Cards locked in, ready for Beechwood

ERIC WALKER/The Mayfield Messenger

Mayfield players and coaches hit the field at War Memorial Stadium Thursday for a Thanksgiving walk-through in preparation for tonight’s KHSAA state semifinal Class 2A game against Beechwood. The winner will advance to next week’s state championship game in Lexington. Kickoff tonight at War Memorial is set for 6:30 p.m.

Mayfield has cemented itself, of late, as a fixture in the Class 2A semifinals.

The Cardinals (12-1) have been among the state’s final four football teams nearly every year since 2008, with many appearances before that.

So, while many celebrated Thanksgiving with their families, Mayfield – and the other 23 football teams across Kentucky’s six classes – practiced ahead of its Black Friday game, where it plays Beechwood at 6:30 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

“It’s something that we love doing and hopefully we can continue it,” longtime Cardinals coach Joe Morris said. “We don’t like just getting to this game. We want to win it. We want to get to that next step and go ahead and win two more (games).

“I told our players on Monday, ‘We’re in the Final Four. This is supposed to be tough.’”

The Tigers (8-5), a perennial Class 1A contender, moved up to 2A this year and picked up a pair of strong wins, 26-10 over Class 4A foe Corbin (6-5) on Sept. 13 and a pair of district wins over Newport (8-4), 38-0 on Oct. 25 and again 38-19 two weeks ago.

As with many opponents this season, the Cardinals have a dual-threat quarterback to prepare for in Tigers signal-caller Cameron Hergott.

The Junior has thrown for 1,976 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, while running for 718 yards and 12 more TDs.

Hergott was 14-of-19 for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while carrying the ball nine times for 101 yards and a pair of TDs in Beechwood’s 42-7 rout of West Carter last week.

Defensively, Xavier Campbell, Carter Noah and Gage Dollenmeyer are the three who may provide a challenge for Mayfield’s offensive line. Each has a pair of sacks this season and between the three, they’ve accounted for five of Beechwood’s seven fumble recoveries – none have yet gone for touchdowns.

“The thing about Beechwood is their kids play so hard,” Morris said. “They’re a very physical team. They’re quick. They get to the ball. They don’t make mistakes. That’s why they’ve won as many (1A) state championships as they have.”

The Cardinals have rattled off nine wins in a row.

After taking the first three games of the season, Mayfield was upset by McCracken County, 45-35 on Sept. 13.

Since that loss, the Cardinals have honed in.

“I really believe it did,” Morris said, asked whether that loss to the Mustangs refocused his group early in the season. “You don’t ever want to lose a game. McCracken is not a bad football team. McCracken is a good football team. But, I think what it did is it made us realize we have to focus every day in practice, not just go out there and go through the motions in practice. Every time we play a team, we’re going to get their best shot. McCracken came over here and played great against us and deserved to win.

“But, I think it refocused us. I didn’t like how our guys handled the adversity we went through, there. We talk about that during the year. Since that point, we’ve been through some more adversity and we handled it the way we’re supposed to handle it. And, that’s why we’re here.”

Coming off an offensive explosion in last week’s 58-14 drubbing of Edmonson County – with 44 points in the first half – one might be concerned about the potential for a let-down.

But, for Morris and Co., while acknowledging the uptick in the difficulty level this week, that word might as well not exist in its vocabulary.

“The bottom line is, if you don’t come to practice ready, here in these playoffs, you probably don’t need to put a uniform on,” Morris said, succinctly. “This is why you work so hard all the way back in January to get to these games like this. It’s going to be a great crowd out there. There’s nothing like War Memorial Stadium during Thanksgiving weekend. The great thing about it is we get a lot of people back (in town). I don’t see any way possible that we can have a let-down. It’s going to be a hard, intense football game and we’re going to have to be ready to roll.”

Class 2A Semifinal: Mayfield vs. Beechwood

When: 6:30, Friday

Where: War Memorial Stadium, Mayfield

Prediction: Mayfield by 21

Other semifinal games to watch this week

Class 2A: Somerset vs. Breathitt

When: 6:30, Friday

Where: Somerset High School, Somerset

Prediction: Somerset by 24

Class 3A: DeSales vs. Belfry

When: 6:30, Friday

Where: DeSales High School, Louisville

Prediction: DeSales by 3

Class 4A: Johnson Central vs. Madisonville-North Hopkins

When: 5, Friday

Where: Johnson Central High School, Paintsville

Prediction: Madisonville by 3

Class 5A: Covington Catholic vs. Bowling Green

When: 5, Friday

Where: Covington Catholic High School, Covington

Prediction: CovCath by 24

Class 6A: Louisville Male vs. Lexington Tates Creek

When: 6, Friday

Where: Male High School, Louisville

Prediction: Male by 40

Class 6A: North Hardin vs. Louisville Trinity

When: 6:30, Friday

Where: North Hardin High School, Radcliff

Prediction: North Hardin by 35

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