Beechwood lands final blow in another thrilling state title win over Lexington Christian

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Before their Class 2A championship game at Kroger Field, Beechwood quarterback Cameron Hergott psyched himself up by watching the final fight of “Rocky IV.”

“I was thinking about that the whole game,” Hergott joked in the postgame press conference.

“Beechwood-Lexington Christian III” made for a worthy double feature.

With both teams coming off the canvas during the bout, the now-16-time state champions landed the final blow, a 36-yard field goal by Jake Conrad that eked over the crossbar with 1:50 left to give Beechwood a 23-21 lead they would not relinquish Friday in the 2021 UK Orthopaedics State Football Finals.

“I think it was exactly what everybody expected,” Beechwood Coach Noah Rash said. “They’re a great football team. We did a heck of a job. For us to come out on top, it tells you how great our players played today.”

In the first half, it looked like Beechwood landed a knockout blow as Lexington Christian fumbled the ball away twice in the first quarter and turned it over on downs late in the second frame.

Beechwood took the opening drive down the field capped by a Hergott 28-yard touchdown. Later, LCA’s second turnover set up a short drive that Hergott capped with a 1-yard TD plunge.

When LCA got stopped short at the Beechwood 10-yard line late in the second quarter, Hergott’s stunning 77-yard run set up a Mitchell Berger 8-yard touchdown for a 20-0 lead with 3:12 left in the half.

Finally, LCA responded.

Quarterback Drew Nieves hit Parker Chaney on a 16-yard touchdown pass to help cut the lead to 20-7 just before halftime.

Beechwood celebrates with the trophy after defeating Lexington Christian for the second year in a row in the Class 2A state championship game at Kroger Field.
Beechwood celebrates with the trophy after defeating Lexington Christian for the second year in a row in the Class 2A state championship game at Kroger Field.

Then on the first play from scrimmage after the break, Jeffrey Selby took a Nieves pass 57 yards to the Beechwood 4-yard-line. Xavier Brown punched the ball across from a yard out three plays later. LCA reduced its deficit to 20-14 in just over a minute of play.

On Beechwood’s next series, Hergott fumbled on a third-down sack. LCA linebacker Tyler Morris scooped it and scored from 11 yards out. After the extra point, LCA led 21-20 with 7:55 left in the third quarter.

But maybe LCA had Beechwood right where the Tigers wanted them.

“We’re just a blue-collar team and we fight no matter what happens,” said Hergott, the reigning Mr. Football who came back for another senior season thanks to Senate Bill 128. “Anytime we’re down, we just come back in the second half and play.”

After LCA’s final score, Beechwood’s defense stiffened, forcing two punts and a turnover on downs on the Eagles’ next three possessions, some of them with excellent field position.

After LCA got what looked like a game-changing interception by Evan Brown with 8:20 to play, the Eagles could not get a first down.

“We’ve played great defense all year,” Rash said. “And you’re not going to play great for four quarters against them. You’re going to have some holes. And they showed for a little bit and then we shored them back up. I’m proud of them — bowing their back when it looked like the whole thing was going to fall apart.”

The ensuing punt gave Beechwood (15-0) the ball on the LCA 45-yard line. Hergott led a nine-play drive that set up Conrad’s go-ahead field goal.

Players clattered into Conrad knocking him to the ground after the kick. He didn’t see his kick make it over the bar by a few feet. It felt good just the same. Beechwood led 23-21 with 1:50 to play.

“I was in the stands watching last year, and I couldn’t believe it. This year, getting to be a part of it is just incredible,” Conrad said.

Though LCA got an outstanding kickoff return by Brown to set them up at midfield and a 15-yard catch by Mason Moore on their first play, an intentional grounding call against a scrambling Nieves set LCA back to the Beechwood 37-yard line facing a fourth-down and 12 yards to go with 28 second left in the game.

Beechwood’s Jake Conrad (20) kicks the game-winning field goal from 36 yards. “I was in the stands watching last year, and I couldn’t believe it. This year, getting to be a part of it is just incredible,” Conrad said.
Beechwood’s Jake Conrad (20) kicks the game-winning field goal from 36 yards. “I was in the stands watching last year, and I couldn’t believe it. This year, getting to be a part of it is just incredible,” Conrad said.

LCA (14-1) brought out senior kicker Andrew Dobbs, whose potential game-wining 44-yarder last year bounced off the left upright heading in the same direction. Dobbs has the range for a 54-yard kick, but Beechwood’s kick defense was a concern for LCA Coach Doug Charles. They blocked LCA’s extra point to win last year’s championship. They looked dangerous on a couple extra points Friday.

A Beechwood timeout gave Charles time to reconsider. The Eagles drew up a pass play to Mason Moore instead, but it failed to connect in the end zone. LCA turned possession over with 21 seconds left.

“Once again we came up on the short end. Our kids played hard,” Charles said “We could all look back as players and coaches, everybody and talk about should-haves, would-haves and could-haves and ifs and buts … but when it comes down to a tight game, it’s never one play.”

The defeat marked LCA’s (14-1) third loss in a championship game and second in a row under Charles. LCA lost to Beechwood in the 2007 Class A state finals, 38-35. Last year, it lost 24-23 in overtime. It was Beechwood’s (15-0) first undefeated season since 1997.

Lexington Christian’s Johnny Drake (11) is overcome with emotion late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles were defeated by Beechwood in the state title game for the second year in a row.
Lexington Christian’s Johnny Drake (11) is overcome with emotion late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles were defeated by Beechwood in the state title game for the second year in a row.

Hergott was named the game’s most valuable player, an honor he received as a sophomore, a senior and a fifth-year senior all in title wins. His fumble and interception only emphasized how good his Tigers teammates are around him.

“My guys had my back. I can always trust them,” Hergott said. “I was really blessed to have the opportunity to come back. I just wanted to make the most out of it for those seniors again, because those are my guys.”

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