HARRODSBURG — Mercer County coach Chris Pardue saw a lot to like in the Titans’ season-opening win over Collins.
Mercer rolled up 417 yards of offense, including 206 on the ground, in the 33-20 win and forced six turnovers on defense.
But the Titans also fumbled the ball seven times, losing five. Pardue said that has to get better at Madison Central on Friday.
“The kids played hard and we made some big plays. We were definitely the most physical team out on the field,” Pardue said. “But we do have to take care of the football and limit our penalties. Those are two big things that stood out.”
Pardue said a lot of the fumbles were “correctable,” mainly center-quarterback exchanges and holding the ball in the wrong arm.
“Those are just things we have to work on. We focus those things every day,” he said. “And I think it will be much better this week. It was already better in practice.”
Part of the fumbling problem was having a new quarterback thrust into the lineup at the last minute.
Sophomore Austin Sparrow started for injured starting quarterback J.T. Long and was solid, going 8 for 12 for 161 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
“I think he played within himself and didn’t try to do things he was not capable of,” Pardue said.
Madison Central forced four turnovers in a season-opening 42-33 win over Boone County on Aug. 18. Pardue knows the Indians will realized how much Mercer fumbled, and will make that a point of emphasis on defense.
“When you watch a team in tape and see them put the ball on the ground, it definitely gives you more incentive,” he said. “I’m sure their coach will tell them that Mercer will lay the ball on the ground, so we’ve got to go after it harder or pull on it harder.”
The Indians ran for 210 yards and had 299 yards total in the win over Boone. Dominique Hawkins, a 6-1, 185- pound senior, ran 19 times for 132 yards and three scores and threw a 32-yard completion. Hunter Stocker was 6 for 15 for 57 yards and two touchdowns to Ken-Jah Bosley. Bosley also returned an interception for a touchdown.
“They are a good mix of run and pass. They’ve got an outstanding running back in Hawkins. He’s a speedster and he can go,”¿Pardue said. “They like to throw it around. Bosley and (Cameron) Hatchett make plays, and they are very athletic at the receiver and running back positions.”
The Indians’ defense allowed 260 yards rushing and 414 yards to Boone.
“They’re just pretty sound and the play tough up front. They haven’t shown that they stunt a lot because they are athletic enough (in the secondary) to play you man,” he said “This will be a huge test for us. I want to see how the kids respond. I told them there are ways to be a team that is more talented, and we’ll see if they believe in that philosophy.”