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Late Field Goal Propels Beechwood to Second Straight State Title

By Dan Weber, RCN contributor

It was as if you went to the UK Orthopedics Kentucky State High School 2A Football Championship game Friday and a 15-round heavyweight title fight broke out.

You know the kind. One guy comes out flying, throwing every kind of punch in his bag of tricks and it looks like it's all over. Then the other guy comes off the ropes and does it even better with roundhouse after roundhouse. 

And now it's his fight to lose as they both hold on for what must seem forever to see who gets in that last lick.

And for the second year in a row, in a battle of Kentucky high school heavyweights, Beechwood's never-say-die Tigers were the team standing at the end.

Standing on kicker Jake Conrad's just-strong-enough right leg that nailed a 36-yard field goal with 1:50 left for a 23-21 Beechwood win over slightly favored Lexington Christian Academy (14-1), not to be confused with last year's 24-23 overtime Beechwood win over this same LCA team in this same game.

But it didn't start out that way as the Tigers ran off for three first-half touchdowns behind returning Mr. Football Cameron Hergott's two first-half touchdowns and 152 rushing yards in 10 carries highlighted by a 77-yarder that saw Cam traverse the field back and forth a couple of times, avoiding a whole team of tacklers.

In one play, he'd almost equalled Beechwood's methodical 78-yard, 11-play opening scoring drive with that highlight reel run.

Junior Mitch Berger's eight-yard blast then made it 20-0 with 3:12 left in a half against an Eagle team that had beaten up on opponents in one of the state's toughest schedules by an average 48-11.

One blocked extra point and a failure to score after both of LCA's turnovers in their own territory were the only early hiccups for a Beechwood team that looked a whole lot determined to give its coach, Noel Rash, his first perfect season.

But if there was one conclusion everyone looking at this game had agreed upon, it was this: Beechwood would be the best team by far LCA had played and likewise, LCA would be the best team Beechwood had faced.

Late in the first half and early in the second, the Eagles proved they were just that. Trailing 20-0, causing the TV commentators to wonder if they'd ever been down double digits, LCA, after having been limited to a mere 23 plays and 8:12 time of possession in the first half, came flying back off the ropes hitting the Tigers with three quick haymakers.

And did so in a mere 4:38. The first came just before halftime when LCA quarterback Drew Nieves drilled receiver Mason Moore from the 16 against busted Beechwood coverage to get the Eagles on the board -- and back in the game -- with just 33 seconds left in the half.

But it didn't end with intermission. Thanks to a Nieves 56-yard strike out of the backfield to Jeffrey Selby, LCA scored again in just 1:18: 20-14 Beechwood. But that didn't end the run as the Eagles scored on Beechwood's next possession as Hergott, on maybe the worst play of his high school career, tried to extend a scramble but had thee Eagles tracking him down with nowhere to go before they blindsided him and knocked the ball loose.

Along came LCA's Tyler Morris to scoop it up after Selby knocked it loose and from trailing 20-0, just over 4 1/2 minutes later, LCA was leading by one -- the same margin they'd lost by a year ago.

And try as they might, through three-and-out passing possessions to shanked punts to a minus-17-yard third quarter for Hergott, Beechwood hung on somehow. The Tigers weren't gaining any ground. But they weren't losing any either.

An interception by LCA was negated with a partially blocked punt by Beechwood. And at 6:39, Beechwood would have one final chance from the LCA 45. Hegott would scramble for 21 in the highlight of a 10-play drive but that was negated by a hold and a scramble sack for minus-10 yards that looked like it might have put Beechwood out of field goal range.

But wait, hadn't Jake Conrad kicked one through at the end of last week's semifinal first-half against Mayfield? Almost in a trial run for this scenario? He had indeed. And from the same 36-yards out as in this game.

But oh no, for Beechwood fans watching on TV. The play-by-play man had the ball short. The analyst had it blocked . . . and it was daggone close.

But no, somehow Conrad's kick just kept spinning, slowly and softly, not as majestically as last week's, but what it did was come down on the other side of the crossbar. Maybe, just maybe, Beechwood would be able to make this 23-21 lead stand up for the final 1:50.

Or maybe, after getting the ball back to the 50, on the kickoff, or to the Beechwood 35 after one play, LCA would get the ultimate revenge for the way last year's 24-23 overtime getting close enough for their strong-legged kicker, Andrew Dobbs, who missed on a possible late game-winner that hit the narrower college upright at UK's Kroger Field, to win it this time.

And if he did, the final score would be that familiar 24-23.

