BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Freshman Austin Woolum kicked a 35 yard field goal with 5:22 left in the third quarter and those three points were all the Belfry Pirates needed to win their third state championship in school history.
Belfry (14-1) defeated Wayne County, Ky. (14-1) who came into the game undefeated.
The Cardinals were led by Mr. Football candidate in senior quarterback Tyler Guffey. He came in with some outstanding statistics and the Belfry coaching staff new their defense had their work cut out for them.
The Class 3A state title game was played at a cold, windy and wet Feix Field, Houchens/LT Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky.
Neither team was able to score in the first half, but both teams threatened.
After a Keaton Taylor interception, the Pirates used their patented rushing offense to get the ball inside the five yard line. However, a controversial fumble at the goal line by senior running back Justin Johnson was recovered by Wayne County.
The touchback gave the ball back to the Cardinals and the turnover cost Belfry a touchdown.
In the second quarter Wayne County marched the pigskin down field 77 yards and inside the Belfry five yard line.
However, the Pirate defense stepped up and kept Wayne County out of the end zone as the first half ended in a 0-0 tie.
The game continued to be a defensive battle between the two Class 3A powerhouses.
As the clock continued to wind down, it looked as though Woolum’s field goal might be the only points scored in the game.
It was only Woolum’s second field goal of the season. He had been nearly perfect on his extra points this season, but he only had three field goal tries heading into the championship game.
Woolum’s kick came after a 13-play, 65 yard drive by the Pirates.
It was a lot of pressure for a 9th grader, but Woolum made the biggest kick to date of his young career. The holder was senior Reed Williamson and the long snapper senior Cameron Johnson. They also had to do their jobs to set up the kick.
Junior Austin Hall came up with a big interception late in the final quarter to seal the victory. Heavy pressure was put on the Wayne quarterback by defensive linemen Hayden Hatfield and RayQuan Horton on that play.
From that point all Belfry had to do was take a knee and run out the final second of the game clock.
Belfry finally won another state championship after three straight years of heartbreak. The Pirates lost to Louisville Central 46-7 in 2010, 15-14 in 2011 and 12-6 in 2012.
It was especially heartbreaking the last two seasons with a one point loss and 6-point loss.
But, the Pirates were vindicated and they were able to bring home the big trophy to the faithful and loyal fans of Pond Creek Nation.
Belfry won their first two state titles back in 2003 and 2004.
Belfry had a fantastic season. Their lone defeat this season was to Class 4A Johnson Central in the last regular season game of the year. The Pirates won five straight playoff games to win the championship.
“This was a great win for our community, our school and our players,” Belfry head coach Philip Haywood said. “I’m truly blessed.”
It was the third state championship that Haywood has won at Belfry.
Longtime assistant coach Todd Cassell was still hoarse on Saturday morning. But, he, like the other coaches and school personnel, were extremely happy.
“We won back-to-back titles a few years ago and I guess you get a little spoiled. It took us 10 years to get another. That’s a long time,” Cassell said. “But this is so great for our community and our school. It is something positive for our area.”
“It is just a great feeling – and a lot better than the last two years. Our kids battled all year and they deserve this,” he added.
Several seniors played their final game wearing the red and white of Belfry High School. They include Sani Warren, Trenity Carr, Justin Johnson, Hayden Hatfield, Michael Barnes, Zack Thompson, Joey Duty, Cameron Johnson, Reed Williamson, Cody Bostic, Zack Lester and David Daniels.
Belfry junior fullback Austin Hatfield rushed 21 times for 114 yards for the Pirates. Carr had 41 yards on eight carries, while Justin Johnson piled up 57 rushing yards and Sani Warren added 41 yards as the Pirates amassed 235 total yards on the ground. Belfry had 23 first downs in the championship contest.
Guffey completed 12 of 30 passes for 169 yards and two interceptions for Wayne County, and Jason Perkins added five catches for 103 yards.
The Pirates defense was praised by the coaching staff and the fans. They came up with a shutout against a top ranked team that came into the game averaging 41 points per game.
The Belfry defense held the talented Wayne offense to only 208 total yards on offense, 169 passing by Guffey and the rest rushing.
Once again senior Hayden Hatfield led Belfry with 11 tackles. Austin Hatfield had six, while Cameron Johnson, Cameron Catron and T. J. Dotson each had five, according to statistics provided by the Belfry statistician.
A big community and school rally will be held Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at the BHS gymnasium to honor the Class 3A state champions.
Score by quarters:
Wayne (14-1) … 0 0 0 0 – 0
Belfry (14-1) … 0 0 3 0 – 3