A game of inches came to down to just a little bit more than that as Lafayette stopped Scott County short of the goal line on a go-ahead two-point conversion to claim a 48-47 victory in the Class 6A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl state semifinals Friday night at home.
Senior Branden Layne made the game-saving tackle for a defense that gave up nearly 400 yards through the night. He wrapped up Brice Fryman, who had received a pitch from Scott County quarterback Josh Davis, about two yards shy of the end zone.
Lafayette advanced to the state finals for the second straight season, becoming the first school from Lexington — public or private — to make a repeat bid for a football championship. It is the first time Lexington has produced a state finals participant in back-to-back seasons since Tates Creek and Bryan Station played for the 1998 and 1999 title, respectively. Henry Clay is the last Lexington public school to have won a state football title, doing so against DeSales in 1981.
The Generals fell to Male, 41-14, in last year’s finals, their first trip since 1985.
“It hadn’t been done in so long last year,” Lafayette quarterback Walker Wood said, “but now we know what it looks like. It shouldn’t be a big deal. We expected this from the summer and we don’t need to freak out.”
Wood had a team-high 21 carries for 96 yards and four TDs, all goal-line runs and the last putting the Generals ahead 34-27 in the third quarter after they recovered an onside kick attempt. Scott County tied the game twice after that but never regained an advantage after leading Lafayette for much of the first half.
“Usually Scott County comes out and they do what they do,” Wood said. “They play man and they bring pressure. But tonight I think they switched it up a little. They did bring pressure a lot but they also dropped back into a zone.”
Wood, a University of Kentucky commit, thought Lafayette made its bread against the Cardinals’ zone looks.
“We found some holes and we took ’em,” said Wood. He was 15 of 16 passing for 211 yards and three TDs.
Quinten Brown had a game highs with four catches and 63 yards. He caught the final go-ahead TD from Wood just about a yard past the line of scrimmage and ripped off for a 49-yard score with 1:38 left in the game, giving Lafayette a 48-41 advantage.
The senior receiver was humble about his role in Lafayette’s down-to-the-wire victory.
“It wasn’t me, I was just doing my part,” Brown said. “It was all up to the coaches, the line and the quarterback finding me. I was just doing my job.”
Matthew Guilfoil, a Lafayette junior, had three catches for 58 yards and a score. Generals sophomore TeAndre Newcomb caught a TD off a tipped pass in the red zone with 8:05 to play. Cameron Morgan didn’t score, but he had a game-high 162 yards on 20 rushes for the Generals. Lafayette outgained Scott County 471-397 in total yardage.
Jacob Burton led Scott County with 154 yards and three TDs on a game-high 31 rushes. Kendrick Hamilton had 110 yards and a TD on 11 carries while Fryman rushed nine times for 74 yards and a score.
After Scott County went up 6-0 a minute into the game, Newcomb returned the kickoff 53 yards to help Lafayette take its first lead, 7-6, on Wood’s first TD run. The Cardinals answered with big scoring runs by Hamilton and Burton to take a 20-7 lead after one quarter.
Wood found Guilfoil on the Lafayette’s first second-quarter play but Scott County drove down field to take a 27-13 edge. Wood scored his second TD with 3:46 left in the first half to make it 27-20. Scott County chewed up clock on its way to the Lafayette 2-yard line, where its possession ended as the Generals made their first big defensive stop of the game as time expired.
Lafayette’s second big stop came in the waning seconds. Coach Eric Shaw didn’t think for a second that Scott County wouldn’t go for two after scoring its final TD.
“I didn’t think he (Coach Jim McKee) was gonna try to go into overtime,” Shaw said. “We’ve been in overtime before in some games and I didn’t think he was gonna do that tonight. ...
“An inch or two the other way, that thing could’ve went either way. So I’m happy, very blessed and very honored to represent Lexington in the state finals again.”
Lafayette will see Trinity, which defeated St. Xavier 24-14 on Friday night, in the championship game next week in Bowling Green. The Class 6A game, originally scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 3, could be rescheduled depending on the outcome of the Western Kentucky-Marshall college football game on Saturday. If WKU wins, it will host Louisiana Tech next Saturday in the Conference-USA championship game.
Regardless of whenever it plays the Shamrocks, Lafayette will be a decided underdog against a program that’s tied with Highlands for the most state titles (23). Trinity defeated the Generals, 45-7, in Lexington earlier this season.
“Trinity, they’re one of the best teams in the state,” Wood said. “If you wanna be the best you’ve got to beat the best.”
Correction: The article originally said Henry Clay was the only Lexington public school to have won a football title. Tates Creek won a football title in 1972 and Bryan Station won one in 1971.
Lafayette 48, Scott County 47
SC—Brice Fryman 39 run (kick blocked); L—Walker Wood 3 run (Sutton Averitt kick); SC—Kendrick Hamilton 40 run (Colin Dempster kick); SC—Jacob Burton 20 run (Dempster kick); L—Matthew Guilfoil 38 pass from Wood (kick blocked); SC—Josh Davis 1 run (Dempster kick); L—Wood 1 run (Averitt kick); L—Wood 5 run (Averitt kick); L—Wood 2 run (Averitt kick); SC—Burton 1 run (Dempster kick); L—TeAndre Newcomb 9 pass from Wood (Averitt kick); SC—Burton 3 run (Dempster kick); L—Quinten Brown 49 pass from Wood (Averitt kick); SC—Cameron Shepard 4 pass from Davis (run failed).
Records: Lafayette 13-1, Scott County 11-3.