But Beechwood said no. An incompletion, a scramble for four yards and an intentional grounding had it fourth-and-12 at the 37. When Nieves heaved it too deep into the end zone with 21 seconds left, Beechwood fans could finally breathe easy.

The Tigers had completed a 15-0 season extending their state's-longest win streak to 23 games, winning their 16th state championship in football. Only two teams -- Louisville Trinity with 27 and Highlands with 23 -- have won more.

For Coach Noel Rash, the win improved his record in state championship games to 7-1.

And Cam Hergott had made his return for a "super-senior" season -- thanks to the Kentucky law that allowed him to do so as a result of last year's Covid-distracted season -- just that.  Twenty-nine times he ran the ball for a net 161 yards with TDs from 28 yards and one yard. He added 58 yards passing (six for 12 with that INT) for a total of 219.

Beechwood outgained LCA 277 yards to 258 running 56 plays to LCA's 43 with a time-of-possession edge of 30:45 to 17:15.

And in one final Tiger shout-out, the Beechwood defense held an LCA team averaging 305 yards a game on the ground to just 120 with Austin Waddell (nine tackles), Liam McCormack (seven) and Carson Craycraft (six) leading the way.


Quickie Stats(Final)

BEECHWOOD vs. LCA

(12/3/2021 at LEXINGTON, KY)

BEECH LCA

Score 23 21

FIRST DOWNS 14 12

RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 44-219 29-120

PASSING-YARDS (NET) 58 138

Passes Att-Comp-Int 12-6-1 14-6-0

TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 56-277 43-258

Fumble Returns-Yards 2-0 1-11

Punt Returns-Yards - -

Kickoff Returns-Yards 1-17 5-117

Interception Returns-Yards - 1-0

Punts (Number-Avg) 3-31.3 3-27.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2

Penalties-Yards 4-35 2-16

Possession Time 30:45 17:15

Third-Down Conversions 5-11 2-8

Fourth-Down Conversions 1-1 0-3

Red-Zone Scores-Chances 3-3 2-3

BEECHWOOD LCA

Rushing No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg

CAMERON HERGOTT 29 195 34 161 2 77 5.6

MITCHELL BERGER 12 60 0 60 1 14 5

TEAM 3 0 2 -2 0 0 -0.7

Rushing No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg

XAVIER BROWN 10 66 0 66 1 16 6.6

JAY EMERSON 6 44 0 44 0 30 7.3

DREW NIEVES 6 24 6 18 0 10 3

Passing C-A-I Yds TD Long Sack

CAMERON HERGOTT 6-12-1 58 0 18 2

Passing C-A-I Yds TD Long Sack

DREW NIEVES 6-14-0 138 1 57 1

Receiving No. Yards TD Long Tgt

MITCHELL BERGER 3 15 0 9 4

PARKER MASON 1 18 0 18 1

KEATON DURRETT 1 13 0 13 2

LIAM McCORMICK 1 12 0 12 2

Receiving No. Yards TD Long Tgt

JEFFREY SELBY 2 69 0 57 2

MASON MOORE 2 43 0 28 5

PARKER CHANEY 2 13 1 16 3

XAVIER BROWN 0 13 0 0 1

Punting No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB

CAMERON HERGOTT 3 94 31.3 38 1 0

Punting No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB

DREW NIEVES 1 37 37.0 37 1 0

TEAM 1 17 17.0 17 0 0

Punt Returns No. Yards TD Long

Punt Returns No. Yards TD Long

Kick Returns No. Yards TD Long

MITCHELL BERGER 1 17 0 17

Kick Returns No. Yards TD Long

PARKER CHANEY 3 65 0 28

XAVIER BROWN 1 35 0 35

Tackles UA-A Total Sacks TFL

AUSTIN WADDELL 7-2 9 0 0.5

LIAM McCORMICK 5-2 7 0 0

C CRAYCRAFT 5-1 6 0 1

Tackles UA-A Total Sacks TFL

JEFFREY SELBY 10-0 10 0 0

WILL NICHOLS 4-3 7 0 0.5

J DRAKE 4-1 5 1 1.5

Qtr Time Scoring Play V-H

1st 05:03 BEECH - CAMERON HERGOTT 28 yd TD RUSH 11-78 6:57 6-0

2nd 08:32 BEECH - CAMERON HERGOTT 1 yd TD RUSH (KICK by JAKE CONRAD), 8-30 4:50 13-0

2nd 03:12 BEECH - MITCHELL BERGER 8 yd TD RUSH (KICK by JAKE CONRAD), 3-90 1:41 20-0

2nd 00:33 LCA - PARKER CHANEY 16 yd TD PASS from DREW NIEVES (KICK by ANDREW DODDS), 9-60 2:29 20-7

3rd 10:41 LCA - XAVIER BROWN 1 yd TD RUSH (KICK by ANDREW DODDS), 4-60 1:13 20-14

3rd 07:55 LCA - TYLER MORRIS 11 yd TD FUMB (KICK by ANDREW DODDS), 20-21

4th 01:50 BEECH - JAKE CONRAD 36 yd FG 9-26 4:49ptions:

