Beechwood -- the perennial powerhouse in Kentucky's Class 1A -- captured its second straight state title on Friday afternoon, rolling to a 41-0 win over Raceland in the 2017 Russell Athletic/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl in front of 7,103 fans at the University of Kentucky's Kroger Field.
Marking its third consecutive trip to the state championship game and 18th overall, the Tigers (12-2) proved to be too much for the Rams (10-5), whose trip to Friday's finals was their first ever.
"Just all of these people coming to watch a high school football game an hour away, it's a great feeling," Beechwood quarterback Brayden Burch said. "This community is always there for us. Thursday nights during playoffs we have playoff dinners and almost all of them are there serving us food -- and this is what we do to give back to them. We give them excitement and I think we did just that today."MORE COVERAGE
Beechwood outgained Raceland 305-27 on the afternoon and went 10-of-15 on third down attempts. Burch completed 22-of-30 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown while Daniel Mescher recorded 12 receptions for 118 yards and a TD while making a pair of field goals. Additionally, running back James Davis rushed for 88 yards and three scores.
"We had a good day overall," Davis said of the Tigers' offense. "But some of the runs we had that we thought were gonna be big shot plays didn't necessarily work out and that was a little bit frustrating. We made some adjustments and then after halftime we started running to the outside, which helped me get open. It's just a magical feeling."
The Tigers led 7-0 after the opening quarter and used 17 points in the ensuing period to take a 24-0 advantage into the locker room at the break. They went on to outscore the Rams 17-0 in the second half to stay in control.
After Raceland punted on its opening series, Beechwood put together a lengthy drive and scored on a one-yard run by Davis to jump out to a 7-0 lead. Davis' score capped a 13-play, 59-yard drive that took 6:29 off the clock. On their first possession of the day, Burch was a perfect 4-of-4 for 39 yards to successful lead the Tigers' offense downfield.
"It was a great day for all of us and we're really excited to win by 41," said Davis. "State champions."
Beechwood pushed its lead to 10-0 on a 37-yard field goal by Mescher at the 7:14 mark of the second quarter.
The Tigers and Rams traded turnovers for a few minutes near the midway point of the period, as Raceland fumbled and threw an interception while Beechwood fumbled once. After Jake Moore intercepted Rams' quarterback Damon Black to give Beechwood the ball in Raceland territory, a two-yard TD run by Logan Castleman put the Tigers up 17-0 with 3:53 left in the half.
Burch's 8-yard pass to Mescher just before halftime gave the Tigers a commanding 24-0 advantage after two full quarters.
"We new coming in that we were gonna do the short passing game and open up the run game for James," Burch said. "We knew they were gonna stop the run, but we didn't think they'd do it the whole game. So I just took what was there -- and what was there was Daniel Mescher -- and obviously he makes plays. He's just automatic."
Another made field goal for Mescher -- this time from 20 yards out with 1:48 remaining -- put Beechwood up 27-0 before Davis' second and third scores determined the final score of 41-0.
"I can't take this smile off my face," said Burch. "I still have butterflies thinking about this and I'm gonna have another ring on my finger. There's nothing better than having these people behind us and cheering us on the whole time -- and when we get back to school, they're still gonna be behind us and it's gonna be a great feeling."Senior writer Tyler Mansfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @_TylerMansfield.