Cardinals look to capture 13th state championship Saturday

JOSEPH "PEE WEE" PETTY/The Mayfield Messenger

Kade Neely (2) takes the pass from Jayden Stinson to the end zone in the Cardinals' 35-7 semifinal win over Beechwood last Friday night.

Lucky number 13.

That's what the Mayfield Cardinals have worked towards all season long, a chance to capture their 13th Kentucky state championship.

Sporting a 13-1 record and riding a 10-game winning streak, head coach Joe Morris and his Cardinals will have their third chance to bring home title number thirteen when they face off against the Somerset Briar Jumpers on Saturday afternoon in the class 2A state championship game at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky.

Mayfield has coasted through the class 2A playoffs this fall, defeating their four opponents by an average margin of 38 while outscoring them 205-58.

Heading into the Cardinals' third consecutive state championship game, Morris says his team is ready for the challenges Somerset will bring.

"We've gotta be able to slow them down and not let them keep the ball out of our hands. It's going to be a challenge, we know that, but it'll be a challenge for them as well so it ought to be a great game, our kids are looking forward to it and getting the chance to win a state championship."

The Somerset Briar Jumpers own a 13-1 record as well with their only loss coming in a 34-35 defeat to Lexington Christian back in October.

Following that loss, the Briar Jumpers have rattled off six straight victories including a revenge win over LCA on the road in the second round of the class 2A playoffs.

On offense, Somerset is led by quarterback Kaiya Sheron.

Sheron is a dual threat quarterback who will look to give the Cardinals' defense trouble as his ability to tuck and run is just as good as his throwing arm. On the season, Sheron has thrown for 3,043 yards on 167-243 passing with 27 touchdowns and five interceptions.

When he drops back in the pocket, Sheron looks for one receiver in particular, Kade Grundy.

Grundy has hauled in 1,390 yards receiving with 15 touchdowns on 64 receptions this season.

When it comes to playing defense against a player like Sheron, Morris says the plan is simple, they've got to contain.

"He's going to scramble out and make some plays but we have to limit how many times he does that. He's elusive, big and throws the ball well on the run so we're going to have to contain him. I've told the guys, this is the state championship game, they're a very good football team, but we're awfully good too."

On the ground, the Briar Jumpers will turn to multiple players for carries including Cam Austin, Jase Bruner and Mikey Garland.

While Somerset is known for their running game, Morris believes sticking to the same game plan and defensive execution will be the keys to success.

"They're a power team that has some good athletes out there that can make some plays. The bottom line is their bread and butter is running the football in between the tackles behind a big offensive line. They'll give it to three or four guys and we just have to be able to match their intensity and execute like we did last week."

On offense, Morris says protection will be important and he believes his offensive line is ready for the big stage.

"We've got to be able to protect Jayden," Morris said. "Their linebackers aren't real fast but they're big plugers so we have to make sure we get a body on them when we run the ball. We're going to take what they gave us, if they put five in the box we got to be able to run the football, if they throw in six, it opens up the chance to run or pass. Our offensive line has improved as much as any group on our team this year and they're looking forward to a big challenge."

With this being the senior class' last shot at earning a coveted Mayfield Cardinal state championship ring, Morris says his guys know greatness is earned, not given, and that a win on Saturday afternoon will be a hard fought battle.

"This has been a great senior class," Morris said. "One thing that's eluded them has been winning a state championship. We've run into two very good teams the last two years so hopefully Saturday will be better, this group deserves it. I've told them nothing is handed to you, though, they don't just hand out state championship trophies to anyone. I'm going to tell them to go out there and play with everything they've got but also relax and have some fun. This is why you work so hard from January to now. We're going to give a great effort and hopefully Saturday night we'll be on our way home celebrating our 13th state championship."

Mayfield will take on Somerset Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. EST at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky.