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State Champs: Beechwood Claims 12th Title with Win Over Hazard

This article appears courtesy of and is written by Clayton Castle.

The Beechwood Tigers' stellar season was capped by the school’s 12th state title on Friday night with a win over the Hazard Bulldogs. The Tigers held off the Bulldogs 21-14 in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Class 1A title game at Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium at Western Kentucky University on Friday night.

“Obviously it feels tremendous,” Beechwood Head Coach Noel Rash said. “The best thing about this game was that it came down to will and I love when the Beechwood will wins out because of the work ethic these guy put in. We had a little more in the tank when it mattered most.”

The title is the first for Beechwood since 2008 when the Tigers again beat Hazard, 14-7.

Coming into the game, Beechwood led all of 1A in giving up the fewest points, at 166. The Tigers' defense was expected be put to the test on Friday night. Hazard running back Cory Smith went into Friday night’s game with 301 carries, 2,777 yards, and 38 touchdowns. Containing him would be the key to victory for the Tigers. Smith got the scoring started in the title game when he found the end zone from seven yards out to give Hazard the lead midway through the first quarter.

Beechwood responded, however, when running back Aiden Justice got past the Hazard line and backfield for a 17-yard touchdown run of his own to tie the game early in the second quarter.

After allowing that Smith touchdown in the first quarter, the Tigers' defense slowed him down throughout the game. Eventually, Smith became a non-factor and finished the game with only 128 yards on 29 carries.

“Our defense plays extremely fast and most importantly, they play relentless,” Rash said. “That combination of speed an relentless is incredible, so I’m just pleased as heck.”

With just under four minutes until halftime, the Tigers took their first lead of the game when Trevor Soward took the Brayden Burch handoff into the end zone for a one-yard score, giving Beechwood the 14-7 halftime lead.

An uneventful defensive battle took over in the third quarter, and Hazard showed some signs of life early in the fourth quarter when Hazard quarterback Bailey Blair found wide receiver Braxton Whitaker for a nine-yard touchdown score to tie the game with 11:14 left.

Beechwood didn’t take long to respond, four minutes and three seconds to be exact, when Soward found the end zone again for his second one-yard score of the game. That would send the Beechwood Tigers over the top for the 21-14 win and their 12th state title in school history.

“This is amazing, I couldn’t have asked for anything else,” Soward said. “The seniors stepped up this year, the underclassmen stepped up this year and we just got it done. The community has been great for us.”

The Beechwood offense was led by quarterback Brayden Burch, who went 16-for-26 on 162 yards through the air. The ground game was led by Aiden Justice netted 33 yards but scored the crucial touchdown to get the Tigers on the board. A multitude of receivers put up numbers for Beechwood including Garrett Ratliff, James Davis, Justice, and Daniel Mescher, all who put up more than 22 yards receiving.

Hazard was led by Smith on the ground, while quarterback Bailey Blair went 8-for15 on 74 yards and a touchdown while also throwing two interceptions.
Beechwood finishes the 2016 season with a 14-1 record, while Class 1A Runner-ups Hazard finishes 12-3.

Written by Clayton Castle, RCN contributor

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