The Class 5A Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl state championship game between Bowling Green and Pulaski County was tied 22-22 at halftime. And then it wasn’t.
Bowling Green scored 48 unanswered in the second half en route to a 70-22 rout, setting a new state-finals record for points in the process (Trinity set the previous record, 62, against Scott County in 2011). The Purples won their fifth title in six seasons and sixth overall, tying them with Covington Catholic and Fort Campbell for sixth all time.
Jamale Carothers racked up 128 yards and four TDs on 18 carries. The Navy commit also had five receptions for 111 yards and a TD en route to game MVP honors.
He also left as fantastic a last impression as a player can on the minds of prospective Mr. Football voters.
“We haven’t done much campaigning for people but I think Jamale Carothers showed tonight he’s the best football player in Kentucky,” Purples Coach Kevin Wallace said. “I don’t see any reason why he’s not Mr. Football.”
One reason could end up being Jake Johnson, the Pulaski County star who set state records for career receptions and yardage this season. Unfortunately for the Maroons, Johnson’s biggest impact Sunday was made due to his absence; the senior went down with a knee injury with 1:23 left in the first half. He returned briefly in the period and for part of the third quarter but was noticeably limping.
Johnson told reporters after the game that team doctors believe he injured his meniscus or MCL. He finished with 10 catches for 88 yards and TD.
“Jake’s our No. 1 offensive weapon obviously and it kinda stifled us a little bit when he got injured,” Pulaski County Coach John Hines said. “I’m proud of the way some other guys stepped up.”
Bowling Green (15-0) scored 28 points in the third quarter to bust open the game. Carothers and Deangelo Wilson each rushed for and caught a TD in the period.
All three of the Purples’ fourth-quarter TDs were produced outside of the offense. Rashad Darden returned an interception 71 yards, Vito Tisdale scooped up a punt for a 58-yard TD, and Tyler Stahl took back a fumble 16 yards for the exclamation point.
Bowling Green quarterback Clark Payne finished 15 of 22 for 278 yards and two TD passes. Pulaski County’s Wiley Cain was 24-for-42 for 187 yards and two TDs with two interceptions.
A reporter brought up a preseason conversation he had with Wallace in which he said Wallace was worried about losing games this season.
“I didn’t expect to lose any games with this group to be honest with ya,” Wallace said with a laugh. “You might’ve heard me say that but I’d have been lying.”