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Beechwood wins Class 2A state championship game in dramatic fashion for second consecutive year

Jake Conrad kicks a game-winning 36-yard field goal for Beechwood with 1:50 left on the clock in the Class 2A state championship final against Lexington Christian. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

By Terry Boehmker

NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON — Sportswriters usually roll their eyes when someone uses the dusty old cliche that “football is a game of inches.” But that line actually does define Beechwood’s 23-21 victory over Lexington Christian Academy in the Class 2A championship game of the UK Orthopaedic State Finals on Friday at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field.

The only points Beechwood scored in the second half came on a 36-yard field goal by senior Jake Conrad that appeared to clear the crossbar by just a few inches to give his team a two-point lead with 1:50 left on the clock.

Beechwood players pose with the program’s 16th state championship trophy overall and their second straight in Class 2A. (Photo by Dale Dawn).

LCA returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield and got the ball to the 31-yard line. After an intentional grounding penalty on a third-down play, the Eagles weren’t able to complete a 37-yard pass into the end zone.

The ball went back to the Tigers with 21 seconds left and they ran out the clock to finish the season with a 15-0 record.

“They are a great football team and we did a heck of a job against them,” Beechwood coach Noel Rash said of LCA (14-1).

“For us to come out on top, it tells you how great our players played and how much they worked in the off-season to be able to gut it out for four quarters like that. That’s what it came down to was a test of wills, and we just had enough will at the end of the game to get it done.”

Beechwood received its 16th state championship trophy after its dramatic victory over LCA for second straight year. In last year’s state final, the Tigers blocked an extra-point kick in overtime to come away with a 24-23 win over the Eagles.

“I was in the stands watching last year and couldn’t believe it,” Conrad said. “This year, to be a part of it, it’s just incredible.”

Beechwood senior quarterback Cameron Hergott received the game’s most valuable player award. He rushed for 161 yards on 29 carries, scored two touchdowns and completed 6 of 12 passes for 58 yards. But he also had a pass intercepted and lost a fumble that LCA returned for a touchdown to take a 21-20 lead in the third quarter.

Beechwood running back Mitchell Berger scores his team’s third touchdown on an 8-yard run in the first half. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“It didn’t happen that much this year, but when it did happen my guys had my back,” Hergott said of his turnovers. “I know I can always trust them. I can play free as can be and try to make plays and I know they’re always going to have my back and help me out in the end.”

The first quarter couldn’t have gone much better for the Tigers.

They took the opening kickoff and put together a 78-yard scoring drive that ended with Hergott breaking multiple tackles on a 28-yard run.

The Beechwood defense did its part by forcing and recovering fumbles on LCA’s first two possessions. The second takeaway gave the Tigers the ball at the 30-yard line and they scored seven plays later one a 1-yard keeper by Hergott. Conrad, who had his first point-after kick blocked, converted the second one to give Beechwood a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter.

LCA responded with an offensive drive to the Beechwood 19-yard line, but the Eagles got only nine yards on their next four plays and turned the ball over on downs.

It only took the Tigers three plays to increase their lead. Hergott did most of the work, picking up 77 yards with a zig-zag run down the field before getting tackled from behind at the 8-yard line.

Beechwood quarterback Cameron Hergott celebrates as the final seconds tick off the clock. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

Junior tailback Mitchell Berger got the handoff on the next play. He lowered his head and bulled his way across the goal line followed by Conrad’s extra-point kick to put the Tigers ahead, 20-0, with 1:41 left in the second quarter.

LCA was able to score on a 60-yard touchdown drive before the halftime break to make it 20-7. After a pass interference penalty gave the Eagles a first down at the 37-yard line, they had a touchdown pass negated by a penalty. But wide receiver Parker Chaney caught a 16-yard pass from quarterback Drew Nieves in the end zone two plays later and Andrew Dodds kicked the extra point.

Beechwood had a 215-162 advantage in total yards at halftime. Hergott had 152 yards rushing on 15 carries and two pass completions for 27 yards during the first two quarters. LCA’s team leader at the break was was running back Xavier Brown with 64 yards on eight carries.

The lead changed hands quickly in the second half. LCA scored on its first offensive possession and then returned Hergott’s fumble for a touchdown to take a 21-20 lead.

Brown got the Eagles’ touchdown on 1-yard run that capped a 60-yard drive. A couple minutes later, Hergott fumbled while scrambling to get off a pass. LCA linebacker Tyler Morris scooped up the loose ball and took it into the end zone. Dodds then converted his third extra-point kick to put the Eagles on top, 21-20, with 7:55 remaining in the third quarter.

Rash calls the defensive plays for Beechwood and blamed himself for LCA’s quick comeback in the second half. But the Eagles were limited to just 36 yards on their final four possessions of the game.

“They bowed their backs in spite of me and I’m so proud of them,” Rash said of his defensive players. “We played great defense all year, and you’re not going to play great for four quarters against (LCA). You’re going to have some holes. They showed for a little bit and then we shored them back up.”

Beechwood assistant coach Bob Burnett can’t hide his emotions as he congratulates senior Parker Mason after the team’s dramatic victory. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

LCA coach Doug Charles was going to have Dodds attempt a 54-yard field goal on his team’s final play, but he reconsidered and sent in a pass play instead.

“Well, they came pretty close to blocking a couple of our extra points,” Charles said. “I was pretty firm that we were going for a field goal and then we had an intentional grounding and loss of down and I had second thoughts. I mean 54 yards is a lot and with those narrow (college) goal posts. We thought we had something else that would work and the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”

Beechwood finished with 277 total yards (219 rushing, 58 passing). Berger picked up 60 yards on 12 carries and caught three passes for 15 yards.

LCA’s offensive total was 258 yards (138 passing, 120 rushing). The Eagles outgained the Tigers, 96-62, in the second half with Nieves passing for 84 yards.

The Eagles now have a 1-3 record in state championships games with all three of their losses coming to Beechwood by margins of two, one and three points.

“It was two teams that have a lot of class and a lot of history, but once again we came up on the short end,” coach Charles said.

“You got to give our kids credit. We kind of got the momentum on our side and held the lead until the last few minutes. But it’s a game of inches. Their kid made a good kick under pressure and it was just long enough to be there. That’s the way it goes. We had a chance to win it at the end and that’s all you can ask for from high school students.”

BEECHWOOD                   13   7   0  3 — 23
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN    0  7  14  0 — 21

BE — Hergott 28 run (kick blocked)
BE — Hergott 1 run (Conrad kick)
BE — Berger 8 run (Conrad kick)
LC — Chaney 16 pass from Nieves (Dodds kick)
LC — Brown 1 run (Dodds kick)
LC — Morris 11 fumble return (Dodds kick)
BE — Conrad 36 FG
RECORDS: Beechwood 15-0, Lexington Christian 14-1.


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