Lexington Christian built a seemingly comfortable 35-14 lead, then had to hold on for dear life before edging visiting Hazard 35-28 Friday in the Class A State semifinals.
So it's on to the finals, Dec. 5 at Bowling Green, to face Mayfield.
"They've got a lot of athletes, so we'll try to contain their speed," LCA Coach Paul Rains said of Mayfield. "That's not easily done ... but we'll give it the old LCA try."
The Eagles (13-1) take a nine-game winning streak into the finals.
Hazard (9-5) came oh so close to duplicating last year's 28-21 semifinals upset of LCA.
After Domonique Hayden scored his second 2-yard touchdown of the night to give LCA a 35-14 lead early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs rallied.
Zach Blanton's 8-yard run late in the third quarter cut the deficit to two scores.
Zack Miller recovered an LCA fumble with 1:50 left in the third, leading to Corey Slone's 6-yard TD scamper with 10:59 left.
LCA tried to put the game away, but turned the ball over on downs at the Hazard 23. After a Hazard punt, the Eagles fumbled the ball away on the next play, at their 40.
The Bulldogs drove to the LCA 8, facing fourth-and-four with 20.7 seconds left.
Jon Combs bought time, scrambling for about eight seconds, then found Blanton open in the end zone. But Blanton couldn't hold on.
"He came in with a separated shoulder and would not go out of the ball game," Hazard Coach Mark Dixon said of Blanton. "And he's the one who kept us in the ball game. There were a lot of plays we could have made throughout the ball game."
"I've got to take my hat off to my football team because we played as hard as we could possibly play. We came in here and nobody gave us a chance. Everybody said we were gonna get beat (by) four and five touchdowns, and our boys battled and battled and fought, and had a chance right to the end."
Hayden finished with 178 yards on 28 rushes. He raised his state-record career totals to 136 touchdowns, 118 rushing TDs and 825 points.
"It feels good make it back to state," he said. "We came out here and played for each other like brothers."
LCA led 28-14 at halftime, with Lucas Witt passing for two touchdowns.
"I'm speechless," said Witt, who completed 12 of 17 passes for 171 yards and ran 10 times for 52 yards. "I can't be more proud of my team."
The recipient of his first TD pass, Branden Burdette, also returned a kickoff 99 yards for another score. The pass play covered 58 yards.
The Bulldogs tied at 7 on Blanton's 20-yard run.
Then, LCA was on the verge of going three-and-out. LCA answered with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by Hayden.
Another Hazard fumble led to Witt's second TD pass, a 26-yarder to Sam Duff.
Hazard cut the lead to 21-14 with 3:27 left in the half on a 9-yard pass from Jon Combs to B.J. Combs.
Burdette took the ensuing kickoff on his 1, found a seam near the Hazard sideline, and outran everybody to the end zone to restore the big lead.
"I had to make a play," Burdette said. "They were getting the momentum, so I saw the hole and I just took it, went through and scored."
Hazard 7 7 7 7—28
Lexington Christian 14 14 7 0—35
LCA — Branden Burdette 58 pass from Lucas Witt (Chaz Witt kick); H — Zach Blanton 20 run (Austin Delpont kick); LCA — Domonique Hayden 2 run (C. Witt kick); LCA — Sam Duff 26 pass from L. Witt (C. Witt kick); H — B.J. Combs 9 pass from Jon Combs (Delpont kick); LCA — Branden Burdette 99 kickoff return (C. Witt kick); LCA — Hayden 2 run (C. Witt kick); H — Blanton 8 run (Delpont kick); H — Corey Slone 6 run (Delpont kick).