In the very first Notebook of the 2019 season, which was also the Pre-Season preview, the very first words mentioned about the 2019 Class 2A Season was as follows:
QB1 is Storyline Number One
Class 2A has not exactly lacked for solid QB play over in recent years, but it has never been as deep and rich in talent as what we will see in 2019. In fact, you can argue there might not be another Class in all of the Commonwealth with the wealth of riches that will be on display at the signal caller position from Mayfield to Jackson.
As the 2019 State Finals fall upon us, no words have proven more prophetic as it was truly a special year of witnessing the QB position and the play of these signal callers certainly molded the landscape of where we are today. There is no surprise that as we narrow the field to the final two teams, arguably the top Senior and top Junior QB are the ones left standing. Before we dive deep into what is to come on Saturday, let's first showcase how Mayfield and Somerset reached this pinnacle.
MAYFIELD 35 BEECHWOOD 7
Entering the week, the big question would be if Beechwood could rise to the occasion and go toe to toe with Mayfield's explosive offense. It didn't take long for the Cardinals to make a statement that they planned to do what they have done all season long, an 80-yard scoring strike from Jayden Stinson to Kade Neely, quickly gave Mayfield a 7-0 lead and forced Beechwood to have to play catch up.
The star of the night proved to be Mayfield RB Kylan Galbreath. The Junior has slowly matured into one of the best backs in the Class, and he added his own 80-yard statement via the terrestrial route allowing Mayfield to jump out to a 14-0 lead which would prove insurmountable. Stinson and Neely's chemistry produced their 20th TD combo on the season and the Cardinals led 21-0. Beechwood would get a 43-yard scoring toss from Cameron Hergott to Parker Mason, but the hole was already too deep.
With a comfortable lead in hand, and Beechwood struggling to sustain success on offense, Mayfield went with a very ground heavy attack in the final 24:00. Galbreath would add a Third Quarter score to break Beechwood's back, and then add his second 80-yard sprint to pay-dirt to get the small town travel agents booking hotel stays in Lexington. All told, Galbretah would tote the mail for 252 yards. Nelly would finish with another 150+ yard receiving performance and added an Interception for good measure on defense. Mayfield limited Beechwood to a meager 156 yards of total offense.
SOMERSET 40 BREATHITT COUNTY 25
In last week's notebook it was foretold that Breathitt County would come out with vinegar in their veins and try to make a statement early, but ultimately the more battle tested and veteran Briarjumper team would steady themselves and ultimately take care of business. That is exactly what happened in the Briar Patch.
The first two plays on offense for Breathitt County quickly produced two scores and a 13-0 lead. A long TD pass on play action to Jacob Noble from Jaylen Turner followed by a lengthy TD jaunt by C.A. Collins had the Bobcats stirring. Somerset answered with a lengthy and efficient drive that stilled the nerves and made a statement. Jase Bruner ultimately would punch it in from shy of the 10 yard line. Bruner was not finished. On the ensuing posession he snagged pivotal Interception. The ensuing play on offense was a Kaiya Sheron to Kade Grundy fade that quickly resulted in Somerset's first lead at 14-13.
Somerset would extend their lead when Grundy turned a short pass into a 75-yard sprint to the endzone. Breathitt refused to break, another Collins TD would cap off their next drive following the score that brought the Bobcats within two points at 21-19 early in the 2nd Quarter. Somerset made their biggest statement in how they closed out the Half. Another impressive drive mixing the pass and run concluded with a Mikey Garland score. After the second pass by Turner to be picked off, the Jumper two-minute offense went to work and secured a 34-19 lead at the break after Sheron located Carson Gurthie for a short scoring strike from the 8-yard line.
Somerset had a chance to put the game out of reach coming out of the break but lost a fumble and gave Breathitt new life. C.A. Collins continued to showcase why he was the top RB in Class 2A by capping off the drive for his third score bringing the Bobcats back within striking distance at 34-25. Garland would add his second score on the ground early in the 4th Quarter to set what would be the final margin at 40-25. Breathitt's fate was then sealed with the third picked off pass, Tate Madden's second, and it was a matter of milking the clock from there on.
