BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green put the finishing touches on a second consecutive undefeated state championship by beating Cooper 34-20 in the Russell Athletic Class 5A football finals on Saturday night.
But Coach Kevin Wallace said this season's 15-0 perfection came a lot tougher than last year when the Purples won five playoff games by an average of 40 points.
When this post-season began, Wallace told his team last year's playoff run was "fantasyland" and to expect a much more difficult road to the top.
He wasn't kidding.
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The Purples battled past Christian County and Warren Central before getting a trick-play touchdown and a two-point conversion in the last 90 seconds to beat John Hardin 14-13 last week.
Saturday night's victory over Cooper, in front of 9,104 fans in Western Kentucky University's L.T. Smith Stadium, wasn't easy, either.
"That was a big, physical football team," Wallace said of Cooper, a 3-year-old school in Boone County.
"We might not have played our best, but we played well enough to take the big trophy home again."
Bowling Green's third state title came with a lineup stocked with juniors, led by running back Blue Tisdale, quarterback Devin Hayes, receiver Nacarius Fant and linebacker Lincoln Quick.
All four stepped up against Cooper.
Cooper Coach Randy Borchers, looking to limit the Purples' potent passing attack, went with a prevent-style defense.
"When you play a team with so many athletes, you've got to pick your poison," he said. "Our poison was to force them to put long drives together and hope they'd make some mistakes."
That didn't happen.
Tisdale led an efficient ground attack, carrying 19 times for 142 yards and three TDs.
"It feels good to know we won it again," Tisdale said. "I'll take this with me forever."
Hayes was 9-for-15 passing for 173 yards and two TDs. Fant had three catches for 85 yards, including a 45-yard TD.
Quick keyed the defense with nine tackles. Senior safety Allen Gonsalves had seven tackles.
Cooper senior quarterback/free safety Tyler Morris did his best to keep the Jaguars alive. With Bowling Green ahead 27-13, Morris picked off a Hayes pass in the end zone, then directed Cooper on an 80-yard scoring drive. He capped it with a 12-yard TD run to make it 27-20 late in the third quarter.
But Bowling Green answered the bell. It drove 59 yards in 11 plays, with Tisdale scoring on a 2-yard run.
The Purples' defense stymied Cooper the rest of the way to clinch the title.
With a team sporting a 30-game winning streak and returning most of its starters next season, Bowling Green figures to be a big favorite for a three-peat.
But Wallace didn't bite.
"I don't want to look to next year or talk about the guys coming back," he said.
"This is our seniors' night. This is their championship. Our juniors will have an opportunity for another one next year."