The 8th grade football team took to the field at Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday to play in the semi-finals of the KYMSFA State Championship. Facing a well prepared Mayfield team, the boys were focused and determined to quickly get points on the board. After a run by Harrison Zimmerer and a pass from QB Grant Russell to Anthony Sabatino, the Centurions were in scoring position, and after a few missed attempts Russell was able to punch it in from the 1 yard line. A Russell pass to Luke Leeper was good for 2 extra points, and CAL took the lead at 8-0. The offensive line of Braeden Babin, Will Minrath, Stingray Miller, Henry Fetter and John Young did a great job blocking, but no scoring took place the rest of the first half. Both teams did their best to advance the ball, but the defense on both sides did their jobs to prevent any points.
Mayfield came out strong in the second half, and a series of pass plays resulted in them putting 6 on the board. CAL’s defense stood strong and prevented the extra point, so the Centurions stayed on top at 8-6. After a CAL fumble, Mayfield scored again, and after a successful extra point attempt the Centurions were now down 14-8. Now into the fourth quarter, the boys felt the pressure of time running out, and they rose to the occasion. After outstanding defense by John Young, Harrison Zimmerer, Austin Coleman, and Jake Taylor, Mayfield was forced to punt. Jacob Sutherland, who has been key in CAL’s punt returns all season, was back for the Centurions, and after catching the ball took off like a rocket. His team did their job blocking, and Sutherland flew to the end zone, tying the game up at 14-14. Russell looked for a pass to complete the extra point attempt, but quickly realized he had to make the run. Diving into the pylon in just the knick of time, Russell secured the 2 points, putting CAL up 16-14. With several minutes still remaining, Mayfield’s kickoff return team set up to receive, but after Zimmerer kicked an onside kick, CAL’s Nate Dobbs had a fantastic recovery, keeping the ball with CAL. Unable to secure a first down with three run plays, the Centurions set up to punt, but after taking the snap, Sabatino took off running, getting the first down, and allowing CAL to take three knees while the clock ran out. Cool heads, nerves of steel and great coaching all contributed to this win for the Centurions, and they left the field exhausted and exhilarated to be playing for the championship on Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon CAL took to the field for the last time this season, vying for the coveted championship trophy. Buoyed by their CAL football family cheering in the stands, they faced the Panthers of Pikeville, who had state championship dreams of their own. CAL received the ball and after not being able to get a first down, the Centurions were forced to punt and the Pikeville offense took over. Pikeville’s running game was strong and the Panthers were able to get a first down. They ran the ball one more time before attempting a pass play, which was picked off by Anthony Sabatino who ran it in for 6. QB Grant Russell’s pass to Luke Leeper was good for 2 extra points and CAL led 8-0. On their next drive Pikeville was able to score but their extra point attempt was thwarted by John Young. CAL wasn’t able to score on their next drive, and after Pikeville took over, the CAL defense went to work and Zimmerer put tremendous pressure on the Pikeville quarterback. A huge sack by Austin Coleman followed by two big hits by Young brought the Pikeville quarterback to his knees and closed out the first half.
The third quarter brought no scoring but in the fourth quarter both teams kicked it into high gear. A fumble recovery made by Russell put CAL in scoring position, and a pass from Sabatino to Jacob Sutherland in the end zone put another 6 points on the board for the Centurions. Russell’s pass to Zimmerer was good for an extra 2 points, and CAL now led 16-6. A long pass play on Pikeville’s next drive put them in scoring position, and they quickly completed a pass in the end zone that gave them another 6 points. The CAL defense stood strong and blocked the extra point attempt, and with 3 minutes left CAL led 16-12. Clock management became key, but with CAL unable to secure a second first down, Pikeville took back over with 54 seconds left in the game. After several incomplete passes there was 5 seconds left to play and the Pikeville quarterback completed a long pass. The CAL defense immediately tackled the receiver, ending the game with a CAL victory and a second straight 8th grade championship. A perfect ending to a fantastic season!