South Warren walked away with a 36-6 victory over Johnson Central in the Class 4A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl finals on Sunday night, becoming the third team in Warren County to win a championship on WKU’s Feix Field over the weekend.
The Spartans’ championship performance was arguably the most impressive of the three, its defense carrying it to one final victory to cap the first undefeated season in the program’s fifth year of existence.
“We’ve been good all year on defense and for them to do it in the last game here is very fitting,” Spartans Coach Brandon Smith said. “It’s been an unbelievable unit. One of the best defensive units, if not the best that I’ve ever been around.”
South Warren (15-0) finished having allowed only 110.8 yards per game. Only John Hardin (12) and Tennessee’s Pope John Paul II (14) reached double digits against the Spartans, who won their games by an average of 30 points. They gave up only 5.9 points to their opponents.
The Golden Eagles (12-2) were limited to 130 yards on 33 plays. They lost two fumbles and were intercepted twice by the Spartans. The fumbles — recovered by Devante Colton and Jacob Wilde — were each returned for South Warren touchdowns. Both interceptions led to scores, too.
“They never got satisfied or read their own press clippings,” Smith said. “They just wanted to be the best.”
And by at least one measure, the Spartans were. Their 89 points given up was the fewest by any team in Kentucky this season (Male gave up 93).
Smith won three titles as a player under his father, Chuck Smith, at Boyle County. The elder Smith was on hand to watch his son lead South Warren in its first title game in any sport.
“Pretty much everything I do, philosophy-wise and intangibles and team-building stuff, I learned from him,” Brandon Smith said. “I was very fortunate to have that guidance my whole life and smart enough to use it.”
Chuck Smith said he “was a nervous wreck” watching his son try to pull off an undefeated season, something he’s managed to pull off four times himself.
He said he and his son don’t talk X’s and O’s a lot but that he might have to take some pointers to try and get Boyle County back to the championship game.
“He’s got a great vision and real passionate about what he sees. He’s really insightful, reads things very good and communicates it to the kids really well.
“I’ve been taking notes the whole time I’ve been out here. I’d like to get back myself.”
Leading on the offensive side for South Warren was Kayron Namvong, who finished with 121 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
Johnson Central was paced by Bryce Skaggs, who carried six times for a net of 63 yards and the lone Golden Eagles TD — which came via a 68-yard rush. The Golden Eagles were also vying for their first ever team title in a sport.
“It was a bad storm of them doing a great job and us not doing such a great job,” Johnson Central Coach Jim Matney said. “My hat’s off to them. It’s one of those nights I’d like to have something to be upset about but the truth of the matter is our kids played all they could play.”
South Warren 36, Johnson Central 6
SW—Alex Cohron 22 field goal; SW—Chase Japp 24 pass from Ryder Litten (kick failed); SW—Devante Colton 22 fumble recovery (kick failed); SW—Kayron Namvong 9 run (Cohron kick); JC—Bryce Skaggs 68 run (pass failed); SW—Jacob Wilde 6 fumble recovery (Cohron kick); SW—Austin McElwain 8 run (Cohron kick).
Records: South Warren 15-0, Johnson Central 12-2.