Lexington Catholic's big-play offense got the Knights the lead, then their big-play defense took over and secured a 40-35 victory over Boyle County in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A playoffs Friday night.
Lexington Catholic's win earned it a trip to Highlands for a semifinal showdown with the 22-time state champion Bluebirds next Friday.
Lexington Catholic, which beat Boyle County 26-17 in the regular season, showed a more explosive offense in the regional rematch.
And so did Boyle County.
The first half was a flurry of dazzling plays as the teams battled to a 28-28 tie.
"All of the big plays kinda came out of the blue," Knights quarterback Reese Ryan said. "I thought it was going to be a dog-fight all night."
Lexington Catholic's Andy Thompson had a 100-yard kickoff return for a score. Ryan had a 50-yard run to the Rebels' 1 that led to a TD, and he threw a 33-yard TD pass to J.J. Ogbogu.
Boyle County's Erik Brown had an 89-yard kickoff return for a score. Josiah Robbins threw a 68-yard TD to Jase Sharp, and a 58-yard strike to Keagen Hinkle to the Knights' 1 that set up another TD.
"The first half was all back-and-forth scoring," Lexington Catholic linebacker Chase Boling said. "We suffered through it and got to the second half, and then our defense made plays."
The Knights' key stops included Braxton Couch sacking Robbins and forcing the Rebels to try — and miss — a 28-yard field goal late in the third quarter. Dominic Castlen also came up with a big quarterback sack that forced Boyle County to punt early in the fourth quarter.
The Knights' biggest stop came in the closing minute. Boyle County, looking for the go-ahead TD, had the ball at Lexington Catholic's 46 but was stymied on fourth down.
"Our defense played great in the second half and got some stops to get them off the field," Coach Mark Perry said. "It was just a great high school football game. It's sad that somebody had to lose, but I'm glad we're the ones going to Highlands."
Boling led Lexington Catholic's defense with 11 tackles. Couch had 10 and Cody Mitchell had seven.
The Knights struck for two long scores to take a 40-28 lead in the third quarter. Ryan hit Ogbogu with a 67-yard TD pass, and Thompson with a 78-yard bomb.
"It was a great night," Thompson said. "Everybody played well for us. When all that scoring was going on, it had me a little nervous, but I knew we'd come through."
Andy Thompson's brother Chris also got in on the fun by recovering a fumble in the end zone for a TD.
"I guess it runs in the family," Andy said with a laugh.
Ryan was on his game. He completed 14 of 17 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran eight times for 102 yards.
Ogbogu had six catches for 130 yards. Thompson had three grabs for 117 yards.
"Our line protected me really well, and that's what led to the big plays," Ryan said.
Boyle County outgained the Knights 442 yards to 414.
Robbins threw for 335 yards and two TDs. Keagen Hinkle had seven catches for 113 yards, and Sharp had four receptions for 118 yards.
Chuck Smith, who had a 27-game November winning streak snapped as Rebels coach, had a quick analysis of his team's loss.
"You can't win a championship giving up that many big plays, that many easy scores," he said. "Our kids worked hard all year and did a great job. But we just didn't get it done tonight when we had to get it done."
Lexington Catholic 40, Boyle County 35
Boyle County 21 7 0 7—35
Lexington Catholic 14 14 12 0—40
LC—J.J. Ogbogu 33 pass from Reese Ryan (Donovan Morris kick). BC—Erik Brown 89 kickoff return (Addison Coffey kick). BC—Jase Sharp 68 pass from Josiah Robbins (Coffey kick). LC—Andy Thpmpson 100 kickoff return (Morris kick). BC—Aidan Stewart-Hoskins 1 run (Coffey kick). LC—Chris Thompson recovered fumble in end zone (Morris kick). LC—Jaylen Jones 1 run (Murphy Rodes). BC—Brown 1 run (Coffey kick). LC—Ogbogu 67 pass from Ryan (kick failed). LC—Andy Thompson 78 pass from Ryan (pass failed). BC—Zach Leigh 34 pass from Robbins (Coffey kick).
Records—Boyle County 11-2; Lexington Catholic 10-3