With a chance to tie in Lexington’s unofficial holy war, Lexington Christian Coach Doug Charles opted instead to go for a two-point conversion and the lead with under a minute to go.
“When it got down to the two-point conversion, I just said, ‘Hey I’m going for two because if (his players) don’t get it, they’ve played too good for it to be on them. I want it to be on the coach,’” Charles said.
Quarterback Jayden Barnhardt loved it.
“No huddle, no mercy,” said Barnhardt, who had three touchdowns in the air and three on the ground. “Before we went out on the field (on the last drive) I told him ‘if we score, we’re going for two.’”
With 55 seconds left in the game at the LexCath 21, Barnhardt scrambled to his left and spotted a wide open Will Vernon in the front left corner of the end zone to cut the LexCath lead to 42-41.
Then it was Barnhardt again rolling left, this time by design, and hitting DeAirious Smith almost point blank at the goal line where a Knights’ defender contested the catch with a crushing tackle on top of the stripe. Smith held on — LCA 43, LexCath 42.
The ensuing kickoff put the Knights in good field position, however, and LexCath quarterback Beau Allen quickly marched them to the LCA 16-yard line with 0:04 on the clock.
But a 33-yard field goal spotted on the right hash missed wide left as time expired.
“I just told our kids before we came out here tonight that we’re going to have to play 48 minutes because with Beau Allen and the talent that Lexington Catholic has — there’s no give-up in those guys,” Charles said.
Allen, one of the top recruits in the state and a University of Kentucky commit, helped lead the Knights back from a 14-point halftime deficit to a 35-35 tie midway through the fourth quarter on a 31-yard strike to Blake Busson in the corner of the end zone.
Allen finished the night going 24-of-28 for 232 yards and two touchdowns passing and 142 yards and three touchdowns rushing, including TD breakaways of 43 and 19 yards during the comeback.
A game with 886 yards of total offense swung on two huge defensive plays in the second half.
When LexCath linebacker Kimwanga Mafuta intercepted LCA’s Barnhardt on the Eagles’ 26 and ran it in for the LexCath’s first lead since the first quarter, 42-35, with 5:56 left in the game, it looked as if the Class 4A Knights might survive their visit to their Class 2A rival.
LCA had to punt on its next possession, giving LexCath a chance to run out the clock with 4:06 remaining.
But LCA’s Mattie Lebryk stripped the ball loose from Allen on a run up the middle and Tyler Morris picked it up to set up the Eagles at the LexCath 37 with 2:01 to play and an offense that had been able to score five straight times earlier in the evening.
“Ever since I came to LCA, this is the win that I wanted,” Barnhardt said. “We got it sophomore year. We didn’t get it last year, but I’m leaving here 2-1 against Catholic, and I’ll take it.”
Barnhardt had 127 yards rushing and 203 yards passing. Smith had 75 yards receiving and a touchdown. Xavier Brown ran for 44 and a score and caught for 49 and a score for the Eagles (4-1). Busson had two TD catches for LexCath (3-2) while Jackson Corbett pulled in 11 catches for 121 yards.