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Morris wants intensity high for Cougars

Mayfield defenders Kylon Galbreath (4) and Travon Halliburton (24) lock in on Hancock County quarterback Darian Clay last week in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs. Halliburton recorded a fumble return to start the Cardinals' scoring en route to a 56-28 blowout win.

JOSEPH "PEE WEE" PETTY/The Mayfield Messenger

By ERIC WALKER ewalker@mayfield-messenger.com

Intensity and focus are the two messages Mayfield head football coach Joe Morris has been conveying to his team this week as they prepare to take their second step into the Class 2A postseason tonight.

The Cardinals started off well against Hancock County in last week's 56-28 opener, taking a 49-12 halftime lead. But Morris said he witnessed that intensity trail off as the game went along.

And to earn a return trip to the University of Kentucky's Kroger Field, that level has to remain constant and consistent for four quarters and for the remainder of the Redbirds' run.

"It's five tough weeks and you've got to stay focused. You can't have a letdown," he said. "You've got to be ready to play if it's at home, on the road or wherever. The biggest thing is to stay intense, no matter what the score is."

Improving to 11-0, Mayfield struck rapidly and ripped off 474 offensive yards, led by Jayden Stinson's 187 passing and Kent Trey Matthews' 152 rushing yards for a combined five of the Cardinals' seven offensive touchdowns. Travon Halliburton led off the scoring mix with a first quarter fumble return.

Hancock County, the Second District's fourth seed, reached the end zone once in each quarter off runs from quarterback Darian Clay. Running the triple option, Clay scored from 64, 82, 54 and 55 yards out and totaled 276 rushing yards of the Hornets' 315 total ground gains.

Morris did note that the Cards' defense spent a good amount of time on the field due to how fast the offense was scoring.

"We never had to punt, we scored on every possession, didn't turn the ball over and we scored quickly," he said. "We were ahead pretty good, but credit them. They do a nice job with their offense."

McLean County comes into War Memorial Stadium tonight with a new offense for Mayfield to tackle, as well as the momentum of the program's first playoff win in 25 years.

The 8-3 Cougars, who finished Second District runners-up with a 49-6 loss to Owensboro Catholic, advanced to tonight's matchup after a 56-point win over Ballard Memorial last week. Junior fullback Peyton Caraway led McLean in rushing with 210 yards, followed by senior Noah Baldwin's 136. Both scored twice, as did Landon Capps.

McLean County, which last played Mayfield in the 2003 Class A playoffs, spread its Wing-T run offense over nine rushers and amassed 552 yards against the Bombers. That followed racking up 561 run yards against Webster County, 72-33, the previous week.

With all the offensive looks Mayfield has seen - from triple option to spread to "everything but the kitchen sink" - this will be their first glimpse of the Wing-T this season.

"We've seen it all, but that's the way it is," Morris said of this time of year. "They'll get out there and make your corners and safeties make tackles, then they'll pound you with their big 240-pound fullback (Jacob Miller)."

The Cougars have rushed for 3,822 yards this season. Caraway has over 1,000 total, while Baldwin, Miller and Capps all have over 600 yards. Miller and Baldwin get the lion's share of carries with a 125 average.

"They run the same thing but give you certain formations, so we've got to make sure we're lined up correctly, especially on the back end," Morris said. "The biggest thing is to not let them keep the ball and make first downs."

Defensively, McLean is led by linebacker Andrew Munster (5-8, 160) and tackle Nikolas de la Cruz (6-0, 245). Munster leads the team with 143 tackles and Cruz has 11 sacks to his name.

"They're going to come ready to play. At this time, teams are going to give you their best shot," he added. "Their community is excited and will come down here with confidence. We can't let them gain confidence."

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

Class 2A Playoff Games

Today

Murray at Owensboro Catholic

Carroll County at Glasgow

Monroe County at Walton-Verona

Lloyd Memorial at Christian Acad.-Louisville

DeSales at Newport Cent. Catholic

Danville at Somerset

Lexington Christian at Shelby Valley

Class 2A Playoff Games

Today

Murray at Owensboro Catholic

Carroll County at Glasgow

Monroe County at Walton-Verona

Lloyd Memorial at Christian Acad.-Louisville

DeSales at Newport Cent. Catholic

Danville at Somerset

Lexington Christian at Shelby Valley