Just as they did a year ago, the Kentucky football all-stars built a comfortable lead in the Best of the Bluegrass All-Star Game on Sunday at St. Xavier High School.
This time, however, the Kentucky stars stymied a late comeback by the Louisville stars and pulled away for a 40-21 win on an unseasonably warm day. A year ago, Louisville rallied for a 31-28 win.
The Kentucky stars got off to a quick start Sunday, scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter. On his team’s second possession of the contest, Pulaski County quarterback Riley Hall hit Bryan Station’s Andre Davis, who raced 77 yards for the first score of the game.
On Kentucky’s next possession after Bowling Green’s Tre Fant intercepted a pass, Lexington Catholic’s Jaylen Jones scored on an 8-yard run.
For the Louisville stars, it got worse. Kentucky’s lead swelled to 21-0, as Hall, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound player who led the Maroons to the Class 5-A state title game each of the past three seasons, hit Caldwell County’s Josh Young in stride down the left sideline for a 50-yard touchdown.
“The quick start was big in a game like this,” said Kentucky coach Johnny Hines of Pulaski County. “He (Hall) has done that all year. He’s done that for four years. I’m not a bit surprised.
“We really executed well offensively – early,” Hines said. “We ran some great routes and we had protection.”
The Louisville stars steadied themselves just a bit before halftime, as Male quarterback Hayden Shelton, who led the Bulldogs to the Class 6-A title, found Fern Creek two-way standout Lamarius Kinslow on the left sideline. Kinslow, who has committed to play at Western Kentucky, powered his way into the end zone.
At WKU, Kinslow said he likely will concentrate on the defensive side of the ball.
“Actually, I’m OK with that,” he said.
In the third quarter, the Kentucky lead grew to 28-7 on the game’s top defensive play. Warren Central defensive back Damani Walker intercepted a pass and raced 70 yards for a touchdown with 4:55 left in the third quarter.
“Damani Walker – he was outstanding in the secondary,” Hines said.
Shelton and the Louisville stars, though, kept battling. On the final play of the third quarter, Shelton – pressured heavily the entire game by the Kentucky defensive front – scrambled for a 32-yard score, cutting the deficit to 28-14.
After the Kentucky stars fumbled on the kickoff return, Shelton found Central’s Kambron Brown on a fourth-and-goal at the 8-yard line, trimming the deficit to 28-21.
“We just wanted to make plays,” Shelton said. “We got a lot of confidence down the stretch.”
“They have some great players,” Hines said of the comeback by the Louisville team. “They bounced right back.”
Nonetheless, the Kentucky stars iced the game with two late scores: A 21-yard halfback pass from Davis to Tates Creek’s Robbie Lofton and a 5-yard pass from Highlands quarterback Austin Hergott to Scott County’s Keith Guy, the latter with 41 seconds left.
Hines said the difference was the continued pressure applied by his defensive line, particularly Trey Hornbuckle of Murray. “I thought our defensive line was the best unit in the game,” he said.
“They’re probably the best front four I’ve played against,” Shelton said. “I just tried to make plays. You just have to keep fighting.”