Central and Trinity were both looking for early Christmas gifts last weekend – a state championship. The 2016 Russell-Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl at Western Kentucky’s Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium was where Central faced a familiar foe in Belfry, while Lafayette was the last team in the way of Trinity making state history.
After making their list and checking it twice, the Yellowjackets (9-6) got coals in their stocking after losing to Belfry in Class 3A.The Shamrocks (15-0) on the other hand, relished the moment as they tasted gold once again.
“We just came up not a little short, but a lot of short,” said Central Coach Ty Scroggins after the game. “We give a lot of credit to Belfry. Our guys played their butts off, and it’s been a great rivalry game [versus Belfry].”
Central, who relied heavily on its running game all season, just couldn’t get it going the way they wanted against Belfry. They had a total of 394 yards on offense, but only 84 of them came on the ground. They had a tough time stopping the run of the Pirates, whose 407 rushing yards ran Central’s championship hopes right down the drain.
“They were bigger than any team we played in Jefferson County. We just didn’t defend, and they were the better team than us,” Scroggins added.
It was the sixth meeting between Central and Belfry in state championships. The Yellowjackets beat the Pirates the first four meetings, but the Pirates have sunk Central in their most recent matchups. They won a close game in 2014, beating Central 14-7, and made a statement win last Saturday, winning 52-31. Belfry has been in the state title game seven straight years and won their fourth title in a row.
In Scroggins 10th season as head coach, this would have been his sixth title. He now moves to 5-2 in championship games.
But there was still much to be proud about for this Central football team. The start of the season wasn’t ideal, losing their first four games. Many didn’t expect them to be in the running for a title this season. But when the month of November rolled around, this team got clicking and found themselves back in position to make a strong push toward season’s end.
“I told them they have to get ready to come back for next season,” Scroggins said to his team after the game. “In 10 years, we’ve been to seven state championship games and it says something about the program for these kids to give everything they got. This is the only group leaving Central that hadn’t won a ring. So it is going to be tough for them, and those will be the 15 seniors we got to console. But they played their tails off. They played in two state championship games, and there are a lot of kids out there who can say they’ve never been here.
“Nobody expected us to be here, but the sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll celebrate a runner-up trophy and that will be something that we accomplished.”
Trinity on the other hand, trounced Lafayette 56-21, giving them 24 state championships total – the most in the state of Kentucky, surpassing Highlands. Coach Bob Beatty won his 12th state championship, giving him the most in Kentucky’s history. The Shamrocks also chalked their 600th win (600-160-7) in program history, and that milestone places them in company with only 16 other schools in Kentucky history that have reached 600 wins.
“I am just really proud of what they accomplished,” says Beatty. “To win a state championship is one thing, but to go undefeated as we did is unbelievable.”
The Shamrocks went unblemished this year, the first time since the 2011 season. It is the second straight year a team from Louisville ran the table to win the state crown. Male High School did it last season, going 15-0.
“It was a grind in June, coming into practice,” Beatty adds. “The grind that we put these kids through was absolutely amazing for them to endure that. What it showed me was that we were able to play the next play when we had to. They’re resilient, and that’s what Trinity football is. There is a process to this madness and it seems to work. When it doesn’t work, then maybe it’ll be time for me to get out.”
Spencer Blackburn, who had been consistent throughout the whole season as quarterback, finished the game with 222 yards passing with four touchdowns, to go along with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s something I dreamed of for a long, long time. It is a great feeling, and I cannot put it into words,” he says.
Rondale Moore, who was a transfer from New Albany, was ineligible for most of the season but made his impact at the opportune time. He made big plays in the championship game catching seven balls for 130 yards and one touchdown.
“As far as being ineligible, I talked to my coaches and my teammates and they kept me uplifted,” says Moore. “It was a really humbling process. When I got back in practice, they accepted me very well, and Spencer and I would talk every night about plays together. So it was a blessing to come back and to be prepared for the wait. It is a great win to go down in history.”
It was an early Christmas gift for Trinity, one they will cherish for years to come. The Shamrocks hold sole possession for most state titles in Kentucky history and beat every team that hasstood in their way. Now that’s a story for the ages. VT