Top defense thwarts top offense for Class 2A title
When it mattered most, defense won out in a battle between the state’s top-ranked offense and defense in Class 2A.
With Mayfield looking to possibly tie a game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, Christian Academy of Louisville held the Cardinals’ potent offense to 3 yards on four downs in CAL territory to leave Kroger Field with a 34-26 victory in the Class 2A KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl finals on Saturday.
CAL won its second state championship in as many appearances and first since 2016. Mayfield fell to 12-11 in championship appearances and lost for the second straight season in the finals.
Mayfield got the ball back with about 2 minutes left after forcing a CAL punt from the Centurions’ own 18. The Cardinals on their previous drive went 71 yards on three plays in a minute and one second to pull within a possession. Their 26 points were the most scored this season against a CAL defense that gave up an average of 6.4 points to opponents entering Saturday, but ultimately proved too few.
“All year long they’ve been scoring at will ... so yea, I’m worrying, and the last thing I want to do is give them an opportunity to score at the end,” CAL Coach Stefan LeFors said. “They had one (and) our defense came through big.”
Mayfield entered the finals having scored 48 points per game but it was CAL that built a 14-0 lead with two first-quarter scoring runs by
Brandt Babin — one from 7 yards out and another from 22 yards with 56 seconds left in the period. The Cardinals didn’t get on the board until a 29-yard quarterback keeper by Connor Guthrie with 9:33 to play in the second quarter.
CAL’s lead to 20-7 with 7:06 left in the first half on a 9-yard run. Guthrie scored again for Mayfield to bring the Cardinals within 20-13 with 7:44 to play in the third quarter.
Stinson threw a 72yard TD pass to Kade Neely to pull Mayfield within a point, 20-19, with 1:56 left in the third quarter but the Cardinals missed a second straight PAT try. Wright scored again — on a 53-yard run, evading five Mayfield defenders along the way — to extend CAL’s advantage to 27-19 only 20 seconds later.
CAL scored for the final time on a 17-yard pass to Luke Paulson from Anthony Sabatino, to go up 34-19 with 3:40 to play.
Babin, sophomore, was named MVP of the game after finishing with 168 yards and two TDs on 22 carries. He also caught three passes for 42 yards.
“Babin was awesome,” said Wright, who’s committed to Purdue University.
Wright was named MVP of the 2016 finals as a sophomore. The fourstar prospect finished his senior season with 1,010 receiving yards on only 67 receptions — an average of 15 yards per catch — and was named a finalist for the Kentucky Football Coaches Association Mr. Football award at halftime by virtue of winning the KFCA’s
Class 2A Player of the Year award.
“This experience is a little different because we promote everyone to go for the seniors, and since I’m a senior, I had to kind of rally people to go for us, but I’m still working for my team, so it was kind of different,” Wright said. “But, man, what a love. It was awesome.”