MANSFIELD — Keevon Taylor sat on the trainer’s table, a large chunk of skin missing from his right middle finger.
“It happened on the first series of the game,” Taylor said as athletic tape was cut from his ankles and cleats. “It was bleeding through my glove, but I refused to look at it. I didn’t want to know.”
Neither the injury nor the Lexington defense could slow the gritty Taylor in Mansfield Senior’s 40-21 win on a rainy and wind-swept night at Arlin Field.
Taylor rushed for a career-high 211 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries as the Tygers clinched at least a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference championship. Senior High (8-1, 6-0) can clinch the title outright with a win next week at Madison (8-1, 5-1). The Rams beat Ashland 30-23 in double overtime Friday.
Taylor did most of his damage in the second half, rushing for 166 yards and two scores.
“In the second half we felt like we could do whatever we wanted to do in the rushing game,” Taylor said. “Our line really stepped it up in the second half. When our linemen would pull, they were just laying guys out.”
The Minutemen (5-4, 3-3) started the game without quarterback and defensive back Trent Richwine, who suffered a high ankle sprain in last week’s loss to West Holmes. Running back Andrew Hunt started under center.
“It changed up our game plan a little bit this week. We came out and ran out of the wildcat formation and I thought we did a pretty good job,” Lex coach Dan Studer said. “We got some things done offensively early on.
“A kid like Trent goes down and it not only changes things up game plan-wise, but it changes the dynamic of the offense because he is a leader.”
The Tygers struck on their first possession when quarterback Jalen Reese tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Chek Washington. Lex answered when Hunt tossed a 20-yard TD pass to Brandon Henderson, but the Tygers scored the final 10 points of the first quarter on Taylor’s 3-yard run and Hutch Blackstone’s 28 yard field goal.
Lex cut Senior High’s lead to 17-14 early in the second quarter when Bryant Switzer, who relieved Hunt at quarterback, tossed a 5-yard scoring pass to tight end James Watkins.
“We knew we had to stop the run regardless of who was playing quarterback,” Senior High coach Chioke Bradley said. “They surprised us a little when they threw out of the wildcat. We were playing run all the way.”
Trailing 20-14 at halftime, Lex took the second-quarter kickoff and marched into Senior High territory. The drive stalled, however, and the Tygers took possession at their own 26 Taylor picked up 15 yards on first down then broke free on a 54-yard run down to the Lexington 5. Andrais Lawrence capped the drive with a 5-yard run to make it 27-14 midway through the third quarter.
“We were in the right spots, but a lot of that was us not making tackles,” Studer said. “They did a good job of running the ball. They weren’t going down easy.”
The Tygers extended the lead to 33-14 with 5:59 left in the third on Taylor’s 15 yard run. Lex cut it to 33-21 early in the fourth when Henderson broke free on a 46-yard run, but Taylor capped it when he scored on a 6-yard run on Senior High’s next possession.
The Tygers will try for their first outright OCC championship next week. A Madison win would mean Senior High, the Rams and West Holmes share the crown.
“We’ve got a piece of the title, but we’re stingy,” Taylor said. “We want it all to ourselves.”