Mayfield defeated Newport Central Catholic 17-7 in the Class 2A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl on Sunday afternoon, becoming the fifth school to win four or more consecutive championships.
The Cardinals (14-1) won the Class A title in 2012, 2013 and 2014 before moving up to Class 2A this season. Trinity won four trophies in a row from 2005 to 2008. Boyle County won five from 1999 to 2003 and Highlands won six from 2007 to 2012.
Mayfield is the first small school to pull off the feat since Beechwood won four straight from 1991 to 1994. It eclipsed the Northern Kentucky power as the small-school title leader, earning its 12th trophy to the Tigers’ 11th.
“Four in a row is crazy and we’ll look back on it,” Mayfield Coach Joe Morris said. “This team jumped up from Class A to Class 2A and fought through a lot of adversity. We were down in several games but this team won’t quit.”
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The run game never got going for the Cardinals, who finished with only 61 yards on 31 carries after averaging 177 per game. That forced Mayfield to utilize its passing game more, and it worked out pretty well. Landon Arnett finished as the game’s MVP with 208 yards and a TD on 17-for-35 passing with an interception. More importantly, he avoided any sacks against a NewCath frontline that brought pressure the whole afternoon.
Points appeared futile in the first half as both defenses bent but didn’t break on multiple occasions. Each came away with blocked field-goal attempts and forced turnovers in key situations. The Cardinals proved more capable of turning miscues into points on Sunday.
Arnett was masterful on Mayfield’s final drive of the half, set up by a Keelan Murphy fumble recovery at the Cards’ own 43-yard line. That possession ended with a 17-yard scoring pass to Kevin Caldwell with 12 seconds remaining.
... Our guys like to run and hit. And we’re state champions again. What a crazy run this is.
Mayfield Coach Joe Morris
“That was big,” Morris said. “The first quarter we didn’t even have a first down. But then all of a sudden that got us a little spark and some breathing room. Then we got the turnover touchdown and cruised on in from there.”
The “turnover touchdown” came after Newport Catholic forced a three-and-out to open the second half. Mayfield’s punt hit a Thoroughbred inside the 5-yard line, though, and an opportunistic Keelan Murphy turned it into a second Cardinals TD.
“Our kid kind of got caught in the situation,” Newport Catholic Coach Dan Wagner said. “He was trying to get out of the way but he didn’t. ... Sometimes breaks go your way and sometimes they don’t.”
Sidney Herndon tacked on a field goal midway through the fourth quarter for the Cardinals.
The Thoroughbreds (9-6) found some life on a big completion from Patrick Henschen to Trent Wrobleski for a score in the third quarter. They punted twice, then fumbled and turned it over on downs their final four drives after that.
Henschen went 10-for-18 for 136 yards and a TD. He too faced a fierce pass rush the whole game but managed to be sacked just once.
“We just didn’t score when we needed to,” Wagner said. “It could have been a completely different game. I don’t know the stats but I guarantee they didn’t beat us by much in yardage, if they did.”
Wagner was correct; Mayfield edged Newport Catholic 269-217 and ran 11 more plays than the Thoroughbreds did. At the end of the day the Cardinals’ defense proved to be the difference-maker.
“That’s the way we’ve won games all year is with our defense,” said Morris, who improved to 6-3 in championship appearances. “Not to take anything away from our offense but ... our guys like to run and hit. And we’re state champions again. What a crazy run this is.”
Newport Catholic 7
M—Kevin Caldwell 17 pass from Landon Arnett (Sidney Herndon kick); M—Keelan Murphy 0 fumble return (Herndon kick); N—Trent Wrobleski 46 pass from Patrick Henschen (Ryan Hans kick); M—Herndon 27 field goal.
Records: Mayfield 14-1, Newport Central Catholic 9-6.