ELIZABETHTOWN — Koree Krupinski has been throwing passes to Zach Helton since they were sixth-graders. So when Central Hardin needed a miracle against Bryan Station in the Class 6A playoffs Friday night, it was no surprise who manufactured a miracle.
Krupinski scrambled out of trouble and fired a 30-yard touchdown pass to Helton with :06 left, and Garrett Kasey added the extra point to give No. 9 Central Hardin a stunning 21-20 victory over the No. 15 Defenders.
"Koree and Zach have been playing together since they were knee-high to a grasshopper, so they have a great bond, a great knack for knowing where each other will be on the field," Bruins Coach Tim Mattingly said.
Bryan Station, looking to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 1999, took a 20-14 lead when Andre Davis rifled a 13-yard TD pass to Marcus Floyd with 1:29 left.
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That didn't look like enough time for Central Hardin's wing-T running attack to march down the field.
Krupinski operated the spread offense the past few years under Mark Perry before Mattingly took over this season and installed the wing-T. Krupinski went back to a quick-pass offense, firing the ball to Austin Pence, Tyler Long and Helton to spark the last-gasp drive.
Then came the game-winning play. Krupinski, flushed out of the pocket, spotted Helton open in the end zone.
"That's been a go-to thing since the sixth grade," Krupinski said. "I don't know how many game-winners I've thrown to him. He's a maniac. He'll get open in the hallway."
For Bryan Station Coach Frank Parks, it was a bitter ending to a bitter-cold night.
"We just lost sight," Parks said of Krupinski's TD pass to Helton. "We put three guys deep, but we got caught with our eyes in the backfield instead of grabbing a man. When he threw it, we were watching instead of reacting."
In Parks' eyes, the Defenders' biggest miscue was missing an extra-point kick after it took a 6-0 lead early in the game.
"That's what it boils down to," he said. "Regardless of everything else that went down, that one point is hanging over our heads."
Bryan Station led 6-0 before the Bruins scored on their first possession of the second half to lead 7-6.
The Defenders went on top 12-7 on Devon Key's 3-yard TD late in the third quarter, but they missed a two-point conversion try.
Central Hardin regained the lead 14-12 on Krupinski's 14-yard run with seven minutes left. But Bryan Station rallied on Davis' pass to Floyd. Davis threw to Key for the two-point conversion with less than 90 seconds left.
Krupinski wasn't rattled. He relied on his passing instincts and skills.
"Still having that spread mentality won us the game," Mattingly said. "Thank God for that."
Central Hardin (12-0) will host Meade County (10-2) in the region finals next week.
The Bruins rushed for 229 yards against Bryan Station. Xavier Arnette led the way with 82 yards on 23 carries.
Krupinski was 9-for-12 passing for 91 yards and the decisive TD.
For Bryan Station, Davis was 22 of 32 passing for 266 yards and two scores. His prime targets were Floyd (seven catches, 53 yards, a TD) and Quan Claitt (four catches, 126 yards, including a 58-yard TD).
Key's nine tackles and Chris Jackson's seven led the Defenders' defense.
Central Hardin 21, Bryan Station 20
Bryan Station 6 0 6 8—20
Central Hardin 0 0 7 14—21
BS—Quan Claitt 58 pass from Andre Davis (kick failed). CH—Xavier Arnette 10 run (Garrett Kasey kick). BS—Devon Key 3 run (pass failed). CH—Koree Krupinski 14 run (Kasey kick). BS—Marcus Floyd 13 pass from Davis (Key pass from Davis). CH—Zach Helton 30 pass from Krupinski (Kasey kick).
Records: Central Hardin 12-0; Bryan Station 7-5 .