Defense stole the show from two explosive offenses in a Class A quarterfinal showdown.
And Raceland’s defensive unit sparkled brightest, bottling up second-ranked Pikeville for a 14-3 victory Friday and the school’s first regional football title.
The Rams yielded a meager 33 yards in the second half against a team that came in averaging 48.8 points on the season.
“We played our best,” said senior defensive end Alex Risner, who helped spearhead Raceland’s stingy performance. “We just gave it 110 percent every play and finally got a regional championship.”
Playing on a windy night and rain-soaked field at Rams Stadium, the defenses took over early in a matchup of high-powered attacks.
The only scoring of the first half came on Pikeville junior LJ Allara’s 29-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
The Panthers’ defense kept Raceland wrapped up for the first 24 minutes, but the Rams scored touchdowns on two fourth-quarter plays in the second half to make the difference.
“I’m proud of this group so much because of what they’ve been through,” Rams coach T.J. Maynard said. “The last four years, they’ve had a lot of adversity on and off the field. For them to get this monkey off Raceland’s back, I’m so proud of them.”
With the victory, Raceland advances to its first state semifinal game next Friday night at Williamsburg, a 21-7 winner over Hazard.
“If you had told me we would hold Pikeville to three points, I would have said you’re crazy,” Maynard said. “Chris McNamee does a great coaching job and they have so many weapons.”
But Raceland effectively took them away. Chase Hall, the Panthers’ 1,500-yard rusher with 27 TD runs, broke off a 62-yard carry on Pikeville’s first series but only had one gain of more than six yards the rest of the way.
Panthers quarterback Austin Charles couldn’t get much going outside of a 48-yard keeper to set up the field goal. Through the air, Charles completed 6 of 12 attempts for only 25 yards.
Raceland defensive back Josh Young shut down Pikeville receiver Cody Estep, who came in with 1,016 yards and 15 TDs.
“This is the first year I’ve ever played defense,” said Young, a 6-2 junior. “I’ve always played JV quarterback. At the beginning of the year (coach Maynard) told me to get on the field. There was a corner spot.”