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 with 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 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 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.”
Trinity 24, St. Xavier 14: Behind a pair of first-half takeaways and three touchdowns from senior quarterback Spencer Blackburn, No. 1 Trinity knocked off No. 3 St. Xavier in the Class 6A semifinals at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville to secure a spot in the state championship game for the 14th time in the last 17 years. Blackburn completed 15 of 25 passes for 187 yards.
Bowling Green 34, Fern Creek 7: Jamale Carothers had 196 yards and two TDs for the Purples, who ousted the Tigers (12-2) in the semifinals for a second straight season. Bowling Green (14-0) will play for its fifth title in the last six seasons.
Pulaski County 62, South Oldham 55: Trailing 38-21 at halftime, the Maroons (12-2) scored 41 points in the second half to take command against the Dragons (12-2) at home. Mr. Football contender Jake Johnson had 289 yards and three TDs on 19 receptions and also had two interceptions, one returned for a TD. Pulaski County will play for a title for the fourth straight season; it won one and lost the other two to Bowling Green.
Johnson Central 51, Wayne County 0: The Golden Eagles (13-1) picked up their second straight 51-0 win and their third shutout of the season as they defeated the Cardinals (11-3) in the semifinals for a second straight season.
Franklin-Simpson 27, John Hardin 7: After the Bulldogs (9-5) played an even first half, the Wildcats scored 20 unanswered points in the final 24 minutes to take control on the road. It is the first finals appearance for Franklin-Simpson (14-0) since 2011.
Belfry 42, Corbin 17: Early on it looked like the Pirates (13-1) were in danger of suffering their first loss to a Kentucky school this season, as host Corbin (12-2) jumped out to a 17-0 lead. But Belfry woke up and slammed the door in blowout fashion, ripping off 42 unanswered points to a secure a shot at its fourth straight Class 3A championship.
Central 21, Elizabethtown 14: The Yellow Jackets (9-5) have won nine of their last 10 games after starting the season 0-4. E-town (10-4) had won eight straight. Central defeated Belfry in the finals three years in a row before the Pirates started their three-year run of titles.
Danville 42, Covington Holy Cross 35: After the visiting Indians (10-4) reeled off 14 fourth-quarter points to make it a one possession game, Danville’s defense rallied for a stop on fourth and inches to seal the game and send the Admirals (12-2) to their first championship bout since 2006.
Louisville Christian 48, Mayfield 24: The Centurions (13-1) reached their first state championship with a rout of the four-time defending state champions. It is the first time Mayfield (13-1) won’t play for a title since 2008.
Hazard 20, Paintsville 7: Corey Smith put the Bulldogs on his back, rushing for 216 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries to lead Hazard (12-2) to the championship. Smith is now sitting at 38 rushing TDs and 2,777 yards on the year. Paintsville (13-1) suffered its first loss of the season in the semifinals for the second straight year.
Beechwood 35, Russellville 0: A rematch of last year’s semifinal was much more in favor of the Tigers (13-1) than last year’s meeting, which they won 34-25. Russellville (12-2) had averaged 47 points a game before being shut out for the first time since 2013.