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Beechwood returns to Class 2A state championship game looking to carry on program’s winning tradition

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

The winning tradition of the Beechwood football program is literally etched in stone. Each of the 15 years that the Tigers have won a state championship is chiseled into a marble monument outside the athletic building on campus. Players touch the football helmet on top of the monument as they head out to the field before each home game.

The Tigers will try to add 2021 to that state champions list Friday when they play Lexington Christian in the Class 2A title game at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field in Lexington. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.

Beechwood football players touch a monument listing past state championship teams before taking the field for each home game. (Photo from BeechwoodPhotos.com)

In last year’s championship game, Beechwood blocked an extra-point kick to defeat Lexington Christian, 24-23, in overtime.

Both teams come into Friday’s rematch with a perfect 14-0 record this season, although one of the Eagles’ wins was a game cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions.

Lexington Christian still leads the statewide Rating Percentage Index (RPI) used to rate teams based largely on strength of schedule. The Eagles have a .82387 RPI with Beechwood right behind them at .75757. 

“I’m really excited to play them,” said Beechwood senior quarterback Cameron Hergott. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us. They’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of talent.”

This is the fourth time that Lexington Christian has reached the state football finals. The Eagles lost to Beechwood, 38-35, in the 2007 Class 1A title game and defeated Mayfield, 55-19, in the 2009 Class 1A final before last year’s overtime loss to Beechwood.

The two players who provided most of Lexington Christian’s offense during last year’s championship game – junior quarterback Drew Nieves and senior running back Xavier Brown – have had exceptional seasons this fall. 

Nieves has completed 88 of 136 passes for 1,609 yards and 24 touchdowns with only one interception. Brown, a University of Virginia recruit, has rushed for 1,445 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has also caught six TD passes to give him a total of 162 points scored.

Mitchell Berger played tailback for Beechwood in last week’s semifinal game and rushed for 189 yards with two touchdowns. (Photo from BeechwoodPhotos.com)

The Eagles averaged 443 yards and 48.9 points in the 13 games they have played. On Friday, they’ll be going against a Beechwood defense that’s allowed just 41 yards and 5.9 points in 14 games.

According to the depth charts both teams posted for the state championship game, Beechwood has eight players listed as two-way starter and Lexington Christian has five.

The Tigers have three offensive linemen who also play up front on defense and another one is a starting middle linebacker. The running back also plays linebacker and four pass receivers are used as cornerbacks and safeties.

Injuries to five starters forced Beechwood coach Noel Rash to make some adjustments to the lineup and one of them was having junior Mitchell Berger carry the ball more on offense.

Last Friday, Mitchell lined up in the tailback position and rushed for 189 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns in a 38-7 victory over Mayfield in a state semifinal game that put the Tigers in the state finals for the 21st time.

“That was kind of the plan anyway, but when (starting running back) Avery Courtney went out Mitchell had to become the guy that‘s going to tote the rock for us, and you saw how good he can do it,” coach Rash said.

“We haven’t used him like that, but with the injuries that have occurred this year and the hard times we’ve been through it forced us to put him where we needed him,” the coach added.

The engine in Beechwood’s offense continues to be Hergott, who has passed for 2,265 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 1,650 yards and 27 TDs. Last week, he threw a touchdown pass, scored twice and ended up with 175 total yards (128 rushing, 47 passing).

Beechwood snapped a long losing streak in playoff games against Mayfield with last week’s victory. It also gave the Tigers a 22-game winning streak over the last two seasons going into the rematch with Lexington Christian.

“This was a really good win,” Hergott said after the Mayfield game. “But next week, if we win, that’ll really prove something for Beechwood.”

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