The undeafted Bulldogs end the season against undefeated Christian Academy next week
The monkey finally off its back, the Male High School football team is free to hoist the barrel for a year.
Ellis Cain capped an otherwise frustrating night with a 44-yard touchdown run with 3:39 remaining to give the host Bulldogs a 28-21 victory over rival Manual in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000.
Male leads the Old Rivalry that began in 1893 with a record of 81-45-6 but had dropped the previous four meetings and six of the past seven.
It was a fact not lost on Male’s players, who celebrated with the barrel that is given to the annual winner. Nor was it lost on Bulldogs coach Chris Wolfe.
“It’s a huge, huge, huge monkey off the back – for the whole program, really,” Wolfe said.
Male – No. 1 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – improved to 9-0 entering next week’s regular-season finale against Christian Academy (9-0). The Bulldogs will open the Class 6-A playoffs Nov. 7 with a home game against Marshall County.
No. 5 Manual (6-3) lost its third straight despite a huge performance from junior quarterback Tim Comstock, who completed 31 of 52 passes for 465 yards and three touchdowns. The Crimsons’ bigger receivers repeatedly took advantage of Male’s smaller secondary as William Blackford (10 catches, 203 yards, one touchdown) and Jake Rist (nine catches, 109 yards had big nights.).
But the Crimsons struggled on the ground, posting minus-27 yards on 22 carries. Comstock was tackled for losses five times.
“Right now we have to go back to the drawing board and look at what we’re doing as far as running the ball,” said Manual coach Oliver Lucas, whose team will open the playoffs at McCracken County on Nov. 7. “We can fix it.”
Male also struggled to run the ball for much of the night, but quarterback Davis Mattingly was 22 of 38 for 250 yards and three touchdowns. His 24-yard scoring pass to Zackery Smith gave the Bulldogs a 21-7 lead with 30.3 seconds left before halftime.
Manual rallied in the second half behind its passing attack. Comstock hit Blackford for an 85-yard touchdown pass that made it 21-14 at the 9:50 mark of the third quarter. Comstock’s 3-yard TD pass to Eric Niemann on a fourth-down play tied it at 21 with 4:16 remaining.
Devin Gentry’s 30-yard kickoff return set up Male’s winning drive. After a 14-yard run by Tyrone Wilkerson moved the Bulldogs to the Manual 44, the Crimsons called a timeout with 3:50 left.
Cain had carried the ball 10 times for just 34 yards but got one more call, going off right tackle and bolting for a 44-yard touchdown run that forever will live in Male lore.
“Coach told me to grind, and my right tackle Isaiah Arnold made a big block,” Cain said. “I just broke it open.”
Asked about bringing the barrel back to Male, Cain said, “I kissed it and everything. It’s mine. I’m going to kiss it again in a little bit.”
Mattingly said Male’s ultimate goal is to win a state championship but added it was big for him and his fellow seniors to finally beat Manual.
“It’s great because we’ve never beat Manual in our freshman, sophomore or junior year,” he said. “To finally get the barrel back is great.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
MANUAL 0 7 7 7 – 21
MALE 7 14 0 7 – 28
Male – Keion Wakefield 25 pass from Davis Mattingly (Jonah White kick); Male – Ethan Britt 20 pass from Mattingly (White kick); Manual – Jailen Carter 45 pass from Tim Comstock (Chris Roussell kick); Male – Zackery Smith 24 pass from Mattingly (White kick); Manual – William Blackford 85 pass from Comstock (Roussell kick); Manual – Eric Niemann 3 pass from Comstock (Roussell kick); Male – Ellis Cain 44 run (White kick).
Total yards 438 352
First downs 19 19
Rushes-yards 22-(-27) 24-102
Comp-Att-Int 31-52-0 22-38-0
Passing yards 465 250
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-1
Punts-avg 6-38.3 8-38.5
Penalties-yards 8-55 5-46