Gentry’s performance – 186 yards and both scores came on the first half – helped the Bulldogs (12-0), the top-ranked team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, who were without the services of starting quarterback Hayden Shelton early on.
Shelton, who injured his right shoulder in the regular season finale against Western, finally went behind center for the first time in the playoffs in the second half. He threw for 52 yards and two touchdowns to Zackery Smith in limited duty.
Shelton said he was brought in so he could prepare for the Bulldogs’ next game, Friday at home against No. 2 Trinity.
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“We knew we were going to play him,” Male coach Chris Wolfe said. “But he didn’t get all the reps this week. So we felt like we wanted to start (Tony Thomas, Jr.) and just bring him in at the right time.”
Thomas filled in well for Hayden as he completed his first six passes and finished completing 7-of-8 for 65 yards and a touchdown to Rasean McCauley.
Shelton’s injury was the latest one to hit the Bulldogs, who were again without the services of standout receiver Keion Wakefield. However, the players have a “next man up” philosophy and believe in each other, Gentry said.
“Everybody has to be ready,” he said. “We know we have the people that can step up and play.”
Gentry put the Bulldogs up on their second drive. He ran for 50 yards on the 66-yard drive, capping it with a 20-yard sweep with 5:31 left in the first quarter. After forcing a punt on the Crimsons’ next series, Gentry went off tackle on the next play, hit the secondary and was gone for a 75-yard run to make it 14-0 with 2:15 left in the opening quarter.
“I was feeling good,” he said. “The line was blocking great. They’re opening up pretty big holes and I was able to find the right hole and just hit it.”
Male’s defense held the No. 18 Crimsons (9-3) to 91 yards offense and intercepted three passes to keep them off the scoreboard. Manual coach Oliver Lucas, whose tenure at the school ended with the loss, said the Bulldogs are probably the best team he’s seen in the area.
“This, top to bottom, is a great team,” Lucas said. “They’ve got team speed, and they don’t have a weakness anywhere.”