It took a while for the Owensboro Catholic football team to get going, but once the Aces did -- they were gone.
Overcoming a sluggish, sloppy start, the Drew Hartz-fueled contingent shifted into overdrive in the second half and rolled over Hancock County 45-6 in a Class 2-A district showdown Friday night at Steele Stadium.
"We've got to come out of the gate ready to go," said Owensboro Catholic head coach Jason Morris, whose team is ranked No. 5 in 2-A. "We fumbled the ball, they recovered an onside kick, we just weren't sharp to start the game -- that's something we've got to get figured out.
"I'm proud of our team, though, because we didn't panic, we stuck to our game plan, made some adjustments at halftime, and played much better on both sides of the ball in the second half."
It was the upset-minded Hornets, however, who were sharp at the start.
Hancock recovered an onside kick to open the contest, forced a 3-and-out on Catholic's first possession, and then drove 47 yards in eight plays to paydirt -- quarterback Cole Dixon scoring from 16 yards out to take a 6-0 lead at 2:58 of the first period.
The Hornets maintained their advantage until midway through the second quarter, when the Aces (7-1, 3-0 district) came alive.
After Hancock fumbled the ball away in their own territory, Dre Thruston scored on a 22-yard run to provide Catholic a 7-6 lead at 5:33.
On their next possession, the Aces needed only five plays to drive 80 yards for another score -- Hartz connecting with Hagan Edge from 39 yards out to make it 14-6 at 2:49.
On the Aces' first possession of the second half, Edge caught a screen pass from Hartz and raced 53 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-6 at 7:49 of the third.
It was another Hartz-to-Edge connection at 3:21 of the third -- this time from 23 yards out -- that pushed Catholic in front 28-6, and Thruston streaked to the end zone from 75 yards out with just under a minute remaining in the period to stretch the Aces' advantage to 34-6.
Early in the fourth, Catholic scored its final TD -- getting a 2-yard scoring pass from Hartz to Aaron Logsdon, along with a 2-point conversion run from Edge; stretching the lead to 42-6 and initiating the KHSAA-mandated running clock.
Luke Payne's 33-yard field goal with 1:42 remaining accounted for the final margin.
Hartz, the state's leading passer, was spectacular, completing 22-of-26 aerials for 366 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions.
"Drew's a special talent back there," Morris said. "He stretches the field vertically, which gets Thruston going in the running game."
Edge caught three TD passes and Thruston ran for 151 yards on only seven carries, scoring twice.
Catholic finished with 547 yards of total offense.
Hancock County (3-5, 2-1) was led by Xander Early, who ran for 65 yards on 16 carries, and Tristan Robbins, who rushed for 60 yards on only six attempts.
Next Friday, Owensboro Catholic hosts Butler County and Hancock County entertains McLean County in a pair of district encounters.
HANCOCK COUNTY|6-0-0-0 -- 6
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC|0-14-20-11 -- 45
HC-Dixon 16 run (run failed)
OC-Thruston 22 run (Payne kick)
OC-Edge 39 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
OC-Edge 53 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
OC-Edge 23 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
OC-Thruston 75 run (kick failed)
OC-Logsdon 2 pass from Hartz (Edge run)
OC-Payne 33 FG