I had the fortune to call all six state championship games on Friday and Saturday. While the task was tall, the two-day event was fun and filled with on-field drama. In a COVID-19 challenged season, the simple fact that six champions were crowned on the field was a testament of perseverance for communities, coaches, players, medical personnel, and the KHSAA. Football champs should be crowned on the field of play by a tournament format. College football should take note. Regardless, the following is a list of the best performances of the weekend:
BEST TEAM: TRINITY
This one is closer than I predicted. Trinity beat Male 28-0 in the 6A title game. But, the Shamrocks did not meet expectations that I had conjured in my mind prior to kickoff. A great deal of credit should be directed at Male for not backing down to the KHSAA Goliath who captured its 27th state title on Saturday. Trinity’s defense was dominant throughout 2020. That unit is fast, aggressive, and extremely well coached. It held Male to 141 total yards. Conversely, Trinity’s Red Zone offense mostly sputtered. The Rocks managed three touchdowns out of seven trips inside the twenty-yard line. Expectation management is a trait that is gained over experience. Trinity is ranked 15th in the nation for a reason. It remains to be the standard.
Bowling Green was a close second in this category. The Purples’ defense was impressive as it went toe-to-toe with QB Gavin Wimsatt and the high flying Owensboro offense. The Bowling Green defense was highly acclaimed and it lived up to the billing. Tight end Jordan Dingle played six different positions and did so at a high level. Extremely well coached and disciplined, BG showed the socially distanced, Kroger Field crowd why it was a well deserving champion in the state’s best classification.
MOST IMPRESSIVE TALENT: FRANKLIN COUNTY
The Flyers went on the road and beat Johnson Central in Paintsville. That performance was striking and was a reason to pause for many that had written in Boyle County as the 4A champs prior to Friday’s matchup. An overtime, instant classic ensued. It took a pass deflection by Boyle County’s Luke Sheperson to save the day for Coach Justin Haddix’s Rebels.
Quarterback Nick Broyles showed poise and big-play ability by going 19/28 for 195 yards and a score. He was equally as impactful on the ground after rushing for 60 yards. Sophomore running back Kaden Moorman is a rising star. The youngster influenced Boyle County’s defense on the ground and in the passing game. Flyer receivers were fast, elusive, and a chunk play waiting to happen. It’s go-to pass catcher Fred Farrier managed just four receptions and had drops at critical junctures in the football game. But, Zach Claudio registered six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, Franklin County was the weekend’s surprise. It deserved to win a state championship. Football is a game of inches. Sheperson’s overtime pass deflection was a finger-tip play that could have easily resulted in a touchdown if the pass had been a tad higher. Kaden Moorman was wide open in the end zone. Overall, I was extremely impressed by Franklin County.
MOST IMPACTFUL PLAY
Sheperson’s pass deflection aside, this category produced two plays from the same game. 2A’s state championship game featured Beechwood and Lexington Christian Academy. LCA drove the field in the end of regulation to set up a 44-yard field goal attempt. Eagles kicker Andrew Dobbs is one of the best in Kentucky. His field goal attempt resulted in a double doink miss and overtime. However, you have to remember that goal posts are more narrow in college than in high school. His kick would have been good if a high school goal post would have been in play. It wasn’t, the game went to OT. Beechwood quickly scored a touchdown and converted a PAT. LCA followed with a score. In the game’s final play, Beechwood’s Brady Moore blocked Dobbs’ PAT attempt thus securing the Tiger’s 15th state title. Heck of a football game.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE: ASHLAND
Ashland running backs Keontae Pittman and Hunter Gillum combined for 368 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Tomcat’s 35-14 win over previously unbeaten E’town. Ashland’s vaunted rushing attack was averaging 300 yards per game leading into Saturday. It didn’t disappoint. The Tomcat’s totaled 415 rushing yards off 55 carries while dominating time of possession 29:02 to 18:58.
The Ashland defense proved to be too much for the high flying E’town offense that was one of the state’s leaders in points per game. The Panthers managed 84 yards on the ground and 200 in the air. A high number of its passing yards were a result of late-game, hurry-up situation.
Ashland is a throw-back, old school football team. It heavily relies on the run game and defense. Both were prevailing.
BEST PLAYER: JORDAN DINGLE
The stat sheet won’t support this selection. However, Dingle contributed to Bowling Green’s state championship on varying levels. The 6’4, 240-pound tight end recorded five receptions for 42 yards. He also scored two touchdowns as a running back. Dingle played defense and registered tackles for loss and QB sack. BG placed Dingle at different positions where the senior was a forceful and greatly influential blocker. In other words, he did it all and did it well for the Purples.
WEEKEND’S WINNER: FOOTBALL AND KHSAA
This recognition is shared. Championship weekend winners were high school football and the KHSAA. Commissioner Julian Tackett and staff faced a challenging season due to COVID-19. The 2020 season saw cancellations, re-shuffling schedules, opt-outs, and all other kinds of on-the-fly adjustments. The fact that six champions were crowned on the football field was incredible. Teams and communities benefited from a great deal of work from too many to credit.
Vince Marrow and Mark Stoops bragged on Kentucky high school football on Signing Day. I echo those sentiments. The quality of teams and players have prominently increased. That ascension is a credit to high school coaches across the commonwealth. Football won on Friday and Saturday.
It was an honor to call all six title games. I had a blast. Congratulations to all teams that participated on Friday and Saturday.