FRANKFORT, Ky. – The past four years, Mayfield knocked Beechwood out in the state semifinal round.
This season, the Tigers will not get a rematch.
Injuries, penalties and an inability to stop the run all played key roles as the Tigers failed to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2006, falling 35-21 to Frankfort at Sower Field in a Class A state quarterfinal on Friday.
The Panthers’ Jalen Acree rushed 27 times for 191 yards (he had 43 carries all season prior to this game), a clinching touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion.
Beechwood had no answer for the running back, who bulled his way through the defensive line repeatedly on simple running plays.
“We physically got dominated up front,” Beechwood coach Noel Rash said. “That’s a fact. We knew who was getting that ball. Everybody knew. It didn’t change the fact that we couldn’t perform.”
It looked like the Tigers would dictate the game via the run based on the inaugural drive of the game. After an incompletion, junior Joe Studer carried the ball on six straight plays, all gains, for 51 yards to the Frankfort 14.
But on his final rush of the night he was delivered a head shot, and he was unable to continue because of a concussion.
“Injuries are something this team has had to continue to endure, and we got into tonight and it got as bad as it’s been,” Rash said. “But we fought – I’ll give us credit – we fought. But we’re just young.”
Sophomore Ethan Stringer ran for six and eight yards to complete the drive just 3:33 into the game, giving Beechwood a 7-0 lead.
On a bizarre play, the Tigers forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff but the ball popped up in the air, the Panthers recovered the loose football and nearly scored.
Frankfort was stopped at the Beechwood 11 and the Tigers escaped without allowing points, holding the Panthers to two yards before they missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.
Beechwood escaped with another goal line stand at the end of the first quarter when a Frankfort receiver was stripped and the Tigers recovered on their own 1 yard line.
But Beechwood could not move the ball, was forced to punt and Acree and sophomore quarterback Anthony Robinson combined for six straight five-plus yard runs with a short field, including the tying touchdown.
After another three and out, the Tigers punted, but Frankfort fumbled on its subsequent drive, and Beechwood junior Chase Bright scooped up the loose ball and ran it in to make it 14-7 with 4:10 left in the half.
The Panthers answered with a 61-yard scoring drive, capped off by an eight-yard bootleg by Robinson and assisted by an off-sides call, a facemask and a controversial pass interference penalty against Beechwood that set up first and goal at the 8 and Robinson’s scoring play 33 seconds before halftime.
Frankfort received to start the second half and put together a 53-yard scoring drive on eight positive running plays by Acree and Robinson.
But Tigers sophomore Brett Slusher tied the score at 21 by returning the Panthers’ squib kick 63 yards.
Back of the field went the Beechwood defense, and nine more positive rushes and a Tigers facemask penalty later, Frankfort completed an 80-yard drive with Robinson’s fourth rushing TD of the game that made it 27-21 Panthers after a blocked extra point attempt.
At that point there was 2:12 left in the third quarter, and Beechwood had allowed touchdowns on three straight drives while running two offensive plays, including a kneel down to end the first half.
The Tigers ran three plays for 23 yards to open their next drive, which spilled into the fourth quarter, but Beechwood was assessed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after a one-yard run, setting up second and 39. A facemask penalty on against the Tigers on the next play that could have made it second and 54 was declined.
“We earned (those penalties), I’ll just tell you that,” Rash said. “Again, that’s a little lack of composure and discipline and that’s something that we have a lot of pride about, and we let it get away from us.”
Beechwood would pick up just three more first downs and would not cross midfield again.
With 2:42 remaining, the Tigers took over on their 21 down by six, but sophomore quarterback Kyle Fieger was tackled from behind after a 12-yard gain and landed funny.
He limped around for a second and got into the shotgun formation, but he was unable to handle the snap or retrieve it because of his injury.
“He tried to play on a broken leg on the last play – we think so, we don’t know,” Rash said. “But he’s a trooper, he’s been a heck of a ball player for us. I just got done talking to him and said I’m extremely proud of him. But I’m extremely proud of all of them.”
Frankfort recovered on the Beechwood 19, Acree ran in the first play from scrimmage and plowed throw for the two-point conversion to seal it.
Please check back later on Saturday for photos…
at FRANKFORT 0-14-13-8—35
B-Stringer 8 run (Sletto kick)
F-Robinson 7 run (Spade kick)
B-C. Bright 10 fumble return (Sletto kick)
Robinson 8 run (Spade kick)
F- Robinson 1 run (Spade kick)
B-Slusher 63 kickoff return (Sletto kick)
F- Robinson 3 run (kick blocked)
F-Acree 19 run (Acree run)
RECORDS: Frankfort 11-2, Beechwood 8-5.
Follow John Lachmann on Twitter @rednblackhawks or via email at Kypostsports@yahoo.com