Some local sports enthusiasts and football fans were shocked at Mercer County football’s (1-0) 38-22 win over the Taylor County Cardinals (0-1) this past Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Little Caesars Fort Harrod Bowl. The players on the field didn’t care for the opinions of the media, and they certainly weren’t intimidated by the expectations placed on their week one opponent, or it’s 6″4′ 300 pound lineman Hayes Johnson who has been committed to the University of Kentucky since January of this year.
Just before the Titans’ big win, Harrodsburg was host to two of the state’s most successful programs in 2022. Defending 6A state champions Bullitt East defeated 5A powerhouse Woodford County 41-28 to kick off the 2023 football season. Of course, this was the first time the former Hog, Harrodsburg legend Dennis Johnson ever led a team onto Alvis Johnson field as head coach.
“I can remember riding down on that bus a million times as a little kid even before I was playing, and so to be able to come back and ride down the hill as a coach was definitely special, and to walk back on that field. and being able to be the first one to really coach on the field, it brought back a lot of memories. I got to go down there and look at the sign under the scoreboard and it was definitely something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” said Johnson, who has served as head football coach of Woodford County since 2015, and athletic director since 2020.
Johnson also spoke about his relationship with Mercer’s coaching staff, and the future of the Little Caesars Fort Harrod Bowl and the Vallozzi Bowl in Versailles. “I think, you know, it’s a family thing and we’re all family, Pastor (Donald Wayne) Smith and Craig (Yeast) and all the guys there, so we want to do things that help each other. We’ve got good fan bases and we’re building good football programs, so I think we’ll work well together and I think it’s something we’re going to do for a while,” said Johnson.
Mercer began the game with the ball and found themselves almost immediately in the Cardinal redzone following a 45 yard catch and run from senior wideout Jackson Perry. Sophomore Ashton Drakeford rose high in the air but couldn’t hang on to Thaddeus Mays’ pass to the endzone. Mays scrambled on third down but the Cardinal defense stood firm and forced the Titans hand at a field goal. Good place kickers are few and far between in high school football, but senior Liam Potts, who also features in midfield for the Titans soccer program, stepped up confidently and put the ball directly through the center of the uprights.
“Liam did a tremendous job putting the ball through the uprights and placing the ball perfectly on kickoff. He will be a weapon for us as we continue through our season,” said TitansHead Coach Craig Yeast.