BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The postseason magic finally ran out for the Central High School football team Friday.
Running back Austin Hatfield and quarterback Keaton Taylor teamed for 356 rushing yards and two touchdowns as Belfry beat Central 14-7 in the Class 3-A state championship game in front of 6,139 fans at Houchens Industries/L.T. Smith Stadium.
Central (10-5) had rallied from a 26-0 deficit to beat Corbin in a regional final and was down 14-3 before beating South Warren in a state semifinal last week but couldn’t overcome another slow start Friday.
“We didn’t come out ready to play on offense,” said Central coach Ty Scroggins, whose team managed just 62 total yards and four first downs and committed 10 penalties in the first half. “They thought just because their name was Central that they were going to come out and win this ballgame, but you have to play the entire game.”
Belfry (13-2) won its second straight state title and fourth all-time but exacted a bit of revenge against Central. The Yellowjackets had won five state titles since 2007, beating Belfry in four of those championship games.
“It’s truly an amazing feat to finally get them, especially with it being my senior year,” Hatfield said.
Belfry coach Philip Haywood, who added to his state record with his 389th career victory, was asked if beating Central made the state title sweeter.
“You’re dag-gone right it does,” he said. “Winning that first one certainly was one of the biggest moments for the Belfry program, but beating Central after losing to them four times ranks right up there with the others.”
Belfry wasted little time taking control, needing just three plays (all runs by Hatfield) on its first drive to score. Hatfield’s 5-yard touchdown run gave the Pirates a 7-0 edge at the 9:06 mark of the first quarter.
Hatfield, a 5-foot-9, 221-pound senior, finished with 235 yards on 30 carries.
“That doesn’t surprise us, but this was his best game,” Haywood said. “He brings it every day. He’s one of those guys who has a great motor and practices hard. … He’s a special player and a great leader, and the kids really follow him.”
Scroggins wasn’t surprised by Hatfield’s big game.
“We’ve had trouble stopping fullbacks all year,” he said. “He does the things he’s supposed to do his for his team, but our defense was on the field way too much.”
Taylor added to the Pirates’ lead in the second quarter, breaking from the line and outrunning the Central defense for an 83-yard touchdown that made it 14-0 with 9:17 left.
With its offense scuffling, Central needed a big play from its defense and got it. Kendrick Talley recovered a Taylor fumble and returned it 56 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that pulled the Yellowjackets within 14-7 with 6:09 left before halftime.
The second half was a battle of field position and missed opportunities. Central marched into Belfry territory on all four of its second-half possessions but never could convert.
The Yellowjackets’ final possession started at their 42-yard line with 2:33 remaining. A 17-yard pass from Myron Norfleet to Zachary White moved Central to the Belfry 16 with less than a minute left.
After an incomplete pass, an 8-yard completion and another incomplete pass, Central had a final play from the 8-yard line with 3 seconds left. Norfleet’s pass to the right corner of the end zone sailed out of bounds and sparked a wild Belfry celebration.
Scroggins said his team had an open receiver “up the middle, but we just didn’t see him.”
Reliant on its running game all season, Central managed just 31 yards on 24 carries Friday. Stevon Beason carried nine times for 28 yards. Norfleet finished 10 of 29 for 117 yards with one interception.
“We were going to run out of miracles at some point, and today we ran out of them,” Scroggins said. “We can’t start slow and expect to win and beat good teams like Belfry.”
* During halftime, the Kentucky Football Coaches Association named Estill County’s Trevor Jones as the Class 3-A Player of the Year and Estill County’s Mike Jones as the 3-A Coach of the Year.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.