A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beechwood enters Class 1A state football final with distinct advantage in big game experience

By Evan Merrill
NKyTribune reporter

Beechwood football players have a major advantage going into the Class 1A state championship game against Raceland at 2 p.m. Friday at Kroger Field in Lexington.

This is the first time that Raceland has reached the state final while most of Beechwood’s starting lineup played on last year’s state championship team and a couple of them were on the 2015 state runner-up team.

Beechwood senior quarterback Brayden Burch is one of several starters on last year’s state championship team who are bidding for a second straight Class 1A title. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

“It’s certainly something I feel better about in that situation than the other,” Beechwood coach Noel Rash said of his team’s big game experience. “I think our kids love this opportunity. Many people ask me if it’s ever gotten old. I look at (those) people with amazement.”

Last year, Beechwood won its third state championship under Rash and the program’s 12 title overall. A statue outside the football team’s locker room has the year of each state championship etched into it, but Rash said tradition isn’t the Tigers only motivating factor going into Friday’s game.

“I think you’re going to see a bunch of guys excited about all the hard work they put into this,” Rash said. “They’re going to go out and try to prove to everyone that they’re the best team in 1A football and one of the better teams in the state of Kentucky. All that other stuff — history, how many championships — is not on our mind. It’s this year, this moment, this time.”

One of the veterans on Beechwood’s roster is junior Logan Castleman, a three-year starter who plays running back and cornerback. He was a sophomore substitute on the 2015 state runner-up team and a two-way starter on last year’s state championship team. Last week, he helped the Tigers get back to the title game by scoring the first two touchdowns in a 63-7 semifinal win over Campbellsville.

On the year, Castleman has 58 carries for 376 yards and nine touchdowns, 32 receptions for 444 yards and eight touchdowns and three interceptions on defense.

James Davis rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of last week’s state semifinal game. (Photo by Shaun Birindelli).

The team leaders in Beechwood’s offense are senior quarterback Brayden Burch, who has passed for 1,783 yards and 22 touchdowns, and senior tailback James Davis, who has rushed for 1,344 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Davis rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of last week’s running clock win over Campbellsville. He didn’t return to the backfield in the second half, but he scored his fourth touchdown on a 77-yard kickoff return.

“The tailback in our offense is always going to have an impact because we believe you have to run to in championships, but you have to be balanced,” coach Rash said. “What we’ve been able to do, when teams are loading the box and taking that (run) away, we have an offensive line, quarterback and receivers that continue that level of play that James has given us.”

Raceland’s defense has been highly effective at stopping the run, allowing only 86 yards rushing and 112 yards passing per game. The Rams’ leading tacklers in last week’s semifinal win over Pikeville were senior linebacker Justin Whitmoyer, junior lineman Tyus Ferguson and junior defensive back Dalton Adkins with 10 each.

On offense, Raceland is averaging 287 yards per game. Senior quarterback Damon Black has thrown for 1,607 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior running back Judd Adkins has rushed for 985 yards and 18 TDs.

“I think there are several things that stick out (about Raceland),” coach Rash said. “You don’t get to this point in the season without being really good. I think the thing that jumps off the page is how hard they play and they’re extremely well coached. Their techniques, you can tell they’ve been coached to do things the right way and their kids play extremely hard. That’s a tribute to their staff and their kids.”

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