Bulldogs trounce Lafayette in 6-A title at WKU
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Undefeated as freshmen and unfinished as sophomores and juniors, the 32 seniors on Male High School’s football team went out as the unquestioned best in Kentucky on Saturday night.
Hayden Shelton threw four touchdown passes, including two to Keion Wakefield, and Zach Hall, Tony Smyzer and Demetrius Holt all made big plays on defense as Male whipped Lafayette 41-14 in the Class 6-A state championship game in front of 8,629 fans at Houchens Industries/L.T. Smith Stadium.
Shelton, Wakefield, Hall, Smyzer and Holt are all members of a senior class that’s appeared destined to win a state title since posting an undefeated freshman season in 2012. The past two years ended in postseason disappointment – with losses to Scott County and Trinity – but now the Bulldogs can celebrate a perfect 15-0 season and their first state crown since 2000.
“It’s a dream come true for them,” Male coach Chris Wolfe said. “It’s a special class. It’s hard to put into words the competitiveness and brotherhood of that class. You don’t see it every year. I really wanted it for them.”
Ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 10 in the nation by USA Today, Male won the seventh state title in its history and completed the program’s first undefeated season since going 11-0 in 1964.
“That’s great to be one of the best Male High teams ever,” Wakefield said. “We know we have a lot of tradition. To go 15-0 feels great. We finally finished.”
It was a typically dominant performance for a Male squad that outscored its 15 opponents 678-93 this season. Only twice were the Bulldogs seriously tested – in a 27-24 victory over St. Xavier on Oct. 16 and a 20-19 playoff victory over Trinity two weeks ago.
After dispatching the Shamrocks, Male’s path to the title appeared clear.
“It’s a relief,” Wolfe said. “To be this close and not get it would have been tough. You fear losing more than you enjoy winning.”
The Bulldogs appeared on their way to another quick getaway Saturday, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions. Devin Gentry’s 4-yard touchdown run gave Male a 6-0 lead less than 2 minutes into the contest and gave Gentry a rushing score in all 12 games he played this season.
Shelton’s 53-yard touchdown pass to Zackery Smith made it 13-0 at the 6:25 mark of the first quarter.
“They were what we expected – a fast, good, solid, strong team,” said Lafayette coach Eric Shaw, whose team was in its first state final since 1985.
The Generals didn’t go away easily, as quarterback Walker Wood showed why he’s among the state’s top junior prospects and a University of Kentucky commit. His 55-yard touchdown run included several turns and jukes and pulled Lafayette within 13-7 at the 10:28 mark of the second quarter.
But it was all Male from there.
Shelton’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Wakefield made it 20-7 midway through the second quarter, and the two hooked up again for a 22-yard touchdown pass and a 27-7 lead with 1:28 left in the third.
Wakefield, a University of Louisville commit, was hampered by injuries all season and entered Saturday’s game with just 11 catches and two touchdowns. He finished with four catches for 78 yards in the final.
“What I’ve been through this year, this is a true testament to having faith,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without God. He put it in my head that you have to stay strong and you’ll come out 10 times better than you were before. And that’s what happened.”
Shelton capped his four-touchdown night with a 54-yard completion to Ethan Britt. Shelton followed with a two-point conversion pass to Zach Hall to make it 35-7 with 10:31 left.
Male’s defense also was solid. Holt had an 81-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 41-7 lead with 8:11 left. Hall, a middle linebacker, finished with a game high 10 ½ tackles and an interception. Smyzer, a tackle, finished with 2 ½ tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a proud mother.
“My mom told me when I woke up, ‘You’re going to have a good game,’” Smyzer said. “I was like, ‘State championship, Mom, I’m probably going to be nervous.’ I came to it, did my normal routine and was in the right places.”
Shelton finished 15 of 27 for 341 yards and was intercepted three times. Zackery Smith led the receiving corps with eight catches for 150 yards.
Wood was a workhorse for Lafayette, rushing for 136 yards on 33 carries and also completing 22 of 36 passes for 229 yards. He was intercepted twice.
In his sixth year at Male, Wolfe completed a mission many thought was impossible when he was hired, as Trinity and St. Xavier had put a stranglehold on the state’s big-school championship trophy.
Now, the Bulldogs are back on top.
“It wasn’t as clean as it could be,” Wolfe said, “but when you win a state championship 41-14 that’s pretty impressive.”
* At halftime, the Kentucky Football Coaches Association named Shelton and Wolfe the Class 6-A Player and Coach of the Year.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.