MAYFIELD DOES IT AGAIN/Cardinals claim 2A title with wild, 53-48 victory over Owensboro Catholic; Boyle County, Pikeville repeat as state champs


LEXINGTON — Owensboro Catholic High School’s date with destiny came up a little short on Friday afternoon.

The tradition-rich Mayfield High School Cardinals held off a late Owensboro Catholic comeback bid to claim a wild, 53-48 victory over the Aces in the KHSAA Class 2A championship game at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field.

It was Mayfield’s 13th KHSAA state championship, and the victory denied Owensboro Catholic’s pursuit of a perfect season. Mayfield finished 13-2 overall, while the Aces closed the book on a memorable 14-1 season.

In the opening KHSAA state championship game on Friday, Pikeville High School limited Raceland to 177 yards total offense and stopped the Rams, 21-0, in the KHSAA Class 1A title tilt, and in the nightcap, the Boyle County train continued to roll down the tracks. The Rebels crushed previously unbeaten Covington Catholic, 41-0, to claim their fourth consecutive KHSAA Class 4A championship.

The only game at Kroger Field with any suspense was the Mayfield victory over junior quarterback Brady Atwell and Owensboro Catholic, but it was a thriller to the finish. Owensboro Catholic twice trailed the Cardinals by as much as 19 points, and the Aces were in a comeback mode for the entire second half.

They almost pulled it off.

“I couldn’t be any more proud of my football team,” OCHS coach Jason Morris said afterward.

It was a significant championship run for the city of Mayfield, which was hit with devastating tornadoes on December 11, 2021, and the Cardinals will return the bulk of their skill-position talent for another season in 2024.

Junior running back Jutoriaus “Juju” Starks carried the ball 30 times for 196 yards and four touchdowns, earning MVP honors for the Cardinals. Atwell, the Owensboro Catholic football/baseball star, almost singlehandledly kept his team in the game. Atwell completed 24 of 49 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns, including a short pass in the right seam to OCHS receiver William “Tutt” Carrico, which Carrico converted to an 80-yard TD strike to make it 46-41 early in the fourth quarter.

“We just didn’t get the job done,” Atwell said.

Carrico had a game-high 11 receptions for 332 yards and three touchdowns, but the OCHS ground game was almost non-existent. Atwell did have scoring runs of 9 and 7 yards, but that was when the Aces used a spread formation and Atwell chose to keep the ball on a run/pass option.

Starks and the Cardinals stayed on the attack, and senior Mayfield quarterback Zach Cartwright 22 of 33 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time the Cardinals had won a state championship at Kroger Field; they were 0-4, lifetime, at the University of Kentucky stadium until Friday afternoon’s breakthrough.

“I’m a big UK football fan, but I didn’t think I’d ever like this stadium too much, because we were 0-4,” Mayfield coach Joe Morris said. “Now, at 1-4, I love this place.”

One of those setbacks was a 14-13 loss to Beechwood High School last year in the KHSAA 2A championship game.

“We didn’t play mistake free, but we didn’t turn the ball over,” Mayfield’s Morris said. “I think we only had two (turnovers) for the entire playoffs. It wasn’t easy, but winning these trophies isn’t supposed to be easy.”

PIKEVILLE 21, RACELAND 0 — Raceland stayed with striking distance for much of the game, and trailed only 7-0 at halftime.

Pikeville’s Brenden Anthony opened the scoring with a 58-yard touchdown run in the game’s early moments, and he extended the Panthers’ lead to 14-0 with a 61-yard TD dash with 1:56 left in the third quarter.

Pikeville only threw the ball eight times in the game, but Anthony burned the Rams on a halfback pass that went for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 1:45 left in the game.

Anthony carried the ball 25 times for 277 yards, as Pikeville won the eighth KHSAA state championship in school history, in addition to its third in a row. Pikeville slipped past Mikie Benton’s Russellville Panthers in 2021, winning 30-27 at Kroger Field.

Pikeville finished the season 12-2 overall. Raceland, which edged Pikeville, 7-6, in the first week of September, dropped to 11-4.

BOYLE COUNTY 41, COVINGTON CATHOLIC 0 — This might have been the most anticipated game of the weekend, certainly in Eastern Kentucky, because both teams checked in at 14-0 beforehand.

Boyle County left nothing to chance, dominating the Colonels in every phase of the game. It was Boyle County’s fourth consecutive 4A state championship under veteran coach Justin Haddix.

“We ran into a buzzsaw tonight,” Covington Catholic coach Eddie Eviston said.

Boyle County’s Montavin Quisenberry opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run, and he added a 37-yard punt return for a score that made it 20-0 late in the first half.