Twenty one weeks. Starting with the dogs days of summer and the long, hot practices. The excitement of the first game and a convincing win over South Oldham. The coolness of September with solid wins over Central Hardin, Elizabethtown and Newport Central Catholic. The changing of the leaves in October made all the sweeter with a resounding win over DeSales. Another District Title. The first 10-0 undefeated CAL regular season. A sweep through the playoffs with wins over DeSales (6-2 in last 8 games) and Somerset. Then, Mayfield, again. Christian Academy’s bid for a second state championship was at stake.

Your Christian Academy Centurions faced off against the tradition rich Mayfield Cardinals at Kroger Field in Lexington under darkened skies and steady rain. The Centurion faithful made a strong showing in support of the battle for CAL’s second 2-A State Championship in three years. Both teams brought 14-0 records into the grudge match.

Captains Milton Wright, Luke Paulson and Jack Payne led the Centurions onto the field, all for the last time. CAL took the opening kickoff and diverted disaster after an opening muff. Mayfield recovered and had the ball inside their own 40-yard line to begin the game. The CAL defense stiffened and ran the Cardinals off the field with a three and out punctuated by an opening tackle for loss by Braeden Babin. Not to be outdone by his brother, Brandt Babin put CAL ahead 7-0 on a 7-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. The Centurions defense held firm again on Mayfield’s next possession and gave the ball back to the offense. Behind a long completion from Anthony Sabatino to Jake Saathoff, the Centurions were set up just outside the red zone where Brandt Babin galloped in for his second touchdown of the game on a 23-yard run moving CAL ahead 13-0.

Mayfield was 14-0 for a reason. The Cardinals got on the board with a second quarter touchdown to close the lead to 13-7. The first half scoring ended with a Milton Wright dash to the pylon from 9-yards out to put CAL ahead 20-7 going into halftime.

Mayfield’s quick strike capability was on display in the third quarter as they scored two touchdowns to close the CAL lead to 20-19. Adversity was to be tested. The pressure of stopping the Mayfield onslaught was on Coach Riley’s defense. On CAL’s next possession, Milton Wright had the touchdown run of the year as he broke at least four tackles on a 53-yard touchdown run to put CAL up 27-19.

The fourth quarter was here. The teams looked primed for a memorable finish. CAL methodically marched down the field. The CAL line play on both sides of the ball was exceptional. CAL owned the trenches in this game. Anthony Sabatino found Luke Paulson for a 17-yard touchdown reception to extend CAL’s lead to 34-19. The Mayfield Cardinals can score fast and they did. In only 30 seconds, the Cardinals closed the lead to 34-26 on a long touchdown catch. There were only four minutes left in the game. Mayfield’s onside kick was recovered by Justin Howes. The Cardinal defense forced a CAL punt that went out of bounds at Mayfield’s own 44-yard line. There was 1:52 left on the game clock and only 44-yards between Mayfield and a tie game. The CAL defense was facing one of Kentucky’s most prolific offenses. On first down, Austin Collins and the Centurion defensive line pressured the Mayfield quarterback into a low incomplete pass to the back who snuck out of the backfield. Second down saw Nate Clark sprinting step for step with a streaking Mayfield receiver on another incomplete pass. On third down and ten, Mayfield went to one their vaunted screen passes. Luke Paulson and Jack Payne combined for the tackle short of the first down. It was fourth down and six yard to go. The season was on the line. It was championship time. The Mayfield quarterback took the snap and looked for an open receiver. Austin Collins came barreling down on the Mayfield quarterback. The pass left his hand just a second before Collins brought him down. Jack Payne was dropped into coverage on the Mayfield receiver. The pass went wide. Turnover on downs. The Centurions ran out the clock. 34-26. A memorable game. CAL’s second State Championship in three years (2016 and 2018).

This CAL senior class finished their careers with a record of 50-7 and two championships. Family. Victory. The MVP of the game was Braeden Babin who rushed for 176 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. The co-MVP’s were his offensive line of Austin Collins, John Young, Cody Horne, Stingray Miller and Henry Fetter who simply dominated the Mayfield defensive line. Anthony Sabatino was 8 for 15 passing with 159 yards and one touchdown. Milton Wright rushed eight times for 100 yards and two touchdowns while bringing in one catch for 13 yards. Big Jake Saathoff had three receptions for 87 yards and Luke Paulson had one catch for a 17-yard touchdown.

The Centurion defense held Mayfield to half their average for points in a game. Austin Collins led CAL with 10 tackles, two for loss and one quarterback sack. Linebacker Luke Paulson had 10 tackles followed by Jack Payne (7), Braeden Babin (7), Jacob Graham (5), Jake Tisone (5), Elijah Smith (5), Milton Wright (4), Justin Howes (5), Jake Saathoff (6), Gage Geren (3) and Jacob Sutherland (2).

The block of the game goes to Luke Leeper whose downfield blocking was exceptional. Special teams play of the game to Gage Geren. Hit of the game to Austin Collins. Rush of the game to Milton Wright. Catch of the game to Luke Paulson.

The Centurions are once again State Champions. Thank you to the coaches, players, parents and all that the CAL football family accomplished to make this season possible. Coach Stefan LeFors has built not just a championship caliber team but a championship caliber program.