LOUISVILLE — No. 1 Scott County took a giant step toward a possible undefeated state championship by muzzling Male's Bulldogs 24-10 in the Class 6A semifinals Friday night.
The Cardinals (14-0) will play Meade County (12-2) in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA state finals Friday night at Western Kentucky's L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green.
It is sweet redemption for Scott County, which lost a 21-14 heartbreaker to Trinity in last year's semifinals.
"I've never really been somebody who believed that last year's loss fuels next season," Coach Jim McKee said. "But when we walked off the field last year at Trinity, I knew what we had coming back, and I knew when we got in the weight room the first of January what we had on our minds.
"There's no way we'll overlook Meade County. We're going to Bowling Green to win the thing."
Male, which dealt the Cards playoff losses in 2010 and 2008, figured to be a big obstacle again. The Bulldogs beat superpowers St. Xavier and Trinity in the regular season and again in the playoffs, so they came into the semifinals full of confidence.
That confidence took a major hit, though, in the closing seconds of the first half.
Trailing 10-7, Male drove to the Scott County 1-yard line, but with time winding down the Bulldogs couldn't crack the goal line. Looking to tie the game, they attempted a chip-shot field goal.
That turned into a disaster for Male.
The Cards' Jordan McKeehan blocked Jonah White's kick. Male, apparently thinking the half was over, watched as Keith Guy picked up the ball and streaked 86 yards for a touchdown with 0:00 on the clock to make it 17-7.
"It was crazy, just crazy," Guy said. "For a minute I didn't realize it was a live ball. But then I saw Coach (McKee) going crazy, telling me to pick it up. So I picked it up and ran with it."
McKeehan called it "a huge play. It gave us a bigger lead and the momentum going into the second half."
Male Coach Chris Wolfe said the blocked field goal and Scott County TD was the difference in the game.
"We're on the one-inch line, and if we score we go up 14-10. Instead, we go down 17-7. We never recovered.
"Then the second half was a comedy of errors for us."
Male quarterback Davis Mattingly had a miserable night. Usually a master at executing the Bulldogs' quick, short passing game, he struggled to hit his receivers, short and long. He was 20 of 45 for 166 yards with one interception.
"He just didn't have a good game," Wolfe said. "He never got in a rhythm."
McKee didn't think Scott County's offense played well, and said Male's defense was the reason. The Cards still had 325 yards, 284 rushing.
Kevin Claussen led the ground attack with 107 yards and joined teammates Guy and Theo Price in the 1,000-yard club this season. Guy ran for 104 yards and Price had 78 against Male.
Clay McKee hit two of six passes for 41 yards, including a 12-yard TD to guy.
McKee credited defensive coordinator Monty McIntyre for coming up with a winning game plan. Tyler Carpenter, Dylan Smith, Thomas Daniel and McKeehan led Scott County in tackles.
Palmer Ward kicked three extra points, giving him 99 this season to break the state record of 97 set by Boyle County's Taylor Begley in 2000.
Scott County lost in the big-school title game to St. Xavier in 2004 and to Trinity in 2010. The Cards won a 2A state championship in 1975.
SCOTT COUNTY 24, MALE 10
Scott County 3 14 7 0—24
Male 0 7 0 3—10
SC—Palmer Ward 41 field goal. M—Marque Northington 3 run (Jonah White kick). SC—Kevin Claussen 2 run (Ward kick). SC—Keith Guy 86 return of blocked field goal (Ward kick). SC—Guy 12 pass from Clay McKee (Ward kick). M—White 22 field goal.
Records—Scott County 14-0; Male 12-2
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.