It's hard to knock out the champ. It's true in boxing, and it's true in football.
Louisville Central, which has won five of the last six Class 3A state titles, showed its strong jaw by rallying past host Lafayette 30-27 on Friday night. The Yellowjackets won it on freshman Sebastian Francisco's 26-yard field goal as time expired.
"The kids totally believe in what we teach them and tell them," Central Coach Ty Scroggins said. "If they listen and work hard, they know good things will happen. This was a good road test for us against a good 6A team."
Generals Coach Eric Shaw was proud of his team's fight to the finish, but they made too many mistakes.
"It's hard to knock the champs off the hill, especially when you're as young as we are," Shaw said.
Lafayette led 13-0, 19-13 and 27-19, but Central came back every time.
The Jackets were led by the 1-2 rushing combination of Phillip Francis (16 carries, 169 yards, one touchdown) and Donovan Lovan (25 carries, 147 yards, two TDs).
Central overcame five turnovers (three fumbles and two interceptions), and a bunch of penalties (15 for 117 yards).
"Lots of mistakes, but we're a young group on offense trying to find our identity," Scroggins said.
Lafayette had its share of miscues in penalties (14 for 118 yards) and a couple of turnovers.
One fumble the Generals didn't lose was probably the most costly. It came with four minutes left with the score tied 27-27.
Central looked ready to score before Lovan fumbled at the Lafayette 5. The Generals' Toryan Whiting scooped up the ball and headed the other way. He thought he was in the clear as he cruised into Central territory, and he held up one arm in premature celebration at the Jackets' 36-yard line.
But Whiting didn't see a Central defender to his left who took him down and forced a fumble. Lafayette recovered, but they wound up fumbling the ball back to the Jackets a few plays later.
Central capitalized by driving down the field, and Francisco capped it off with his game-winning field goal.
Lafayette had its share of standouts.
Kylan Nelson returned an interception 52 yards for a TD, and he also had 68 yards rushing and receiving.
Mason Alstatt also starred on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 41 yards and a TD, caught three passes for 57 yards, and he led the Generals with eight tackles.
"This early in the season I want us to be able to compete," Shaw said. "As long as we do that, we'll be fine."
Central, meanwhile, continues to test itself against bigger schools. Since starting their title run in 2007, the Jackets have played 29 games against 6A opponents, including St. Xavier, Manual and Ballard on a regular basis. Even though they've won only seven of those games, the tough competition has obviously benefited them.
"I expect nothing less than to see them win it all again," Shaw said.
Central 30, Lafayette 27
Central 0 13 6 11—30
Lafayette 6 13 0 8—27
L—Dontavion Jackson 59 pass from Clay Bolin (kick blocked). L—Kylan Nelson 52 yards interception return (Malik Robinson kick). C—Donovan Lovan 2 run (Sebastian Francisco kick). C—Lovan 35 run (kick failed). L—Devon Quincy 3 pass from Bolin (Francisco kick). C—Sydney Telford 1 run (kick failed). L—Mason Alstatt 13 run (Bolin run). C—Phillip Francis 13 run (Marcus Manion run). C—Francisco 26 field goal.
Records: Central 1-1; Lafayette 0-2
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.