Paducah Tilghman entered Friday’s rivalry matchup against Mayfield having lost the last 13 of 105 meetings between the teams.
Despite a close first half, Tilghman watched as the game slipped away late, 38-20 at McRight Field.
And, in the handshake line after the final whistle, it was evident that this loss stung, perhaps, more than most.
“Any time you lose any game, especially when you lose a rivalry game like this, obviously it’s going to take an emotional toll on your team,” said Tilghman coach Jonathan Smith, who played for four years in the rivalry as a Cardinal, under Mayfield skipper Joe Morris. “I think the biggest takeaway I have, coming away from it is we obviously made a lot of undisciplined mistakes tonight. As a coach, that’s 100 percent on me. As the head coach, I’ve got to be the guy that makes sure I maintain that in practice.”
Like with last year’s opening kickoff return for touchdown, Jayden Freeman again provided an early spark for the Blue Tornado.
With Cam Marshall’s 60-yard strike to Freeman on the first drive of the night, Tilghman took a 7-0 lead with 9:49 left in the opening quarter.
“The corner was playing two yards off of me,” Freeman said. “And, I run a 4.3 (second 40-yard dash). I knew I had him beat in the beginning of the game and we didn’t throw it the first time. I knew I would get him the second time.”
But, Mayfield responded, scoring on three of the next four drives in the first, to take a 21-7 lead with 1:12 left.
On its final drive of the half – a series removed from a turnover-on-downs on fourth-and-goal – Marshall connected with Michael Laster on a 9-yard pass, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 21-14 with :13 left until the break.
That score would carry in to the half.
Jayden Freeman on the loss. pic.twitter.com/pQ3GQvCIdB— Al Willman (@AlWillmanSports) September 7, 2019
Tilghman kicker Shelby Nickal saved a touchdown on the second-half kickoff, with a body-block on Cardinals returner Kade Neely.
Mayfield would score two plays later, on a 33-yard run from Kylan Galbreath.
The Blue Tornado chipped away at Mayfield’s lead with a 2-yard run from Cam Marshall. With 5:57 left in the third, Tilghman trailed 28-20.
Marshall was seen limping while coming on to the field prior to the second half and appeared to be walking gingerly after the game.
Still, despite being banged up, the junior signal-caller maintained his composure.
“Cam’s an extremely talented quarterback and a warrior,” Smith said. “He showed that walking out at halftime with an obvious injury that I think everybody here saw. And, he gutted his way through it the entire second half. But, Cam is developing in terms of the way he understands the game. He understands what I like to do, in terms of play-calling. Cam’s getting better and better every day, especially throwing the ball.”
Morris said he was proud of his former player and what he’s been able to accomplish in a season-plus as a coach.
“Jonathan’s a great coach,” Morris said. “They’ve got a great one, right there. He’s got them playing hard, playing physical and they’re going to win a lot of football games. I guarantee you."