BOWLING GREEN — Just before Central took the field for the Class 3A football finals on Saturday, Coach Ty Scroggins showed his players a photograph of the championship ring that would be theirs if they beat Belfry.
"That got everybody excited and pumped up," Central star Anthony Wales said.
It showed in the Yellowjackets' performance.
Capitalizing on its superior speed and quickness, Central raced to a 27-0 halftime lead on its way to a 46-7 romp in front of 5,792 fans in WKU's Houchens Industries L.T. Smith Stadium.
The Jackets have now won three titles in four years, including a victory over Belfry in the 2007 finals.
"What a joy," said Scroggins, who has an 18-1 playoff record in four years as Central's coach.
"A lot of people said we couldn't do it because we were so young and because we lost all those games early.
"But on July 15, I told them we were going to win a state championship no matter what. After we lost six games, I told them to keep their heads, focus on the mission, and good things will happen."
Lots of good things happened against Belfry.
Wales, a speedy 5-foot-9, 167-pound junior, led the way. He ran 19 times for 244 yards, including 53- and 33-yard touchdown sprints.
"He's a great back," Belfry Coach Philip Haywood said. "If he got just an inch, he'd take it to the house on us."
Wales finished the year with 2,994 yards, smashing Jefferson County's single-season rushing record of 2,756 set by Moore's Monquantae Gibson in 2001.
Central's defense, led by Tim Witchard, Phillip Francis and Andrew Pate, was the other big star.
It forced five Belfry turnovers and scored on two of them. Demontre Boyd returned a fumble 60 yards for a score, and Kevin Dunbar had a 46-yard pick-six.
Belfry was able to move the ball between the red zones, with Trey Willis (115 yards rushing) and Jeffre Pruitt (94 rushing, one TD), but it couldn't overcome three fumbles and two interceptions.
"Our offense didn't play as well as I thought it would," Haywood said. "Part of it was, Central is very athletic on defense, and it's hard to break a big play on them.
"For whatever reason, we dropped the ball here and there, and they were able to capitalize."
Haywood encouraged his team at halftime and thought they came out ready to play better. But less than two minutes into the third quarter, Dunbar had his long interception return to push Central's lead to 34-0. It eventually grew to 40-0.
Despite coming up short in its bid for a third state title, Belfry had a better-than-expected season as it made the state finals for the fourth time in eight years.
"I think we were certainly a surprise to our community and a little bit of a surprise to ourselves," said Haywood, who will have a bunch of starters returning next year.
Central seems to have the pieces in place to make a strong run for another state championship next season.
But Wales' attention is on the immediate future and a piece of jewelry that's coming his way.
"We get sized up Monday or Tuesday for our state championship rings," he said. "I can't wait."