Highlights from the region championship round of Kentucky high school football’s playoffs on Friday.
Frederick Douglass 21, Male 20: The No. 9 Broncos (8-4) shocked the No. 1 Bulldogs (11-2) with a strong goal-line stop on a two-point conversion attempt to oust Male from the 6A playoffs and secure their fifth straight region championship.
“I’ve been preaching what we got to do since June,” Frederick Douglass coach Nathan McPeek said. “And they finally played for each other, you know, played the way we’re supposed to play.”
Male, playing at home in Louisville, was first on the scoreboard after a 1-yard rushing touchdown from senior Shammai Gates midway through the first quarter. Frederick Douglass answered with three consecutive touchdowns across the following two periods — a pair of 1-yard runs from quarterback Jaxon Strautman and Pharo Watts and a 5-yard catch from Darion Talbert — to take a 21-7 lead with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Not a minute later, Gates tore off a 67-yard touchdown run to bring the game within a single score. And, at the 4:17 mark in the fourth, Bulldogs quarterback Kolter Smith connected with Max Gainey on a 36-yard touchdown pass to pull within one point of the Broncos.
Male lined up to kick the extra point, but, after Frederick Douglass was issued an offsides penalty, decided to try for two at the 1-yard line. Smith handed the ball off to Gates to attempt to punch it into the end zone, but the Broncos’ defense stuffed the run.
“Obviously, you know,” McPeek said, “I’m sure (Male coach Chris Wolfe) wishes he would have had either a different play call or maybe kicked it to tie it, but you know, that’s football. I’ve been in those situations as well, on the losing end. It went our way tonight, but our kids played really well.”
The Broncos will next head back to Louisville for a rematch against No. 4 Trinity (10-3). Frederick Douglass handed the Shamrocks their first loss of the season, 17-14, on Aug. 23. For McPeek and the Broncos — no matter their history with any one particular team, win or lose — it’s business as usual: “Enjoy this one for 24 (hours),” then prepare for what’s next.
“Even though we have lost four games this year,” McPeek said, “I mean, those teams were 43-5, you know, in their respective states or in our state. So it wasn’t like we were playing bad teams. And I feel like our kids kind of got shortchanged throughout the season, even though it’s not our standard 5-4. It’s still championship pedigree here.”
Bryan Station 49, Ryle 12: The Defenders (10-3) shut out the Raiders (8-5) for the first three quarters and went on to win their second straight region championship.
“We knew that Ryle wanted to throw the ball,” Bryan Station coach Phillip Hawkins said. “That’s been their style and that’s got them to this game. But we also know that we’ve got one of the best defensive back groups in 6A football. They lead the state in interceptions, and certainly do now.”
Two of Bryan Station’s seven scores arrived via interception returns, courtesy of Jaylen Berry (40 yards) and Keelan Adams (56). The Defenders’ defense also pulled in two additional interceptions and sacked Ryle quarterback Logan Verax three times.
The Defenders’ offensive line was laser-focused for four quarters, opening the door for rushing touchdowns from Bayubahe Benit (10 yards), Kalen Washington (33 and 60 yards) and quarterback Trenton Cutwright (17 yards). Cutwright also connected with Demond Green (11 yards) for a TD reception.
Next up, No. 6 Bryan Station will face No. 5 Ballard on the road in the state semifinals. The Defenders defeated the Bruins 28-21 on the road on Sept. 8.
Lexington Catholic 43, Rockcastle County 7: Jackson Wasik threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score as the Knights (9-4) routed the host Rockets (11-2) to earn their first region championship and state semifinals berth since 2015.
“Our kids are playing well,” Lexington Catholic coach Nick Baisch. “Our goal is to fire on all cylinders and we try to reach that goal each and every game. We’ve still got and opportunity to get better and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
LexCath menaced Rockcastle’s punt team as Aiden Pflugner tackled its punter for a safety and later blocked a punt that Jack White recovered for a touchdown.
Wasik’s TD passes went to Tanner Pedroche for 43 yards, Matthew Kern for 32 and Jackson Kreutzer for 6. Aven Blair led LexCath in rushing with 71 yards and a score.
Next up, No. 9 LexCath will travel to Class 3A No. 1 Christian Academy-Louisville in the state semifinals.