November 16th, 2010

Can Cougars Keep Up With Cardinals?

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Can Cougars Keep Up With Cardinals?
photo by Brad Knoop

Holy Cross set to battle unbeaten Mayfield

When you talk about Kentucky Class 1A high school football, it's tough to do so without mentioning four, perenially dominant teams: Danville, Beechwood, Pikeville, and Mayfield High Schools.

Since 1984, that fantastic foursome has combined for 19 state championships and a boatload of victories.

On Friday night, in the confines of Dixie Highway's Alumni Field, a newcomer is hoping to crash the party and prove its spot among the elite, as Holy Cross High School (11-1) welcomes the Mayfield Cardinals (12-0) to Louisville for a classic playoff contest and a game that will determine one of the class' four state semifinal teams.

Following the two seasons both of these teams have had, many predicted this would be the likely third-round matchup when the brackets were released four weeks ago. But now that one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season is upon us, the resounding question is this: can the Cougars hang with the Cardinals?

Mayfield, a western Kentucky school that rests roughly 229 miles from the Holy Cross campus, is a traditionally fast program that has enjoyed much success in state competition. Since 2000, the Cardinals have collected 117 total wins, including one state championship (2002), two tournament runner-up finishes, and five state semifinal appearances. That's nearly 11 wins per season under Head Coach Joe Morris, and a lot of postseason experience.

This season, Mayfield features one of its quickest teams in recent memory and touts a ferocious backfield duo that has combined for 1,765 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. Jonathon Jackson and Decole Noonan lead that charge and have been the catalysts for 593 total points scored by Mayfield. The Cardinals also have an accomplished quarterback - Luke Guhy - who is 118-of-176 on the season, leading to 2,250 passing yards and 28 TDs.

Who has Guhy thrown all of those balls to? Virtually every receiver on the team.

Mayfield has three WRs with 500 yards or more, as the trio of William Higginson, Javarius Richardson, and Devin Jones has combined for 23 of Guhy's 28 touchdowns. Four different receivers also have touchdown receptions this season. It's a balanced offense that has dominated opposing defenses, which also includes 10 games where the Cardinals scored 43 points or more.

The undefeated Mayfield team boasts a stingy defense of its own - a unit that has allowed a mere 113 points in 12 games, including five interceptions returned for touchdowns and a slew of forced fumbles and tackles for losses.

So can this be the year that Holy Cross gets over the hump, beats one of the "big boys," and reaches a state semifinal game? 

If that is to occur, the Cougars will have to rely heavily on a defense that has been equally efficient (152 points allowed) in 2010 and on a running back tandem that has put up significant numbers of its own. Anchored by Jesse Keen (1,302 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns) and Greg Johnson (846 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns), Holy Cross has frequently posted crooked numbers on its home scoreboard.

Five times this season, the Cougars have scored 54 points or more, including a 71-point effort in the current state playoffs. Holy Cross quarterback Cameron Scott has been another leader for his team, and while he has not put up the staggering numbers of his counterpart Guhy, Scott has been a picture of consistency, keeping his mistakes to a minimum and executing with precision game in and game out.

If you're looking for another way to compare the teams, Mayfield and Holy Cross do have three common opponets from this 2010 season: Caverna, Fulton County, and Paducah Tilghman. The Cardinals won all three of its games against that trio by a combined 161-40. Holy Cross went 2-1 against those same teams by a combined 140-43, but did lose to Tilghman 31-7 during its regular season finale at home.

These two teams have not played each other very much through the years, but they did meet up in the second round of the 2008 state playoffs, and Mayfield prevailed 24-7 in a game that was also played at Holy Cross' Alumni Field. The Cougars have a chance to get revenge on Friday, but more importantly, the opportunity to take down a team and a program that is synonymous with high school football in the state.

And if Holy Cross does pull off the "W," they would likely join Pikeville, Beechwood, and Class 1A defending champion Lexington Christian in the state football final four. Not bad company to have on Thanksgiving Weekend.



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