Quickie Stats(Final)

BEECHWOOD vs. LCA

(12/3/2021 at LEXINGTON, KY)

BEECH LCA

Score 23 21

FIRST DOWNS 14 12

RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 44-219 29-120

PASSING-YARDS (NET) 58 138

Passes Att-Comp-Int 12-6-1 14-6-0

TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 56-277 43-258

Fumble Returns-Yards 2-0 1-11

Punt Returns-Yards - -

Kickoff Returns-Yards 1-17 5-117

Interception Returns-Yards - 1-0

Punts (Number-Avg) 3-31.3 3-27.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2

Penalties-Yards 4-35 2-16

Possession Time 30:45 17:15

Third-Down Conversions 5-11 2-8

Fourth-Down Conversions 1-1 0-3

Red-Zone Scores-Chances 3-3 2-3

BEECHWOOD LCA

Rushing No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg

CAMERON HERGOTT 29 195 34 161 2 77 5.6

MITCHELL BERGER 12 60 0 60 1 14 5

TEAM 3 0 2 -2 0 0 -0.7

Rushing No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg

XAVIER BROWN 10 66 0 66 1 16 6.6

JAY EMERSON 6 44 0 44 0 30 7.3

DREW NIEVES 6 24 6 18 0 10 3

Passing C-A-I Yds TD Long Sack

CAMERON HERGOTT 6-12-1 58 0 18 2

Passing C-A-I Yds TD Long Sack

DREW NIEVES 6-14-0 138 1 57 1

Receiving No. Yards TD Long Tgt

MITCHELL BERGER 3 15 0 9 4

PARKER MASON 1 18 0 18 1

KEATON DURRETT 1 13 0 13 2

LIAM McCORMICK 1 12 0 12 2

Receiving No. Yards TD Long Tgt

JEFFREY SELBY 2 69 0 57 2

MASON MOORE 2 43 0 28 5

PARKER CHANEY 2 13 1 16 3

XAVIER BROWN 0 13 0 0 1

Punting No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB

CAMERON HERGOTT 3 94 31.3 38 1 0

Punting No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB

DREW NIEVES 1 37 37.0 37 1 0

TEAM 1 17 17.0 17 0 0

Punt Returns No. Yards TD Long

Punt Returns No. Yards TD Long

Kick Returns No. Yards TD Long

MITCHELL BERGER 1 17 0 17

Kick Returns No. Yards TD Long

PARKER CHANEY 3 65 0 28

XAVIER BROWN 1 35 0 35

Tackles UA-A Total Sacks TFL

AUSTIN WADDELL 7-2 9 0 0.5

LIAM McCORMICK 5-2 7 0 0

C CRAYCRAFT 5-1 6 0 1

Tackles UA-A Total Sacks TFL

JEFFREY SELBY 10-0 10 0 0

WILL NICHOLS 4-3 7 0 0.5

J DRAKE 4-1 5 1 1.5

Qtr Time Scoring Play V-H

1st 05:03 BEECH - CAMERON HERGOTT 28 yd TD RUSH 11-78 6:57 6-0

2nd 08:32 BEECH - CAMERON HERGOTT 1 yd TD RUSH (KICK by JAKE CONRAD), 8-30 4:50 13-0

2nd 03:12 BEECH - MITCHELL BERGER 8 yd TD RUSH (KICK by JAKE CONRAD), 3-90 1:41 20-0

2nd 00:33 LCA - PARKER CHANEY 16 yd TD PASS from DREW NIEVES (KICK by ANDREW DODDS), 9-60 2:29 20-7

3rd 10:41 LCA - XAVIER BROWN 1 yd TD RUSH (KICK by ANDREW DODDS), 4-60 1:13 20-14

3rd 07:55 LCA - TYLER MORRIS 11 yd TD FUMB (KICK by ANDREW DODDS), 20-21

4th 01:50 BEECH - JAKE CONRAD 36 yd FG 9-26 4:49

Top photo: Beechwood takes on Walton-Verona in Ft. Mitchell (Brian Frey/RCN file)