It just feels right.
Following a second round exit in postseason play a year ago, the Mayfield Cardinals (11-1) are back in the third round of the 2A state playoffs thanks to a 55-6 rout of Murray last Friday night.
One game away from a possible semi-state date with Beechwood High School, the Cardinals will look to take care of business at home this week as they host the Green County Dragons (11-1) at CFSB War Memorial Stadium.
Back-to-back blowout wins over Ballard Memorial and Murray helped the Cardinals reach third round action for the first time since 2019.
Tasked with taking down a much stronger opponent in Green County this week, Mayfield head coach Joe Morris admitted his team will have their work cut out for them.
“Green County will throw it a little more than Murray did, but they want to run the football,” Morris said. “They’ve got two thousand-yard rushers and their quarterback runs the ball well so they are definitely a running team. They’re big up front and their backs are big and run hard so it's going to be a challenge for us.”
The Dragons boast arguably the most talented rushing attacks in class 2A.
Led by 1,229 yard, 17 touchdown junior running back Blake Houchins, Green County also possesses an additional 1,000 yard rusher in sophomore Jullian Seymour who has rushed for 1,085 yards with 13 touchdowns.
The Cardinals will enter Friday night’s contest expecting a similar game scheme to the Murray Tigers’ rush-heavy attack from last Friday night.
Green County junior quarterback Zach Ferguson has only thrown for 404 yards on 30-54 passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions this season.
Although the passing game has been anything but lethal for the Dragons this fall, Ferguson possesses the ability to get out of the pocket and make opposing defenses pay, garnering 636 yards on 97 carries with a whopping 16 touchdowns.
Looking to bring the same intensity as they did against Murray last Friday night, Morris said the Cardinals defense will have to come prepared to win the battle at the line against Green County.
“Our guys really came prepared last week,” Morris said. “We knew what was going to come, we got lined up correctly and we played hard. This time of year, that’s what you have to do. We just have to be prepared to play and make plays like we did last week and if we don’t, it's going to be a really tough game. (Green County) is a good team at 11-1. They’re expecting to come down here and win. They’ve got guys that run the ball hard and play good defense so we have to match their intensity.”
On offense, Mayfield will look to keep things rolling as sophomore quarterback Zane Cartwright and a senior running back Kylan Galbreath lead the way.
Cartwright got back into a groove in the Cardinals’ blowout victory over Murray, tossing three touchdowns on 9-14 passing with 177 yards.
Galbreath avenged a late-fumble to Murray on October 22 by exposing the Tigers’ defensive line last week, rushing for 162 yards on 14 carries with three total scores.
If the Cards can get Galbreath established early on and Cartwright hits his targets, Morris and the Cardinals may just glide into their 12th semi-state appearance in 13 tries on Friday night.
“We always want to establish the running game,” Morris said. “But this team has been the type to stack the box and even put seven in the box with man coverage so if they do that, we’ve got to do some things with Zane and our receivers to open that up a little bit. If we can do that, we can get Kylan and Juju rolling. We’ve had a pretty good mix all year. Zane has had a great year, allowing us to throw the ball to multiple receivers so we think we’ve got a really good mix of playmakers. If we can keep our O-line consistent we should be fine.”
The Cardinals will host Green County at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night at CFSB War Memorial Stadium.