As the Lexington football team knelt awaiting its postgame talk from coach Bryant Hollingsworth, Tariqious Tisdale talked excitedly to a teammate.
The senior running back and Ole Miss commit was happy because, like all the other Tigers, he has never played in the third round of the state playoffs.
That will change Friday when Lexington hosts Memphis East in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Tigers earned that reward with a 30-6 win over host North Side in Friday’s second round.
After his team’s quick postgame talk and prayer, Tisdale assessed what’s ahead.
“This is my first time making it past the second round since I’ve been in high school, man,” Tisdale said. “It’s a huge blessing.”
Lexington has had several strong teams in recent years with a couple occasional slip-ups in the postseason. But this group of Tigers has now knocked off Ridgeway and North Side on the road to move to 10-2.
“It’s big, it’s big,” Lexington coach Bryant Hollingsworth said. “You can’t go back and change the past but you definitely work on the future, and our guys, they’ve been working hard and they deserve this.”
Asked his team’s advantage Friday, Tisdale’s response was quick.
“Being doubted. Every game we come into we’re doubted by everybody,” Tisdale said. “We were picked to lose this game, picked to lose last game.”
That might not be entirely true, though indeed plenty of observers noticed North Side’s recent improvement and expected a closer rematch.
But Lexington opened with a 72-yard drive, capped by a Kendal Bevelot 10-yard touchdown run. North Side had trouble containing the Lexington running group of Bevelot, Tisdale and Camrion Hollingsworth throughout the night.
“They’re really unselfish,” Hollingsworth said of his backs. “And that’s big right now, especially this late in the season, for guys being unselfish. They don’t care who gets the ball, they just want to go block, they just want to go win. It’s been great having that attitude.”
Lexington went ahead 14-0 three drives later, starting on the North Side 34 and finishing its drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Tylan Johnson to Jacob Smith. (Tisdale had a key 12-yard run on fourth down.)
Lexington added a safety in the third quarter, taking advantage of North Side’s poor field position after Lexington missed a fake field goal.
The Tigers got touchdown runs from Kenneth Thornton (one yard) and Hollingsworth (45 yards) later in the night.
Lexington’s defense was stout, allowing merely a Tyalen Shaw touchdown keeper when the Tigers were already up 23-0. Chandler Spann tipped and picked off a Shaw pass to close North Side’s first drive, and the Tigers routinely took away Shaw’s options downfield with good coverage.
After several big plays, Lexington fans pumped their arms up and down like train conductors to mock the same motion North Side players have made all year after big plays.
The Indians hoped to make that motion more Friday, but with so many penalties it was tough to keep the train on track.
“That didn’t help, and of course you’re playing a good football team,” North Side coach Tab Vowell said. “You’re not going to beat this team right here by penalties, short fields. You’re not going to do it, and we did the same thing again tonight.”
Lexington hosts a Memphis East team that handled Hardin County.
“The only time I’ve seen them on film is when they played Ridgeway there at the end of the season,” Hollingsworth said. “They’re very athletic and it’s going to be a tough contest. We’ve just got to focus, sit down and get a gameplan together and see what we can do.”
Craig Thomas, 425-9634