The South Oldham High School football team’s historic season came to a close in an offensive slug fest between the Dragons and Pulaski Co.
Despite South Oldham opening the game with a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and holding onto a 38-21 lead at halftime, the Maroons battled back behind the great play of sophomore quarterback Wiley Cain and senior wide receiver Jake Johnson to defeat the Dragons, 62-55, and advance to the Class 5-A title game in Bowling Green. Pulaski Co. will meet Bowling Green High School in the final.
“We had the lead probably 70 percent of the game and I thought we could hold on,” South Oldham coach Jamie Reed said. “I didn’t think they would be able to stop us on offense. It was a matter of finding stops or getting turnovers on defense, and we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain on both sides of the ball. We didn’t get stops on defense and had some non-typical mistakes on offense, but that’s what happens in big games.”
Coming out of the halftime break, Pulaski Co.’s senior wide receiver Jacob New scored on a nine-yard run, but South Oldham junior quarterback Drew Zaubi took an option to the left 79-yards for a touchdown. An interception by freshman J.T. Benson followed as South Oldham looked as if it would add to its lead midway through the third quarter.
But Johnson picked off Zaubi and took it to the house, firmly putting the momentum back into the home team’s hands. From then, it was all Pulaski Co., as it rushed and passed its way through a tiring South Oldham defense.
“Yeah, that was it,” Reed said of if Johnson’s interception changed the momentum of the game. “I knew when I called the play, I saw the defensive alignment, I knew it didn’t look good from the start, and it’s one of those moments you wish you had a play back. It was the Jake Johnson kid, and going into the game we said we’re not going to let this kid hurt us, but we kept finding ways for him to make impact plays. He’s a great player.”
Johnson scored again to cut South Oldham’s lead to three at 45-42, and after forcing a three-and-out, Johnson again scored from 14 yards to make it 48-45 and complete the comeback. Johnson finished with four touchdowns total.
The Dragons attempted to keep it close and get the lead back in the fourth quarter, but Zaubi was intercepted again and New then scored on a 76-yard end around to put the game nearly within reach. A late touchdown from Zaubi to sophomore running back Payden George cut the deficit to seven, but the Maroons recovered the onside kick to seal the game and their place in the Class 5-a title game.
Zaubi finished the game with six touchdowns, two of them on the ground.
Following the game, Reed said he reminded his team of all they had accomplished this season. They became the first team in school history to reach the semifinals of the state tournament, and Reed became the winningest coach in program history earlier in the postseason.
“When we started the season, our goal was to win the county and district championship,” Reed said. “To make it to semi-state and get runner up, and once you get there you want to grab it and run with it and go to Western Kentucky and play, but I think our season exceeded all expectations we had internally. In one regard we look at all we accomplished this year without having some players at key positions. T make it to semi-state and have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter speaks volumes of how hard our kids and our coaching staff worked.