LOUISVILLE — Fort Campbell quarterback Antonio Andrews, a devastating passing and running threat all season, added to his repertoire in the Class 2A football finals Saturday afternoon, and it won the Falcons a second consecutive state championship.
Andrews, an elusive 6-foot, 175-pound junior, was on the receiving end of an option pass that he turned into a 59-yard touchdown with 1:44 left. That lifted Fort Campbell to a 26-23 victory over Newport Central Catholic before 4,635 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Falcons, who beat NewCath in last year's finals, too, also won back-to-back titles in 1978-79, and another in 1976.
"This means a lot to our community," Fort Campbell Coach Shawn Berner said. "A lot of people don't understand what it's like being on a military base, especially at times like these. This means a lot."
For NewCath's Bob Schneider, who has won three state titles and a state-record 338 games, it was a sixth runner-up finish.
"I can't tell you how darn disappointing this is," he said. "It was a great effort by our kids, but we came out on the short side.
"I feel very, very low right now."
Andrews was the difference in this title game, although he shrugged off the label of hero. "It's about teamwork," he said. "It takes 11 guys, not one."
But he was the one who made the most plays.
He threw for 171 yards and one touchdown, giving him 1,698 yards and 22 TDs this year. He rushed for 138 yards and two TDs, pushing his season totals to 1,771 and 27.
Before Saturday, he hadn't been a receiver, but he caught the biggest pass of the Falcons' season at just the right time.
NewCath trailed 13-0 before rallying to take leads of 20-13 and 23-20. Its three-point edge came on Chris Grosser's 35-yard field goal with 3:30 left. That set the stage for Fort Campbell's dramatic game-winning play. The Falcons appeared to have scored on a 54-yard pass from Andrews to Tre Powell, but a penalty wiped it out.
On the next snap, Andrews handed off to J.D. Ervin, who had been in motion. Ervin then turned and threw to Andrews, who had drifted downfield.
Andrews was surrounded by NewCath defenders when he caught the ball, but he skipped free and raced the remaining 35 yards for the TD.
"We pulled one out of the hat there," Berner said. "We took a shot, and the kids made it happen."
NewCath still had time to drive into field-goal range, but Fort Campbell's defense didn't let that happen.
Falcons linebacker Josh Carter blitzed QB Rob Kues, forcing him into the arms of Fort Campbell's Trust Davis. Kues fumbled, and Carter recovered to seal the victory.
"We'd read junk in the papers where (NewCath) said last year was a fluke," Andrews said. "You saw this game wasn't a fluke. It was hard work."
Kues threw for 107 yards, and Mark Kelly rushed for 113 to lead the Thoroughbreds. But they couldn't overcome 17 penalties, most of which were for illegal procedure.
"You can't play with 17 penalties," Schneider said. "That's not doing the job, and that starts with me."
Schneider, in his 43rd season at NewCath, said he wasn't sure about coaching again next year.
"It'll take some time to get over this," he said. "It's something I like to talk over and think about. I don't want to make that decision right here."