Lucas Witt passed for two touchdowns, while Ben Hartley and Domonique Hayden ran to two TDs each Friday night as Lexington Christian routed visiting Hazard 49-7.
But it was defense that delighted LCA Coach Paul Rains.
"That was the key," he said, citing defensive coordinator Ray Graham. "We struggled defensively against the good running teams this year and we've worked double-time for the last month at bringing this defense around and developing some of our young players."
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LCA outgained Hazard 434-253, including 186-107 on the ground. Both teams are 7-3 going into the playoffs.
"This is a very explosive football team," Hazard Coach Mark Dixon said. "We just couldn't get things going offensively, and I think our kids kind of got down because of that. Our defense stayed on the field most of the time. They got tired."
LCA lost 41-21 to Hazard last season, but came back in the Class A state semifinals to beat the Bulldogs 45-21.
The Eagles led 6-0 and 12-7 at the first two quarter breaks, then broke things open with a 23-point third quarter.
Witt connected with Joey Meehan for an 8-yard score and hit Dalton Hentzman in stride for a 54-yard TD. Witt finished 20-for-29, good for 248 yards, and ran three times for 38 yards.
"We hope to see (Hazard) again," he said. "They're a great team. Our defense pulled it out for us. ... They did all the work tonight."
Hartley gained 22 yards on three carries, scoring from 4 and 15 yards. He also had two catches for 56 yards.
"It's like last year," Hartley said. "We hit our peak right now, and we're hitting our peak again. So it's a great time to succeed and peak. We'll be ready for the playoffs."
Hayden ran 21 times for 100 yards, including TDs of 14 yards and 1, and caught five passes for 54 yards. Also a safety, he added five tackles.
"I'm starting to like defense a lot more," he said, "because you get (to) hit real hard coming downhill."
After Meehan's first-quarter score, Hazard struck.
Michael Campbell stormed in from the back side to sack Witt and force a fumble. Campbell rose, scooped up the ball and ran 45 yards to score. Austin Delpont's PAT gave the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead.
Hartley's 4-yard run put LCA up 12-7 at halftime.
"We should have been up a little more in the first half. We kind of stopped ourselves," Rains said. "But we just told the kids 'you've got to put the hammer down in the second half of a football game when you get to this level of play and to this point in the season.' I thought they did a good job of that."
Hartley, Hayden and Hentzman scored in the third quarter. Hayden struck again in the fourth. Chase Fairchild had the capper with a 51-yard interception return for a TD.
Fairchild's pick was the third of the game for the Eagles. Tyler Townsend led LCA tacklers with seven solos and an assist.
Hazard 0 7 0 0 — 7
Lexington Christian 6 6 23 14 — 49
LCA—Joey Meehan 8 pass from Lucas Witt (kick blocked); H—Michael Campbell 45 fumble return (Austin Delpont kick); LCA—Ben Hartley 4 run (pass failed); LCA—Hartley 15 run (L. Witt run); LCA—Domonique Hayden 14 run (Branden Burdette pass from L. Witt); LCA—Dalton Hentzman 54 pass from L. Witt (Chaz Witt kick); LCA—Hayden 1 run (C. Witt kick); LCA—Chase Fairchild 51 interception return (C. Witt kick).