Beechwood's championship bid falls short

Posted at 12:33 AM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 00:33:23-05

BOWLING GREEN, Ky – The Beechwood Tigers' quest for a 12th state championship came up one win short: They fell to the Pikeville Panthers 42-28 on Thursday night in the Class 1A Russell Athletic / KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl at Houchens-Smith Stadium in front of 5,726 fans.

The game was filled with momentum swings, with Pikeville having theirs to start the contest and, most importantly, to finish the contest.

Panther running back Daric Pugh proved to be too much to handle for the Tigers’ D all night. His 54-yard TD run with less than nine minutes to play broke the tie and started to seal Beechwood’s fate.

Pikeville scored four of their six touchdowns over the game’s final 12:30 minutes to pull away.

“Give all the credit to Pikeville,” head coach Noel Rash said after his team’s loss. “They were able to do things that we weren’t able to stop them.”

The Panthers opened up the contest with a pair of first-quarter TD passes from quarterback Wyatt Battaile to open up a 14-0 lead.

Beechwood’s defense would start turning the game around from there. They would go 26 minutes before allowing any more points to be put on the scoreboard.

Offensively, it was a different story. After sputtering on their first two drives and going three-and-out, Beechwood had their third drive end when quarterback Kyle Fieger was picked off in the red zone.

It wouldn’t be until the waning moments of the first half before the Tigers would get on the scoreboard, as Fieger found Brett Slusher from four yards out to cut the lead to 14-7 heading into the locker room.

Slusher added two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter, and it appeared as if Beechwood had the game in hand when they took a 21-14 lead with 0:59 left in the third quarter on his second score.

However, less than a minute later, Battaile would connect with Blake Charles on a 67-yard scoring play to tie things up at 21-21.

“We thought we had the quarterback pinned, and he made a play and we didn’t tackle the kid that came out the backfield,” Rash said. “They turned a 3-yard play into a 70-yard score.”

After Pugh’s tie-breaking TD run, the Panthers turned a Beechwood turnover on downs and fumble into a pair of touchdowns and opened things up 42-21.

Beechwood added a late touchdown with 1:39 left in the contest as Fieger found Aiden Justice from 7 yards out, but it would be too little too late.

Pugh was named as the game’s MVP, rushing for 243 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries to lead Pikeville. Battaile threw touchdowns and was intercepted once.

Fieger finished his epic Beechwood career by throwing for 173 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 55 yards on 10 carries. Slusher scored three times for 116 yards in the loss.

“It hurts. It hurts really bad,” Rash said. “This entire group, especially this senior class, when you consider everything that happened to them, it’s amazing. I’m full with pride.”

The state championship is the fourth in school history for Pikeville. Their previous three titles came in consecutive seasons from 1987-89.

BEECHWOOD 0-7-14-7-28
vs. PIKEVILLE 14-0-7-21-42

First Quarter
P: Chatlin Jarrell 16-yard ReTD from W. Battaile (Heffington kick)
P: Cody Charles 25-yard ReTD from W. Battaile (Heffington kick)

Second Quarter
B: Brett Slusher 4-yard ReTD from K. Fieger (German kick)

Third Quarter
B: Slusher 1-yard RuTD (German kick)
B: Slusher 3-yard RuTD (German kick)
P: Cody Charles 25-yard ReTD from W. Battaile (Heffington kick)

Fourth Quarter
P: Daric Pugh 54-yard RuTD (Heffington kick)
P: Blake Charles 29-yard RuTD (Heffington kick)
P: Daric Pugh 49-yard RuTD (Heffington kick)
B: Aiden Justice 7-yard ReTD from K. Fieger (German kick)

Records: Beechwood (13-2); Pikeville (13-2)