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Dan Weber's Just Sayin': Beechwood Looks to Repeat in Class 2A Title Rematch

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at dweber3440@aol.com.

It’s the most-anticipated rematch since Ali-Frazier.

It’s that classic “immovable object vs. unstoppable force” matchup.

It’s 14-0 Beechwood vs. 14-0 Lexington Christian, same as it was a year ago, for the Class 2A title at UK’s Kroger Field with a 4 p.m. kickoff Friday.

But it’s not just for the 2A title. Beechwood may have an enrollment of 468 students. And LCA just 433.

But if you were lining either of these teams up against 3A, 4A, 5A or 6A opponents this weekend in Lexington, you might be able to make the case that they’d have a better chance than facing each other. And you wouldn’t just be blowing smoke saying so.

Just check out the records of the two teams since they played to a 24-23 overtime Beechwood win last December in this championship game. Beechwood’s 22-game win streak – Kentucky’s longest – includes wins over 5A power Covington Catholic (27-7) and 6A Dixie Heights (21-14).

Against all opponents Beechwood has run up a 41.6-point scoring margin – 47.6 points scored against 5.9 allowed – that is the state’s best. LCA – against a tougher schedule – is No. 13 with a 37.8 average margin with their best-in-the-state 48.8 points a game and has, as most have noted, a 20-game win streak if you take out that Beechwood loss.

And if you want to get to that “immovable object vs. unstoppable force,” it’s going to happen in the run game where Beechwood allows just 23 yards rushing while LCA runs for 305 yards a game.

Beechwood is led by returning Kentucky Mr. Football Cameron Hergott, an Eastern Kentucky commit, who has produced 59 touchdowns in his run-pass role at quarterback totaling 3,915 yards of offense – 2,265 passing (an average 161.8 per game) on 124 for 179 for 32 TDs while running for another 1,650 yards (117.9 average) and 27 TDs.

And he has plenty of help in a pair of running backs in the powerful Mitchell Berger who stepped up from his defensive role in last week’s 38-7 win over Mayfield for the injured Avery Courtney. The pair has 835 yards (448 for Berger, 435 for Courtney) with 20 TDs (nine for Berger, 11 for Courtney).

Catching the ball – on both offense and defense are Liam McCormack, stepping in for the injured Brady Moore, and Parker Mason – a quick, sure-handed return man with six TD catches and three interceptions.

None of this would be possible without two-way tackle, 6-foot-4, 290-pound Luke Slusher, a Western Kentucky commit, and his sidekick Austin Waddell up front making it happen for Coach Noel Rash, who is 6-1 in state championship games for the Tigers. Two of those – last year and in 2007, came against LCA as Beechwood added to its third-best-in-the state championship trophies number, now totaling 15.

Sophomore Xavier Campbell with his 12 sacks leads a defense that just hasn’t allowed much offense to opponents with the state’s No. 1 defense by the numbers.

Impressive stuff, right? And yet, if the truth were told, LCA has the more impressive numbers coming into this game. The Eagles have been ranked ahead of Beechwood in the RPI listings all season, finishing up at .82387 – highest by far in all six classes in the state – to Beechwood’s second-best overall .75757.

LCA also has an even more impressive record against both larger schools and top state powers. In their first six games, LCA has faced and beaten 6A semifinalist Madison Central (21-12), 5A finalist Boyle County (35-28), 4A finalist Belfry (1-0 Covid forfeit win), 1A finalist Pikeville (31-14) in addition to playoff teams Christian Academy of Louisville (37-14) and Lexington Catholic (43-7).

The Eagles are plenty good. One difference in Beechwood’s favor, an extension of their championship game win over LCA last year, is the fact that Beechwood has that winning tradition of 15 state championship titles dating back to 1984 while LCA’s lone title came in 2009.

Lexington Christian is led by running back Xavier Brown (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), who has 1,445 yards (111.2 average) and 21 TDs (1.6 a game). He’s an all-around talent headed to the University of Virginia who has caught six TD passes and even blocked a couple of punts a week ago. Other LCA college commits are Mason Moore to Miami, Ohio, Anthony Johns to Eastern Kentucky, and Tyler Morris to Navy.

As happened last year, maybe this will all come down to a little luck when Beechwood blocked a potential game-tying LCA extra point in overtime and LCA’s current kicker, Austin Dobbs, missed a potential game-winning end-of-regulation 44-yard field goal that hit the narrower Kroger Field college-width uprights (4 feet, 10 inches narrower than high school) and the ball then bounced off the crossbar to keep Beechwood alive.

*** BASKETBALL TIME IS NOW: For Kentucky high schools this week when football finishes up, basketball tips off. So we thought we’d see what others are saying about Ninth Region boys basketball after Highlands’ strong state championship run a year ago.

The Kentucky Sports Report people see Covington Catholic as preseason No. 2 in the state behind Louisville Ballard. The rest of the top five are Ashland at No. 3 with Louisville Male and George Rogers Clark tied for fourth and Reed Sheppard’s North Laurel at No. 6.

Highlands, a 97-94 loser to Walton-Verona Tuesday in a shootout in Ft. Thomas, is No. 14 with Dixie Heights, which opens at Cov Cath Friday, No. 20.

Here’s the KSR shorthand on CovCath: 2. Covington Catholic (24-4) – The top three scorers (Evan Ipsaro, Mitchell Rylee, and Chandler Starks) return from last year’s team, which was ranked near the top of the state all season. Ipsaro (15.8), a junior guard, is already becoming a star and elite scorer while Rylee (15.9) and Starks (11.3) will provide a strong inside presence. Rylee is a Miami (Ohio) commit . . . JUST SAYIN’.

--Dan Weber

Photo: Beechwood celebrates its semifinal win over Mayfield in Ft. Mitchell last week (Brian Frey/RCN)