The ever versatile and efficient Sheron did what he has done all season. He paced the Jumpers with 316 total yards, throwing for over 200 and rushing or over 100, and accounting for three scores. Kade Grundy would snag 10 passes and gain 145 yards in a mostly possession based role outside of his 75-yard score.
MAYFIELD VS. SOMERSET
So it all comes down to this. Perhaps the two most balanced and advanced offensive teams in Class 2A, as well as perhaps two of the most opportunistic defenses, squaring off with the hardware on the line.
So where do we start when handicapping what to expect come Saturday?
Here are the Three Keys for each team:
1. Spread Them Thin- The teams who have sustained the most success against the Cardinal defense this season has done so by forcing the Cardinal LB's and Secondary to play sideline to sideline and down the seams. Mayfield is a vastly improved defense after some early season hiccups, but they still are not exactly the Legion of Boom in the back half. Somerset needs to utilize their athleticism and size and create some jump ball situations as well as use some short passes in the flats to open up the intermediate stuff in the middle of the field and lanes to run.
2. Don't be Sheron the Football- It would be easy for Sheron to rely on his talent and be a gunslinger with his skill-set, but the Junior has been a model of consistency and needs to continue that in the Finals. The last thing you want against Mayfield is to give them extra opportunities to score points, so protecting the football and making decisive moves will be key. When Sheron does choose to scramble, it is paramount to take what is given to him and not jeopardize a fumble or injury looking for the extra yard. Mayfield is good enough to beat you, don't give them an edge.
3. Selective Amnesia- Mayfield will hit big plays. It is a foregone conclusion. Outside of some of the big class teams remaining, this would be the case against nearly any team in Kentucky, let alone Class 2A. They are geared to do this and have the personnel to pull it off. The key for Somerset is to accept that big plays will happen, but don't let them haunt you r force you out of your game plan. With every deep fly or post is an opportunity for a big gain, but also an opportunity for Somerset's excellent talent to make their own big play. Play every down in the present and just try to equal the amount of big plays Mayfield makes, and let your offense do their consistent thing.
MAYFIELD 1. Do That Thing You Just Did- The best way to beat Somerset is to beat them at their own game. LCA handed Somerset their lone loss and gave them a heck of a battle following this recipe. Be efficient on offense, control the clock, and pick your battles to go for a big play on both sides of the ball. The model Mayfield exhibited most of the game against Beechwood is perfect. The Cardinals established the run and leaned on it, while picking spots to attack for the big play using Stinson, Neely, and the lot.
2. Win Special Teams- By and large, both teams are pretty even and similar in most regards in the two primary disciplines. Somerset is not a weak team in Special Teams, but they are not a dominant team. The Jumpers have had some inconsistencies and Mayfield has a chance to make some ground up in this discipline. Micah Haley has been ultra consistent in his place kicking duties and his ability to hit a Field Goal could be an added bonus in a game where every point matters. Diaz Perry is a very under the radar Cardinal athlete, if he can make some magic in the return game it could be a catalyst.
3. Livin' on the Edge- The single biggest battle to watch when seeing Somerset's defensive strategy may very well be how the Jumpers set the edge and keep contain against Sheron's scrambling ability. Frankly put, Sheron's feet are every bit as dangerous on 3rd and Distance as his arm. The teams who have made Somerset the most uncomfortable have been the teams who have done the best job of pressuring Sheron off the edge while avoiding allowing him to scramble into the second level. Mayfield has to be strategic on when they choose to bring pressure because between Sheron's elusiveness and Grundy's ability to dominate single coverage, it could be a recipe for disaster or the key in getting them off the field.
Expect a great one. These are two very entertaining teams with loads of star power and big play ability. The small details will add up in this one, so the team who simply executes the best in every discipline will ultimately be in the best position. Call it a sentimental pick, but Somerset's great tradition simply has not matched their trophy case for many years. This may be Somerset's best chance to get that elusive title and it also may be Kaiya Sheron's ultimate "Look at Me" moment and his platform for a 2020 Mr. Football push.