ASHLAND Ominous skies, a 45-minute lightning delay and downpour couldn’t put a damper on win No. 700 in Ashland Tomcat football history.
Playing in their home opener, the Tomcats became just the ninth Kentucky school to reach that milestone with a 53-7 washout of Boyd County on Friday night.
“It means so much, especially happening here at Putnam Stadium,” Ashland coach Tony Love said. “You can look around and feel the tradition. You think of all the people that played here. It’s very humbling in terms of the legendary coaches. You feel pretty small, I guess.”
Love has contributed plenty to the rich history. He owns a .723 winning percentage in seven head coaching seasons after spending 19 years as an assistant with the program.
“You try to put a mark on it in a positive way,” Love said. “I have a great staff. I brag on these guys all the time. They work tirelessly. I’m surrounded by a lot of support here. I’m just a fortunate person.”
The Tomcats, ranked fourth in the season’s first Associated Press Class 3A poll, put on a highlight show to mark the occasion.
Blake Hester and Keontae Pittman — Ashland’s elusive backfield combo — zigzagged their way for five touchdowns. Safety Hunter Gillum returned a fumble for a score, while wideout Colten Pinson caught a TD pass before shifting to quarterback and throwing for another.
Ashland (2-0) rolled to a 41-0 halftime lead and never punted.
“We were flowing together really nice,” Gillum said.
Jake Gregg connected on 6 of 7 passes in his Putnam Stadium debut as the Tomcats’ new starting quarterback. The only incompletion was a drop.
Gregg and JT Garrett hooked up fot 41-yard gain to set up Hester’s first score from two yards out. Pittman burst up the middle for a 49-yard TD on the first play after Gillum made a fourth-down stop at midfield.
After Boyd County turned the ball over on downs at Ashland’s 19, Hester showed nifty footwork during an 81-yard drive capped by his 2-yard dive into the end zone.
“Those are probably the two best backs we will see all year,” first-year Boyd County coach Evan Ferguson said.
Next, Ashland’s defense got in on the scoring act. Gillum scooped up a Lions’ fumble and carried it 13 yards to the end zone as the lead grew to 27-0.
“It felt great,” Gillum said. “I didn’t play last year. I missed out, so I’m happy to be out here and especially being part of this win.”
Boyd County (0-2) showed signs of a productive running game but lost three fumbles and went 0-for-3 passing with an interception.
“Whenever we executed, it worked,” Ferguson said. “But there were times we reverted back to the old way.”
Lightning stopped play with just under four minutes remaining in the half. Shortly after play resumed, Pittman made a nice cutback for a 23-yard TD.
Gillum came up with another key defensive play, intercepting Boyd County quarterback Logan Lunsford and returning it 27 yards to the Lions’ 35. Gregg rolled out and hit Pinson in the end zone on the final play of the half.
Hester’s 14-yard scoring run and Pinson’s 21-yard TD pass to Vinny Palladino stretched the lead to 53-0.
Boyd County avoided the shutout on Joe Lusby’s 54-yard run in the closing minutes. Lusby finished with 111 yards on 15 carries.
“People tell me we’re improving, but we’re not close to where we want to be,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got to make sure we bring it for 48 minutes. Tonight we just didn’t do that.”
Ashland’s No. 700 will be commemorated next Friday night when the Tomcats host George Washington.
As part of the celebration, all former Ashland players are invited to participate in a special pregame ceremony. Plans will be announced early next week through local media.
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BOYD CO. 0 0 0 7 — 7
ASHLAND 14 27 6 6 — 53
A — Blake Hester 2 run (Ethan Slone kick), 7:22
A — Keontae Pittman 49 run (Slone kick), 3:42
A — Hester 2 run (run failed), 8:32
A — Hunter Gillum 13 fumble return (Slone kick), 7:02
A — Pittman 23 run (Slone kick), 2:45
A — Colten Pinson 27 pass from Jake Gregg (Slone kick), 0:00
A — Hester 14 run (kick failed), 10:05
A — Vinny Palladino 21 pass from Pinson (kick failed), 5:54
BC — Joe Lusby 54 run (Clayton Crum kick), 2:49
First Downs 8 14
Rushes-Yards 35-167 27-207
Comp.-Att.-Int. 0-3-1 7-8-0
Passing Yards 0 116
Fumbles-Lost 4-3 0-0
Punts-Ave. 3-22.7 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-19 3-30
Boyd Co. rushing: Joe Lusby 15-111, Lawson 8-23, Lunsford 10-21, Kelley 1-9, Stephens 1-3.
Ashland rushing: Pittman 5-84, Hester 12-82, Pinson 1-28, Palladino 2-24, Gregg 2-minus 1, Mullins 4-2, Team 1-minus 12.
Boyd Co. passing: Lunsford 0 of 3 (1 int.).
Ashland passing: Gregg 6 of 7 for 95 yards, Pinson 1 of 1 for 21 yards.
Boyd Co. receiving: None.
Ashland receiving: Garrett 2-48, Pinson 1-27, Palladino 1-21, Hester 2-12, Pittman 1-8.