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Lloyd advances to football state semifinals for first time since 2003 along with NewCath, Beechwood

Lloyd quarterback Isaiah Sebastian slips between Breathitt County defensive players on one of his carries during Class 2A region championship game. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

By Terry Boehmker

NKyTribune sports reporter

It might seem like ancient history to Lloyd High School football players when you tell them the last time their school had a team in the Class 2A state semifinals was 2003. No one had a smartphone back then and they never even heard of Twitter, YouTube or Netflix.

But the Juggernauts will be making a long-awaited return to the state final four after winning a home game against Breathitt County, 41-32, on Friday to claim a Class 2A region title.

Beechwood defeated  Shelby Valley, 49-12, in another Class 2A region final and will host Lloyd in a semifinal game next Friday. Newport Central Catholic got past Kentucky Country Day, 28-21, to win a Class 1A region title and will visit defending state champion Pikeville next Friday.

Here’s a rundown of the three region championship games involving local teams.

Lloyd 41, Breathitt County 32

Lloyd senior running back Kaiden Zulager scored three rushing touchdowns, another one on kickoff return and caught a pass in the end zone on a crucial fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter that lifted his team to victory in the Class 2A region final.

Lloyd senior Kaiden Zulager scored five touchdowns in his team’s win over Breathitt County. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The Juggernauts had a slim 34-32 lead when they recovered an onside kick with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. On the first play of the possession, Zulager broke through tackles on a 34-yard run to the 9-yard line.

After a penalty and a quarterback sack, Lloyd faced a fourth-and-goal situation at the 28-yard line. That’s when coach Kyle Niederman called a timeout and set up a play.

The ball was snapped to quarterback Isaiah Sebastian and he handed it off to a teammate on what looked like a jet sweep. But the ball was lateraled back to Elijah Collins, who threw a pass on the run into the end zone that Zulager wrestled away from a Breathitt County defender.

That touchdown followed by Elijah Westwood’s extra-point kick gave the Juggernauts a 41-32 lead with 3:43 remaining. Breathitt County turned the ball over on downs on its final possession and Lloyd ran out the clock.

The win lifted Lloyd’s record to 10-3 and Breathitt County ended the season at 9-3. Last year, the Juggernauts lost in the first round of the playoffs and finished 3-7.

Zulager had more than 220 all-purpose yards in Friday’s game. In addition to a 67-yard kickoff return, he rushed for 125 yards on 17 carries and caught the 28-yard TD pass. Sebastian rushed for 102 rushing yards that included a 65-yard touchdown run.

Breathitt County had a 368-264 advantage in offensive yards. Sophomore running back Kory Combs scored four of the Bobcats’ five rushing touchdowns.

Newport Central Catholic 28, Kentucky Country Day 21

After taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on three touchdowns runs by Luke Runyon, NewCath made some big plays on defense to win the Class 1A region championship game at Kentucky Country Day in Louisville.

Luke Runyon

A pass interception in the end zone by NewCath defensive back Demetrick Welch sent his team into the locker room at halftime holding a 21-7 lead. In the third quarter, Runyon recovered a fumble at the 13-yard line to stop another KCD drive.

The Bearcats got a touchdown with 2:48 left in the third quarter that trimmed the lead to 21-13. But Runyon scored his fourth TD less than one minute later on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Kolton Smith to make it 28-13.

With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, KCD completed a 57-yard touchdown drive to make it 28-21. But the Bearcats had to punt on their next possession and NewCath was able to run out the clock.

KCD quarterback Ethan Harris completed 20 of 30 passes for 302 yards to account for most of his team’s 344-yard total. NewCath had 209 yards rushing and 32 passing with Runyon leading the way. He rushed for 95 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 26 yards.

The Thoroughbred will take an 11-2 record into their Class 1A semifinal game against  defending state champion Pikeville (10-2). KCD bows out with a 9-3 record.

Beechwood 49, Shelby Valley 12

Beechwood continued its bid for a third consecutive Class 2A state championship with a dominating performance at home against Shelby Valley in a region final game that was mostly played with a running clock.

The Tigers took a 42-0 lead in the first half when Chase Flaherty had three rushing touchdowns, quarterback Clay Hayden threw a pair of TD passes and Carson Craycraft scored an interception return.

After Beechwood took a 35-0 lead, the final seven minutes of the first half and the entire second half was played with a running clock.

Shelby Valley starting quarterback Russ Osborne, who had 2,787 yards passing and 649 rushing, sat out Friday’s game due to an injury and the Wildcats (10-3) couldn’t get much done on offense without him against Beechwood’s strong defense.

Beechwood will take a 12-1 record and eight-game winning into its state semifinal matchup with Lloyd (10-3) next Friday. The Tigers won a district game between the two teams, 34-7, on Oct. 14.

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