BOWLING GREEN — DeSales Coach Harold Davis finally gets to celebrate a state football championship.
Davis was a defensive back on the DeSales team that lost to Henry Clay in the Class 4A title game in 1981, and he was an assistant with the Colts when they lost to Fort Campbell in the 2A championship game in 2009.
The third time in the finals was a charm, however. DeSales, led by senior running back Dylan Byrd, beat defending champ Newport Central Catholic 34-26 in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA 2A title game at Western Kentucky's L.T. Smith Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"The DeSales community has been waiting for something like this for a long time, and for me to be part of it, it's very emotional," Davis said. "Playing in a finals, being an assistant coach in another, and now winning one as head coach feels great."
The Colts' offense, which has been something of a stampede all year, was on the run again against NewCath.DeSales had 428 yards, 270 coming on the ground.
Byrd led the rush, carrying 22 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He eclipsed 2,000 yards this season when he broke a 73-yard TD run early in the second half. He also had a 30-yard TD catch.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to win it," Byrd said. "It's great for our school and our community, and it's great to get it for Coach Davis."
Colts quarterback Nathan Roush had a big game, too. He completed eight of 12 passes for 158 yards and two TDs. Austin Craig had four catches for 105 yards.
"Words can't describe what it means to come out with this victory," Roush said.
For NewCath, it was an afternoon of missed chances.
The Thoroughbreds, who were in the finals for the seventh time in nine years and looking for a sixth title, trailed 21-13 late in the first half when they drove to the DeSales 9. But a fourth-down pass to the end zone fell incomplete.
NewCath opened the second half by driving to the Colts' 19, but again came up empty. On the next play, Byrd ripped off his 73-yard TD run.
NewCath's Jacob Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a score, but that TD was wiped out by a penalty.
"A lot of lost opportunities," said Thoroughbreds' first-year coach Dan Wagner.
NewCath quarterback Mac Franzen threw for 318 yards and three TDs. He and Tommy Donnelly hooked up nine times for 203 yards and two TDs, including a 14-yarder that closed the gap to 34-26 with 90 seconds left.
NewCath tried an onside kick, but DeSales got it.
Wagner said his Thoroughbreds overcame a lot of injuries and adversity early in the season to get this far.
"These seniors and everybody else gave it their heart and soul, and when you work that hard and come up short, it's hard," Wagner said. "Nobody gave us a chance to get here but we did. That's what I want to remember."