With injuries piling up, Ashland coach Leon Hart decided to sit out nine of his regular players before Friday’s game. It didn’t end up hurting the Tomcats one bit.
Ashland ran for 426 yards on its way to a 56-8 defeat of Greenup County on Friday at Greenup County High School.
With leading rusher Quinton Baker out because of an ankle injury, Hart turned to senior wide receiver Malik Massey to make his first start at running back.
He responded by going for 117 yards on 10 carries and scoring the first three Tomcats touchdowns of the game on runs of 5, 42 and 30 yards.
“I think he’s got a better appreciation now for how hard it is to play halfback,” Hart said. “He gives us great speed right there, and he’s strong. He’s not very big but he’s strong, and I thought he came out and played well.”
Massey agreed and now has a newfound respect for Baker and the rest of the guys that carry the ball a lot on Fridays.
“It’s a lot harder than I thought it was,” Massey said through a smile. “It was different I’ll tell you that. Receiver is way easier.”
Ashland (9-1) had so many injuries and many players in street clothes, some Tomcats who don’t normally see playing time got a chance to shine on Friday.
Sophomore running back Tyler Sutton had 12 carries for 100 yards in the game. Sophomore fullback Josh Vaughn carried the ball eight times for 58 yards. Both scored on touchdown runs.
Vaughn even had a 17-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Hunter Prince.
Hart said the younger guys like Vaughn, Sutton and Prince really did well giving the Tomcats starters a break.
“It was a great opportunity for them,” Hart said. “And we told them you have a chance to be surrounded by good players and have a chance to prove to everybody that you can play. I thought the kids really played well tonight.”
Ashland’s defense held Greenup County to 16 yards in the first half, and the Musketeers didn’t have a first down until the 5:21 mark in the third quarter.
Greenup County (0-8) did score in the fourth quarter on a Kyle Cochran 5-yard run, and the Musketeers finished the game with 119 yards rushing.
Next week, Greenup County will get one more chance at a district win, when the Musketeers travel to Boyd County.
Ashland will travel to Johnson Central in what will be for the Class 4A, District 8 championship. And to say the Tomcats are ready for it would be an understatement, said Massey.
“This is the game I’ve been waiting for since my freshman year,” Massey. “I’m going to be so prepared, let’s just say that. I have a feeling we’re going to have a good day.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.