BOWLING GREEN —
Fairview’s firepower and Mayfield’s tradition come face to face at noon Friday for the Class A state football championship.
Unbeaten Fairview, a newcomer to the title game, kayoed defending champion Hazard in the semifinal round and will look to do the same against a Mayfield program appearing in the finals for the 18th time.
The Cardinals own eight state crowns, the latest coming two years ago.
“They have a great football team,” Fairview coach Nathan McPeek said. “You are not going to play anybody bad in the state championship game. Mayfield has been there several times.”
McPeek, who grew up in the area and starred at Russell High School, remembers seeing the Cardinals in action years ago.
“When I was a kid, I always went to Cardinal Stadium (Louisville) to watch the state finals,” he said. “It seemed like every year, Mayfield was there.”
Now, the western Kentucky school located 384 miles from Westwood is the only remaining hurdle between Fairview and its first state championship.
McPeek likes the Eagles’ chances at Western Kentucky University’s L.T. Smith Stadium.
“I think our team is playing confidently,” he said. “We’re playing our best football of the year. I think we have a good shot as long as we block, tackle and win the turnovers. Against Hazard, we did well in all three.”
Fairview (14-0) walloped the Bulldogs 40-6 last Friday, amassing 429 yards on the ground to unofficially become the state’s all-time No. 1 rushing team for a single season.
Elijah King averages 121 yards, Devon Turner 109 and fullback Chris Brewer 108, with 61 rushing touchdowns among the three seniors.
Mayfield coach Joe Morris has taken notice.
“Fairview’s got a great running game,” Morris said. “They have three outstanding backs going behind a really good offensive line. It’s not flashy. That’s their game. They broke the record for rushing yards in a season. We know they are going to run it at us.”
Morris, 46, has now guided the Cardinals to six state finals in 14 years. The 2010 team went 15-0, clobbering Hazard 47-6 for the title.
He also coached Mayfield to a state title in 2002. There were runner-up finishes in 2005, ’09 and last season.
How does the latest squad stack up against those other high achievers?
“They are definitely up there,” Morris said. “Are they the best? I don’t know. It’s hard to compare. We’re not as big as some teams, but they are 13-1 and playing for a state championship, so I have to rank them up there pretty high.”
Mayfield’s only setback came in its season opener against Class 5A quarterfinalist Warren Central, 42-28.
Since then, nobody has come closer than 20 points to the Cardinals, who feature a balanced offense led by senior running back Jonathon Jackson and quarterback Jake Guhy.
Jackson, a 1,951-yard rusher this season, carried for 248 yards and three TDs last week in a 35-14 semifinal victory at Beechwood. He’s also a capable receiver.
“If they run 50 plays, they want to get Jackson involved in 35,” McPeek said. “That’s the guy you want to know where he is at all times. I told our guys if he goes to Wendy’s, you better know what he orders.”
The 6-foot, 215-pounder and four-year starter is Mayfield’s all-time leading rusher and tackler.
“He’s such a great kid and such a leader for us,” Morris said. “The best thing is he goes all out every play. If he runs 30 times, you know the last one will be as hard as the first.”
Jackson also stands out at middle linebacker and is being recruited mostly for his defensive ability, according to Morris.
“He had something like 22 tackles against Beechwood,” McPeek said. “I think he has three Division I offers.”
Guhy, a junior, took over the quarterback role last season from his brother, Luke, who led the Cardinals to their 2010 state title.
Jake threw five picks in Mayfield’s championship game loss to Hazard last year that ended a 29-game Cardinal winning streak. But he’s been very good this season, completing 166 of 245 attempts for 2,697 yards and 32 touchdowns, with only one interception.
“He’s a great student of the game,” Morris said. “Jake is making some really good decisions. When you don’t turn it over, that’s what has made us successful.”
Mayfield entered the season with concerns about the offensive and defensive lines, but Morris said both have come around and played well.
“Defensively, they are very solid,” McPeek said. “Anytime you go to Beechwood and hold them to 14 points, you are doing something. They remind me a lot of our defense as far as speed. They may have a little more.”
Fairview practiced Tuesday and Wednesday at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson to get accustomed to playing on the turf.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.