High School Football

State football finals: Belfry finally gets best of Central to win 3A crown

Belfry senior Austin Hatfield (5) got loose against Central's Nate Young during the Class 3A state championship on Friday.
Belfry senior Austin Hatfield (5) got loose against Central's Nate Young during the Class 3A state championship on Friday. AP

BOWLING GREEN — Belfry held on to beat Louisville Central 14-7 in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 3A football finals Friday afternoon, and Pirates Coach Philip Haywood never sweated the outcome.

Just kidding.

Belfry had lost to Central four times in the finals since 2007, including heartbreaking defeats in 2011 (15-14) and 2012 (12-6 in overtime).

Central looked like it might get the Pirates again Friday when it drove to the Belfry 8-yard line with :03 left.

But Haywood stayed positive. "I was thinking, 'This is our year, boys. It's not gonna happen again.' And it turned out that way," he said.

"But you still kinda held your breath a little bit."

Central quarterback Myron Norfleet threw an incomplete pass to the end zone as time expired, and Belfry had repeated as state champ.

The Pirates also won back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004, but this year's title was extra sweet.

"Winning that first one (in '03) was certainly one of the biggest moments for Belfry's program," Haywood said. "But beating Central, after losing (four) straight to them, has to rank right up there."

A crowd of 6,139 in WKU's L.T. Smith Stadium watched Belfry rely on a stout running game and a stout defense to deny Central a sixth title.

Austin Hatfield, a 5-foot-9, 220-pound senior fullback, carried 30 times for 235 yards and a touchdown. He also played almost every snap on defense at linebacker.

Hatfield is used to the big stage. In the 2012 finals, he rushed for 114 yards. In the 2011 finals, he rushed for 105. His three title-game totals: 70 carries, 454 yards.

Hatfield credited his line for his big game against Central, and said he was just following the game plan:

"Coach told us we gotta get it, so I got it."

Belfry has relied on Hatfield all season.

"When we get in trouble or need some yards, we give Austin the ball and say 'here ya go,'" Haywood said. "He was ready to go today."

Belfry finished with 352 rushing yards. Its only pass attempt was incomplete.

Hatfield's first carry was a 34-yard gain to the Central 12. Two plays later he scored.

Quarterback Keaton Taylor, a 5-11, 160-pound senior, had the Pirates' other TD. He kept the ball on the option, slipped through the right side of the line and sprinted 83 yards for the score.

Central's only TD came on Kendrick Talley's 56-yard fumble return midway through the second quarter.

That summed up the Jackets' afternoon. They had to rely on their defense for a score. They generated only 169 yards on offense.

"I was disappointed how our (offense) didn't come to play in the first three quarters," Central Coach Ty Scroggins said. "You can't wait till the end of the game to make plays."

Belfry's defense straight-jacketed the Jackets' speed, and limited Norfleet's effectiveness as a passer. He was 10-for-29 for 117 yards.

Raquan Horton, a 6-3, 270-pound sophomore tackle, led the Pirates with 7.5 tackles. Cole Bentley, Cameron Catron and T.J. Dotson also helped keep Central in check.

Horton said Haywood "preached all week to play hard, and not let (Central) get to the corners because if they did they were gone."

Horton admitted his nerves were on edge in the closing seconds as Central threatened to tie it or win it.

Haywood? He feigned nonchalance after securing his 389th career victory.

"You just gotta win by one," he said with a smile.

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