High School Sports

Belfry rides 'purist' football to 3-0 win over Wayne Co. in Class 3A finals

Wayne County's Junior Ruiz (22) broke through the Belfry defense but couldn't score. The Pirates shut out the Cardinals 3-0 in the Class A title game. Wayne County hadn't been shut out since 2009.
Wayne County's Junior Ruiz (22) broke through the Belfry defense but couldn't score. The Pirates shut out the Cardinals 3-0 in the Class A title game. Wayne County hadn't been shut out since 2009. AP

BOWLING GREEN — Frigid temperatures, a cutting wind and pelting rain meant ideal conditions for Belfry in Friday's Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 3A football finals.

Reveling in weather perfectly suited to its smash-mouth style, Belfry shut down Wayne County's high-powered passing attack and beat the Cardinals 3-0 in front of 3,811 fans in Western Kentucky's L.T. Smith Stadium.

"Hard-nosed football, a purist kind of game," Pirates Coach Philip Haywood said as a couple of near-frozen tears traced down his cheeks. "You don't see too many of those anymore."

Haywood, the state's all-time winningest coach with 376 victories, guided Belfry to its third state title. This was perhaps the most satisfying because it came after the Pirates lost to Central in the finals the previous three years.

"That does make it special," Haywood said. "Especially for these seniors."

Sani Warren, who started four consecutive title games, agreed: "What we went through here before makes this extra sweet."

Hayden Hatfield, a senior who led Belfry in tackles against Wayne County, said "the heartbreak we had here the last few years made this the perfect way to go out."

Haywood also praised his seniors for "being so patient, waiting for our younger guys to come along.

"We never played perfect, and we didn't tonight, but we always played hard and usually found a way to win."

This was the lowest-scoring championship game since St. Xavier edged Trinity 3-0 in the Class 4A finals in 1997. St. X also won 3-0 over Boone County in 1992.

Wayne County had a golden opportunity to score in the closing seconds of the first half when it had first down at the Belfry 5-yard line. Three running plays netted them two yards, leaving Cardinals Coach Shawn Thompson with a decision on fourth down.

He said later he was "worried" about his kicking game, so instead of a field goal he went for the touchdown.

But Tyler Guffey's pass to Kadameion Branham fell incomplete. "The play was there, it just didn't work out," Thompson said.

Belfry used a 13-play, 65-yard drive to set up the only score — Austin Woolum's 35-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.

Hatfield said he knew that 3-0 lead would hold up.

"I told the guys at halftime, if they'd put three points on the board, we'd win. I knew they weren't going to score on us. This was our first shutout all year, but there's not a better place to have it than the state championship."

Belfry had 244 yards, 235 on the ground led by Austin Hatfield's 114 rushing. Warren was 2-for-4 passing for just nine yards.

Wayne County came into the game averaging 41 points behind Guffey, who had more than 3,000 passing yards, and Jason Perkins, who had more than 1,300 receiving yards.

But the Cards couldn't dent Belfry's defense. They had only 208 yards and were shut out for the first time in 49 games, dating to the 2009 playoffs.

Guffey was 12 of 30 passing for 169 yards. Perkins had five catches for 103 yards.

But the combo couldn't break the big play.

Thompson said the wind, rain and cold didn't help.

"They say it's football weather any time it's cold and rainy, but it's not football weather for a passing team.

"We're not making excuses. Belfry's a good football team. We just didn't make big plays like we have all year."

Nevertheless, Wayne County had a season to celebrate. It brought a 14-0 record into its first state finals.

"I'm really proud of all we did, for the team, the school and our community," Thompson said. "We believed we were going to win, but unfortunately that's life. Sometimes you do everything right and you don't succeed.

"But I think we showed everybody tonight that Wayne County football is for real."

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class 3A