If there were a Mount Rushmore of Kentucky football programs, Beechwood would arguably have its rightful place. State championships. Wins. Dominance. All identifiers of the Class A powerhouse in Fort Mitchell. To Ludlow Head Coach Rick Hornsby, his players had trouble getting past that mental block.
“Not only do they have great athletes but our kids see the name on the jersey and they don’t give themselves a chance to compete. That’s the frustrating part as a coach,” he said.
On the field, Beechwood wasted little time getting on the board first.
After a nice kickoff return into Ludlow territory and a run up the middle by junior running back Ethan Stringer, junior receiver Brett Slusher took a screen pass from quarterback Kyle Fieger and gave the Tigers another first down at the Panthers’ 10. Two plays later, Stringer found the end zone to put Beechwood up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
But Ludlow’s drive only went backwards. After two negative yardage plays, sophomore quarterback Devlin Carter had to chase an errant snap over his head and fell on the ball deep in his own territory to force a Panthers’ punt.
Fielding a short punt in Ludlow territory at the 45, Tigers’ senior Jeremy Burns raced down the sideline, diving into the end zone to give his team a 14-0 lead
Unable to take advantage of a Ludlow personal foul on its next possession, Stringer let a fourth down pass slip through his fingers that would’ve given his team a first down deep in Ludlow territory. But after a quick Panthers’ four-and-out, Beechwood capitalized on its next possession, culminating in another short touchdown run and a 21-0 lead.
Ludlow’s ensuing possession began with great field position, aided by a Tigers’ personal foul penalty, but two incomplete passes and a sack forced another punt for the Panthers.
The Tigers’ continued their offensive onslaught immediately.
On their first play from scrimmage, Fieger found a streaking Slusher up the seam for a highlight-worthy 77-yard touchdown reception. Fieger’s pass was a bit high for his receiver , but Slusher reached out and tipped the pass up in the air, maintained his concentration, and the ball fell back into his grasp. Junior
Mario German missed the extra point, but the Tigers still led 27-0.
Following an interception by Panthers’ quarterback Carter, Stringer took the handoff 30 yards up the middle for his second score of the evening and a 34-0 lead. Burns got the ball back for Beechwood, intercepting Carter and setting up another score. On the next play, Fieger found Stringer out in the flat for a 15-yard touchdown. The Tigers had 41 points before halftime but did not score again the rest of the way.
Ludlow began to gain momentum on its next possession with junior running back Jeremiah Martin busting up the middle for a 20-yard gain to the Beechwood 38, in addition to a 15-yard personal foul penalty. But a fumble on the next play snuffed out the Panthers’ drive.
With two minutes left, Beechwood ran a few plays and on fourth down let the clock run out into the half with a 41-0 advantage.
Out of halftime, Ludlow finally found the end zone.
Capitalizing on backup quarterback Dalton Everett’s fumble, Ludlow drove down the field, culminating in a three-yard run by freshman back Justin Blackburn. With five seconds remaining in the third, the Panthers finally found themselves on the board, 41-7.
With its sizeable lead combined with backups garnering snaps for the offensive unit, Ludlow held the Tigers scoreless in the final quarter but was unable to find the end zone themselves.
But as lopsided a loss this was for Ludlow, the future possibilities were not lost on Hornsby.
“We still have a chance to be 6-4 this year. It would be the first time in 10 years. After that, we got the playoffs and hopefully we can make a little noise in the playoffs.”
Story & photo by Jason Finnell, RCN contributor
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