GEORGETOWN — Clinging to a 16-14 lead with just more than three minutes left, Scott County was without a second-half first down.
With the game on the line, the Cardinals came up big.
They got a first down, and another, to seal a 16-14 win over Boone County on Friday night in the Class 6A State semifinals at Toyota Stadium.
The Cardinals will take a perfect 14-0 mark into next Friday's finals at Western Kentucky University, facing nationally top-ranked Trinity.
Never miss a local story.
"There at the end, it was all heart," winning quarterback Ben Lawler said. "That's all it took, was just heart."
Facing third-and-5 on its own 42, Scott County came out of a Boone timeout with 3:13 left and caught the Rebels looking for a run.
Instead, Lawler hit Nick Smith 15 yards upfield, and Smith took the ball all the way to the Boone 15 for a 43-yard gain.
"That's one of our secret weapons," Smith said. "They just shoot me across the middle and I'm usually wide open."
Two running plays netted 5 yards, and Boone used its final timeout with 1:54 left.
Lawler took the ball around left end to the 3-yard line for a first down, then took kneel-downs to finish the win.
"We knew they would be well prepared and we were afraid we might have a little bit of a hard time moving the football, and we did," said Cardinals Coach Jim McKee, who was ceremoniously drenched by his players with a water cooler. "Basically we came up with one more play than they did. Hats off to them. They run a good program."
Scott, which will be making its second trip to the State finals, has played 15 playoff games over four years.
"We had to just keep playing hard," said tackle Akil Campbell, part of a Scott defense that held Boone to 200 total yards. "I was nervous but, at the same time, I knew if we just kept pushing and kept doing what we were coached to do it would come out for the best, and it did."
Pat Murray led Cardinals with 6.5 tackles, one more than Damon Gray.
Boone (9-5) had a three-game win streak snapped.
"Our seniors did a great job," Coach Rick Thompson said. "We don't have that superstar. ... Every week somebody else stepped up and made plays. We just came up short tonight."
Scott County took a 7-0 lead on the opening drive of the game, capped by Josh Walls' 1-yard run.
Boone County's Cody Rodriguez scored with 42 seconds left — only the second score given up in the first quarter by Scott County all season. (The Cardinals now have outscored their foes 210-14 in the first.)
Walls, who finished with 92 yards on 15 carries, also had the big play on the game-opening drive, which covered 72 yards in nine plays. His 40-yard run around right end put the Cards on the Boone 15. He scored five plays later on third-and-goal.
Boone got the equalizer after a roughing-the-kicker penalty kept alive a seven-play, 61-yard drive.
Rodriguez later broke a 31-yard gain to his right side. Two more Rodriguez runs picked up 5 yards each, the latter ending in the end zone.
A Boone County punt put Scott on its 29 with 2:13 left in the half.
Three runs netted 11 yards. An incomplete pass with 28 seconds left made Lawler 0-for-6.
Next play, though, he connected with Nick Smith, who won a "jump ball" with Boone's Cole Vires for a 42-yard gain to the Rebels' 18.
After spiking the ball with 14.3 seconds left, Lawler rolled right and found Edwards, who ran the last half of the distance for the score.
The play covered 18 yards and came 6.5 seconds before intermission. The Cardinals led 14-7 at halftime,.
First drive of the second half, Scott's Kevin Claussen blocked a punt to set up the Cardinals on the Boone 27.
The Rebels didn't flinch, getting the ball back moments later on a Vires interception.
Boone did nothing on offense, though, and a punt play went awry when a high snap sailed out of the end zone for a safety.
The Rebels pulled to within 16-14 with 3.6 seconds left in the third quarter, when Kameron Schwartz connected with Bryson Thompson for a 48-yard touchdown pass.
Boone got the ball back two more times, punting once and losing the ball on downs on its final chance.
Boone County 7 0 7 0—14
Scott County 7 7 2 0—16
SC—Josh Walls 1 run (Palmer Ward kick); BC—Cody Rodriguez 5 run (Cory Black kick); SC—Kevo Edwards 18 pass from Ben Lawler (Ward kick); SC—Safety (high punt snap out of end zone); BC—Bryson Thompson 48 pass from Kameron Schwartz (Black kick).
Records—Boone Co. 9-5; Scott Co. 14-0.