BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green became only the third school in state history to go undefeated while winning three consecutive state titles by blowing by Pulaski County 49-14 in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 5A football finals on Sunday.
The Purples joined Trinity (1988-90) and Boyle County (1999-2001) in that exclusive club, and extended their three-year winning streak to 44. That's the third longest victory string in the record books behind Trinity's 50 in a row and Boyle County's 47.
"Trinty and Boyle County. I like being around those guys," Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace said with a smile.
The Purples' talented senior skill players — Nacarius Fant, Blake Pillow, Blue Tisdale and Devin Hayes — had an impressive finale in front of 6,009 fans in Western Kentucky's L.T. Smith Stadium.
After Pulaski County surprised Bowling Green by taking an early 14-0 lead, the Purples' standouts took over and led a 49-0 blitz.
Fant, a Mr. Football candidate, had five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 61-yard punt return that set up a score.
"This is a special team," Fant said. "We've been together since seventh grade and we stuck together for this 44-game winning streak and three state titles. It all turned out pretty good for us."
Pillow was named the game's MVP. He ran six times for 150 yards, including TD sprints of 79 and 41 yards.
"My gosh, I don't know what it feels like to lose," Pillow said. "We've got great players and great coaches who made it happen."
Tisdale had a big afternoon. He rushed for 86 yards and two TDs, and had three catches for 52 yards, including a 33-yard TD.
Hayes, the quarterback, was his usual steady self at the controls. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 203 yards, two TDs and no picks.
Pulaski County, showing no jitters in its first appearance in the finals, had Bowling Green back on its heels early.
Sophomore quarterback Riley Hall's passing and running led the Maroons on an impressive game-opening drive to the Purples' 1-yard line. Pulaski County came up empty, though, when Bowling Green linebacker Lincoln Quick stuffed Aaron Hall on fourth down.
The Maroons didn't let that bother them. They scored on their next two possessions.
Hall hit sophomore George Gregory with a 45-yard pass to set up an 8-yard TD toss to freshman Jake Johnson.
Hall scrambled free and ran 25 yards for a score to put Pulaski County ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Bowling Green rallied to tie it by halftime, but Maroons Coach Johnny Hines still had positive vibes.
"We felt we could play with them at that point," he said. "But we made some mistakes in the second half that got us in a tough position.
"Bowling Green is so talented and has so much speed, we had trouble stopping the big plays." And Pulaski County couldn't match the Purples output.
Hall wound up completing 19 of 31 passes for 163 yards and one TD. Johnson had eight catches for 61 yards, and Gerogory six catches for 79 yards. Senior Aaron Smith had 98 all-purpose yards.
"It's been a big week for us, and a big year," Hines said. "Our seniors are devastated to lose, but I'm proud of the way they led our team, and I'm proud of our underclassmen. I hope this fuels them to want to come back."
Wallace, who was an assistant on Bowling Green's 1995 title team, can catch his breath after surviving the pressure of a three-peat.
"I'm 52 going on 80," he said. "Unless we won the state championship, we were going to be a failure.
"This year was a grind, especially with the schedule we played. Being undefeated against that schedule is pretty special."