It's hard to be sharper than Paducah Tilghman was on Friday night, opening its Class 3A, District 1 playoff campaign with a near-perfect 48-12 win over Webster County at McRight Field.
The Blue Tornado (8-3) scored six touchdowns in their first seven plays on the offensive side of the ball to grab a 42-0 lead before the end of the first quarter, in what was an absolute blitzkrieg of the thoroughly outmatched Trojans (3-8).
Tilghman's senior part running back, part wide receiver, part punter Jayden Freeman never had to kick the ball, and set the tone with a 64-yard gashing touchdown on the game's first play. Both of his catches from quarterback Darionte Ragsdale (7-for-12, 192 yards passing, three touchdowns) also went for scores -- the first a 55-yarder on three cutbacks for a 34-0 lead, and his second a 70-yarder with 7:12 left in the third quarter, after two Trojan defenders bobbled what would've been an interception.
"I should've originally caught it," Freeman said with a laugh. "But I saw they had tipped the ball up. And I just put my hands on it and took it into the end zone."
A blocked punt set up Tilghman's second score of the night, a 15-yard rush from Damien Ford -- who also had three touchdowns for the Blue Tornado. After a Jonathan George fumble recovery, he'd catch and score on a 35-yard pass from Ragsdale, giving Tilghman a 19-0 lead with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
"Coach (Jonathan Smith) had called 'Atlanta,'" Ragsdale said of the play to Ford. "Three minutes before, he had said something to me about Damien. And then, I was going to throw it to Brian Thomas, but I saw Damien cross the safety, and I delivered.
"(But) tonight just felt like a regular game. The past few games, I've been feeling really good throwing the ball. Sometimes it can be hard throwing in the cold, where my arms are getting tight, and I can't follow through like I should. But tonight, it felt good."
A 56-yard gash from George made it 26-0. Another Webster County fumble led to two carries from Ford, the second one an 11-yard touchdown for a 41-0 lead with 1:23 left in the first frame -- bringing about the running clock.
"I think any time you (score six times in seven plays), that shows you a lot more about how you're ready than anything I can tell you," Smith said. "But I think the big thing with me and the coaches and what we've been trying to emphasize with the players all week is that every single Friday for the next (four) weeks, somebody is going to put the helmet on for the last time. You can't take any snap for granted.
"I felt like last week against Hoptown (a 17-15 loss), we played a really good football game, but I think we had five mental mistakes, where our guys might not have felt that it was a key moment in the game. But it ended up coming back to bite us. Those were the things I emphasized with our guys this week in terms of practice. Understanding … that there will always be a key snap, whether it's in a tight game or a blowout, that will define the game."
The Trojans picked up two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter against Tilghman's reserves, thanks to two touchdown passes from Mason Wilson.
With its victory, Paducah Tilghman will host Union County at McRight Field next week, as the Braves topped Trigg County in Cadiz on Friday (26-13).
Webster County 0 0 0 12 -- 12
Paducah Tilghman 42 0 6 0 -- 48
PT Jayden Freeman 64 run (Shelby Nickal kick), 7-0, 11:45 1Q
PT Damien Ford 15 run (2 pt. fails), 13-0, 9:25 1Q
PT Damien Ford 25 pass from Darionte Ragsdale (Shelby Nickal kick), 20-0, 9:09 1Q
PT Jonathan George 56 run (Shelby Nickal kick), 27-0, 7:03 1Q
PT Jayden Freeman 55 pass from Darionte Ragsdale (Darionte Ragsdale run), 35-0, 5:10 1Q
PT Damien Ford 11 run (Shelby Nickal kick), 42-0, 1:23 1Q
PT Jayden Freeman 70 pass from Darionte Ragsdale (PAT miss), 48-0, 7:12 3Q
WC Aden Winn 11 pass from Mason Wilson (PAT miss), 48-6, 5:10 3Q
WC Brett Love 3 pass from Mason Wilson (2 pt. failed), 48-12, 1:22 4Q
PT 7-12-192-0; WC Wilson 12-23-146-1.
PT Jayden Freeman 1-64, Damien Ford 3-46, Jonathan George 1-56, Chris Allen 1-24; WC Kale Bumpus 10-32.
PT Jayden Freeman 2-125, Damien Ford 2-43, Brian Thomas 1-18, Anton Jones 1-7, Kelen Johnson 1-12; Aden Winn 4-33, Hayden Nunn 2-13, Daniel Yates 3-44, Brett Love 1-3.
Paducah Tilghman 8-3, Webster County 3-8.