As the final seconds ticked off the clock on Lexington Catholic's 10-7 victory over Boyle County in the Class 4A quarterfinals Friday night, Trey Mattingly couldn't contain his excitement and thrust both arms into the air.
The host Knights, who lost to Boyle County in the playoffs the previous three years, had settled a score with the two-time defending state champs and earned a shot at unbeaten Highlands next week.
And Mattingly had the biggest tackle of the night.
Lexington Catholic was clinging to its 10-7 lead, but the Rebels were on the march. They had fourth and 1 at the Knights' 41 with just over three minutes left.
Boyle County gave the ball to 225-pound Zach Hester, who smashed into the left side of the line where he was met head-on by the 235-pound Mattingly.
Mattingly won the battle, and stymied Hester until teammate Anthony Kersey helped wrestle Hester to the turf, short of the first down.
Lexington Catholic took possession and ran out the clock on its biggest win since its state title in 2007.
"Oh my goodness, that's the biggest play of my career," a breathless Mattingly said.
"I knew they were going to sweep to that side, and I somehow was able to fight through and get him."
Knights Coach Bill Letton said it "looked like two bulls trying to run each other out of the center of the ring."
Mike Lynch, a junior cornerback who had seven tackles and recovered two fumbles, wasn't surprised by Mattingly's big hit.
"Trey's psycho, honestly," he said with a laugh. "He's always ready and he's gonna win the game for us."
That play was emblematic of Lexington Catholic's defensive effort all night. It limited Boyle County's potent rushing attack to 136 yards, holding Devon Cox to just 60 yards on 19 carries. The Rebels were forced to the air, where Casey Whittle threw for 103 yards, including a 9-yard TD to Hester.
But that was it.
Josh Mesmer led the winners in tackles, followed by Lynch, Adam Wachs and Jordan Artrip.
"Our defense played their hearts out," Letton said. "They kept us in good field position all night."
Lexington Catholic's offense did just enough. Kyle Bolin threw for 158 yards, including a 31-yard TD to Adam Bush in the first quarter.
After Boyle County tied it in the third quarter, the Knights went ahead on Jake Pumphrey's 21-yard field goal early in the fourth.
The field goal was set up by a 12-yard pass from Bolin to David Bouvier on fourth-and-3. Bouvier tiptoed to make the catch at the Boyle County 2. Rebels Coach Larry French said he thought Bouvier was out of bounds, but he didn't use that as an excuse for his team's loss.
"We didn't get the job done in pressure situations," he said.
"They made plays when they needed to. We didn't."
Letton said it "was a shame either team had to lose.
"What can you say about this rivalry? Another classic. We've come to expect it."
Lexington Catholic (11-2) plays host to Highlands (13-0) on Friday.
Boyle County 0 0 7 0— 7
Lexington Catholic 7 0 0 3—10
LC—Adam Bush 31 pass from Kyle Bolin (Jake Pumphrey kick). BC—Zach Hester 9 pass from Casey Whittle (Will Harris kick). LC—Pumphrey 21 FG.
Records—Boyle County 9-4; Lexington Catholic 11-2