BOWLING GREEN — Central celebrated another football championship. Belfry suffered heartbreak again.
Central's 12-6 victory over Belfry in overtime in the Russell Athletic Class 3A finals in Western Kentucky University's L.T. Smith Stadium on Friday night — its fifth title in six years — had a familiar look and feel to it.
Last year, Central beat Belfry 15-14 on a touchdown pass with two minutes left for its third finals victory over the Pirates since 2007.
In Friday night's fourth go-around, Central won on Sydney Tedford's 15-yard TD pass to Marcel Malone.
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That wasn't the play Coach Ty Scroggins called. He wanted Tedford to throw to Devonte Yelder on the left side.
But when Tedford got to the line of scrimmage, he saw Belfry's defense shift to the left. So he called an audible, a slant to Malone, lined up to his right.
"He's my favorite receiver," Tedford said. "He'd been down on himself, thinking he wasn't good enough. But he was waiting for this moment and he got it."
Malone had a simple explanation for his clutch catch. "I just saw the ball, went for it and got it. Words can't explain how I feel right now."
Belfry Coach Philip Haywood had to search for words, too.
"I don't know what comments to make," he said. "Gosh, I feel for our kids. They battled all year wanting to get back here.
"We did everything we needed to do, but Central made some great plays when they had to have them."
Belfry and Central battled to a 6-6 tie in the first half.
The Yellowjackets scored first, on Deris Cox's 28-yard run late in the first quarter.
Belfry, which fumbled away its first two possessions, got its ground game in gear the next time. It put together a punishing 74-yard, 16-play drive. After 15 consecutive running plays, the Pirates surprised Central with a pass. Sani Warren fired a 13-yard TD to Tony Messer.
The Pirates controlled the ball much of the second half, with Austin Hatfield and Trenity Carr bulling for yardage. But Central's defense didn't let Belfry crack the red zone.
Hatfield finished with 105 yards on 19 carries. Carr had 60 yards on 14 attempts.
The Pirates' defense, led by Madison Ghormley, kept Central in check, too.
It all came down to overtime for the 7,116 fans.
Belfry got the ball first at the 10. The Pirates' chances at scoring unraveled with a third-down fumble that pushed them back to the 16. A fourth-down pass was incomplete.
That set the stage for Central. The Jackets lost 5 yards on first down, but it was a brief setback. Tedford and Malone made magic on the next snap.
"This is the best team we've had in six years because they play until the last whistle," Scroggins said.
After the game, Scroggins and Haywood shared a long hug, understandable for two coaches who have battled so often for so much over the last few years.
"It's an honor to coach against (Haywood) because he's one of the best in the state," Scroggins said.
Haywood is Kentucky's all-time winningest high school coach with 362 victories, including three state titles. The Pirates now have been runners-up seven times.