Clinging to a glimmer of hope late in the fourth quarter, Boyd County finally loosened its grip on Ashland’s Quinton Baker.
Just like that, it was gone in a flash.
Baker and the Tomcats shook off another slow offensive start by reeling off 14 points in the final two minutes of a 28-6 win over winless Boyd County on Friday night at Lions Stadium.
The standout sophomore running back came up with a 154-yard, two-touchdown effort and a handful of key conversions in the final period to help put away the feisty Lions.
Ashland’s defense played its part as well, limiting the Lions to 55 rushing yards on 24 attempts and coming up with two interceptions.
Just minutes after Baker lost a fumble to give Boyd County the ball back with a one-possession deficit, he more than atoned for the miscue.
The Tomcats forced the Lions’ second straight three-and-out series before Baker led the way on an 11-play, 58-yard drive that at up nearly six minutes of the clock.
On a third-and-long play just outside the 40-yard line, the Lions almost brought the elusive playmaker down. But Baker slipped away to set up a fourth-and-one situation.
“We think we got Quinton Baker in the backfield, and it would’ve been fourth-and-seven,” said Boyd County coach John Gilliam. “But we miss a tackle on him, and it ends up being fourth-and-one. It’s funny how individual plays make a world of difference.”
Quarterback Tyler Rose, starting in place of the injured Hunter Prince, plunged three yards to convert and continue the drive.
Four plays later, Baker gained 12 yards on a fourth-and-two play to set up his 13-yard touchdown run. Ashland led 21-6 with 1:53 left, finally giving itself some breathing room.
“We just wore them down, we have so many good linemen that we can switch in and out,” Baker said.
After a Dylan Blevins interception, Baker found the end zone again, this time from 31 yards out. If that wasn’t enough, a Drew O’Bryan interception ended a once-promising evening for the homestanding Lions.
“Right now, we’re just not able to make that play that kind of puts us over,” Gilliam said.
Ashland (5-2) struck first with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Rose to a leaping Miles McGranahan on a fourth-down play midway through the first period.
In the second quarter, Boyd County (0-7) assembled a lengthy, 12-play possession that ended with a failed 23-yard field goal try.
The Tomcats took a 14-0 lead into halftime after a 1-yard TD plunge by Rose capped a 42-yard drive. At the break, Ashland had just 104 yards of offense as Boyd County had 69.
After Boyd County’s second interception — the first by Zane Purcelley — which was made by Jason Smith, quarterback Billy McCoy plowed his way past the goal line from three yards out to make it 14-6 as the extra point was partially blocked.
The Tomcats knew they were in for a tussle as the game entered the fourth quarter with the Lions still within striking distance.
“I did not expect Boyd County to come out like that, I didn’t,” said Tomcats senior lineman Jacob Gilbert. “We underestimated them, and that’s what happens.”
Ashland won the rivalry affair 56-8 last season and hasn’t lost in the series since 2003.
“I’ve been in this rivalry game for 20 years now,” said Ashland coach Tony Love, “So I know what we’re going to get. Traditionally, the longer they’re in the game, the harder they’re going to play.”
“We just expected it to be a blowout like every year,” admitted Gilbert. “But you just can’t do that.”
As penalties mounted for both sides — there were 22 total, many of which were of the personal-foul variety — one key special teams play proved pivotal for Ashland.
Punter Dylan Patrick pinned Boyd County deep in its territory, at the 1-yard line, late in the third. The Lions nearly went down for a safety, and gained no yards in three plays.
Even though Boyd County forced a Baker fumble on the ensuing possession, it couldn’t muster up enough offense to make a serious comeback.
Ashland also had trouble putting points on the board in the early going during last week’s 34-24 defeat of Rowan County.
Love said the offense is not a concern.
“You can say it was kind of stagnant, but there were reasons for that,” Love said. “Tyler (Rose) did a good job, but he hasn’t been working there the whole year. Hunter (Prince) had been taking all the snaps.”
Prince, who was injured in the Rowan County contest, should return in the coming weeks, said Love, but no set date has been specified.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.