Paulson, CAL staying loose entering first state semifinal

Paulson, CAL staying loose entering first state semifinal

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Paulson, CAL staying loose entering first state semifinal

Centurions will host unbeaten Mayfield on Friday in Class 2-A battle

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Centurions will host unbeaten Mayfield on Friday in Class 2-A battle

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One of the state’s top prospects in the Class of 2017, Christian Academy’s Jake Paulson plays key roles at tight end and defensive end for the Centurions. C-J file photo

Jake Paulson is just living in the moment right now.

He and his other Christian Academy football teammates were treated to a heroes’ welcome Monday morning at school after the Centurions defeated visiting DeSales 21-14 to win the Class 2-A Region Two title Friday night. The senior tight end caught five passes for 49 yards in the win, which was CAL’s 12th straight after opening the season with a loss against Simon Kenton.

Their first-ever regional title puts the Centurions just one game away from the state championship, but first they must knock off Mayfield, the No. 12 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, on Friday night on their home turf.

Despite the stakes Friday’s game offers, the mood around the Centurions has been a relaxed one. As practice concluded Tuesday night Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing” and “Thriller” were blaring from the public-address system, and some of the players were showing off their dance moves.

The practices have been tough, Paulson said, but the coaches have also worked hard to keep the players from getting too tight for Friday. This isn’t a new occurrence either for CAL as just a couple weeks ago coach Stefan LeFors took his senior players go-karting one night.

“Those are memories that you’ll never forget, and it’s just so much fun,” Paulson said. “All the memories you make in the locker room after games. It’s just great being with all my friends.”

LeFors said Paulson is a more reserved leader but one his team definitely respects. Speaking out isn’t necessarily his style, but when he speaks out – like he did last Friday against DeSales – the other kids listen.

“He’s always good for a joke and funnies and being goofy, and I love that about Jake, but when he steps in here between the whistles, he gets after it,” LeFors said.

At 6 feet 5, 245 pounds, Paulson provides a big target. He currently ranks second on the team in receptions, 22, and receiving yards, 293. In addition, Paulson plays on the defensive line, leading the team in tackles and anchoring a unit that ranks No. 11 in the state in average rushing yards allowed, 66.3.

Earlier this season, Paulson, who Rivals has ranked as the state’s No. 4 prospect, committed to Western Kentucky, but since then he’s pulled back that commitment. He said he couldn’t list his new targets because he doesn’t know right now, but he plans to take official visits to schools after the season ends.

“I owe it to my team to have my mind fully on high school football,” he said. “I can make my decision later in the year.”

According to Rivals, which ranks Paulson as a three-star tight end prospect, he’s received scholarship offers from such Power Five schools as Illinois, Minnesota and Pittsburgh.

LeFors, who starred at quarterback for the University of Louisville, has talked to his star player about the process and to not get worked up. LeFors said he knows whatever happens, it’ll work out well for Paulson and for the team that gets him.

“The physical ability that he has is obvious,” LeFors said. “The way he plays, he’s aggressive and strong … but he’s a better person than he is a player. That’s what I love about Jake.”

CLASS 2-A FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS

Friday’s semifinals

* Mayfield (13-0) at Christian Academy (12-1), 7:30 p.m.

* Covington Holy Cross (10-3) at Danville (11-2), 7:30 p.m.

State final

* Sunday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m. EST in Bowling Green

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