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Class 3A: Ashland Blazer’s Rushing Attack Powers Past Elizabethtown

Ashland Blazer’s dynamic duo was too much for Elizabethtown to contain. Keontae Pittman and Hunter Gillum combined for 368 rushing yards and five touchdowns to power past the Panthers. The 35-14 win caps off an undefeated 11-0 season and gives the Tomcats a third state title, their first since 1990.

Ashland’s ground game paved the path to victory at Kroger Field, but the game was decided on fourth down.

After the Tomcats racked up 9.7 yards per play on the opening scoring drive, E-Town quickly put itself in position to tie the game, marching down inside Ashland’s 10-yard line. A third down pass near the goal line was dropped. The Panthers went for it on fourth down and proceeded to drop it again.

Trailing only 7-0, E-Town felt frisky after forcing an Ashland fumble. The Panthers went for it on fourth and one from their own 28-yard line. This time they caught the pass, but the quick comeback was short of the sticks. A catastrophic mistake, E-Town’s failed fourth down set up an Ashland touchdown.

Pittman, an Army commit, earned all of the tough yards for Ashland Blazer, while Gillum served as the Tomcats’ explosive, change of pace back. Pittman gained 253 yards on 32 carries and scored three touchdowns. Gillum averaged 12.8 yards per carry, finishing with 115 total yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Gillum made the Panthers pay after one more disastrous fourth down.

Elizabethtown showed life in the third quarter. It took only three plays to get inside Ashland’s 10-yard line, thanks to a couple of penalties and a long run by Kam Sherrard. The Panthers had two plays to get four yards. After an incomplete pass, E-Town rolled the ball back to quarterback Clay Games, who promptly scooped it up, rolled right and found an open receiver… who could not reel in the catchable pass. Instead of making it 14-7, the Panthers were scoreless after two dropped passes near the goal line.

Blazer’s Pittman responded by grounding out a few first downs, opening the door for Gillum to sprint 62 yards down the field. The Tomcats went 96 yards in only 5:30 to take a 21-0 lead

Games, the state’s top touchdown thrower, would net let the Panthers go down lightly. On the following possession the Panthers finally connected on a fourth down pass, setting up a quarterback sneak from Games to score. They rallied for one more score, this pass to Kamden Williams, with 1:58 to play to get within reach. Games completed 18-of-37 passes for 200 yards.

Their hopes did not linger for long. Ashland recovered the fumbled onside kick, then let Pittman go to work. He busted free for a 58-yard touchdown to end his incredible day at Kroger Field.

Ashland Blazer won the time of possession battle by more than ten minutes thanks to incredible situational defense. E-Town converted only 2-of-11 third downs and 2-of-6 fourth down attempts. The Tomcats completed just two passes, yet out-gained one of the top scoring offenses in 3A by 244 yards.

The only meeting this weekend between a pair of undefeated teams, Ashland Blazer pounded the rock and proved that defense does in fact win championships.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR