McCracken County High School's academic team completed a near-perfect season Friday, winning the West Kentucky Academic Bowl with a 21-10 win over Murray in the championship round.
The Academic Bowl took place at West Kentucky Community and Technical College's Clemens Fine Arts Center and was videotaped to be shown on Paducah 2 on local cable and on YouTube.
The Mustangs (14-0-1) led 9-6 at halftime in the championship match, then scored nine of the first 10 points in the second half to secure the title. Murray (7-5-0) beat Mayfield (7-2-0) 15-6 in the semifinal round, while McCracken beat Carlisle County (2-10-0) 26-5 to advance to the championship.
The Academic Bowl is the championship event for the West Kentucky Academic Association, which provides quick recall matches throughout the fall for its 17 member schools. The goal is to have western Kentucky students better prepared for the Governor's Cup statewide academic competition.
The four teams won their district championships earlier in the year to qualify for the Academic Bowl. McCracken County won $5,000 in scholarship money, while Murray won $2,000. The teams that lost in the semifinal round each got $1,000 in scholarship money.
The teams will compete in Governor's Cup district competitions today.
McCracken tied crosstown rival Paducah Tilghman early in the year, then ran off a string of 13 wins after that.
"We do more than read questions (in practice) and then call it a day," McCracken coach Tammy Bohannon said. "We really get after the subject-specific things.
"(The students) work hard. I give them the tools, and then, they work. They come in four days a week, and they've come in on their breaks to have practices. We practice with the end goal in mind, not just the next week."
McCracken County did not compete in the Academic Bowl last year, as Paducah Tilghman beat the Mustangs in the district championships, then went on to win the 2019 title.
"Last year was the first year that these four (students) played together," Bohannon said. "The year prior, in 2018, three of those four members had played together since middle school.
"So, last year, these four had to learn to play together very quickly and develop that trust and chemistry very quickly, and they went through the process of doing that last year, and we still had a very successful year. This year, they're cooking with gas."
WKAA President Jeremy Krug said the scholarship money comes out of a fund set up in the 1990s by the West Kentucky Academic Consortium.
"This is a fund that's dedicated to academic teams across the region," he said. "Deserving students who have been on academic teams receive the scholarship fund that goes toward their education.
"It seems like our region is improving; our league is improving. Years ago, we would have teams from our region that would go to state and not do very well. Now, that's changed. We have teams who consistently do very well at state."