occasion. Two of the best in the Western portion of the state are set to meet for the second time this season and the stakes are even bigger than the last time. Hardin County and Lexington met for the first time back on October 16, with the fate of Region 6 of Class 4A in the balance. It was the Tigers of Lexington who prevailed in that meeting by a 27-14 margin. This time, the season will end for the loser.
The Lexington Tigers under Head Coach Bryant Hollingsworth has been one of the best teams in West Tennessee all year long. Under Hollingsworth, they have been one of the most consistent programs in the area. The 2020 version of his squad, might be his best, if not his best in 10 years. Sitting at 11-1 on the year, Lexington has won 8 games in a row since a September 11 loss to Class 3A contender Milan. In that span, the Tigers have won 6 of those 8 games by double digits including the win over Hardin County. With lots of momentum in the program, Lexington is eying its first Semi-Final appearance since 2010. After defeating Creek Wood last week 28-20, there is optimism in Lexington that not only can this team reach the Semi-Finals, but could possibly go all the way.
On the other side of the field facing Lexington, is a Hardin County team hungry for both revenge and a state championship. Coach Matt Smith’s team sits at 10-2 on the year after missing out on the region crown but feels like they have what it takes to win the Gold Ball. The Tigers reached this point a year ago before falling in overtime 28-21 to 2019 Class 4A State Runners-Up Springfield. Last week the memories of that painful loss were erased after a thrilling 24-21 victory on the road at Springfield. Now the revenge tour makes its next stop in Lexington, where Hardin County will look to earn its first Semi-Final berth since 1998. While losing out on the region title stung, ending Lexington’s season would be a nice consolation prize.
Lexington leads the All-Time Series 39-26, but Hardin County has won 5 of the last 7 meetings between the clubs. Friday’s matchup will be the first-ever postseason meeting between the schools. It should be a thrilling grudge match to see who inches one step closer to the Gold Ball Friday evening at Jim Stowe Stadium.