The Beechwood Tigers overcame many obstacles this season - injuries to key players, early-season losses, and a suspension of nearly half of their team to start the postseason. However, they failed to clear the one last hurdle as they fell 35-14 to the Mayfield Cardinals in the Kentucky Class 1A state semi-finals on Friday night in front of their home crowd.
Mayfield (13-1) let the Tigers hang around during the first half and went to the locker room with the game knotted at 14-14. The Cardinals made some key adjustments on defense at the break and got a huge effort running back Jonathan Jackson to put up 21 unanswered, second-half points.
Jackson amassed 158 of his 213 rushing yards in the final two quarters of play and finished with three touchdowns on the night. He was the Tigers' nemesis last season as well as he rushed for 197 yards versus them as a junior.
Beechwood (9-5) got off to a fast start and scored less than three minutes into the contest when sophomore Joe Studer followed up his big game-opening kick return by pulling in a 9-yard pass from freshman Kyle Fieger for a score to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.
It took the Cardinals until their second possession to respond as Jake Guhy connected with Jordon Brown for a 20-yard TD with 59 seconds left in the first quarter to knot the game at 7-7.
The Tigers moved the ball well on their ensuing drive, but a bad exchange led to a fumble at the Cardinals' 6-yard line. The defense would quickly hold Mayfield to a three-and-out and set up Fieger's second passing TD of the half as he found junior Max Shover from five yards out to put Beecwhood back up seven.
It appeared as if Beecwhood would take the lead to the locker room, but they couldn't move the chains and Mayfield burned three times to get the ball back before the half.
A shanked punt set up the Cardinals with a great field position as they started on the Tigers' 36-yard line. Jackson would make them pay when he punched one in on the ground to tie the game at 14 with just 51 seconds left in the half. It proved to be a huge momentum swing.
Mayfield got the ball to start the second half and quickly turned it in to six points as Jackson hit paydirt from one yard out less than three minutes into the third quarter. Guhy and Brown would hook up for another score midway through the quarter to give the Cardinals a 14-point advantage. Jackson's third touchdown with 8:43 left in the game would seal the deal.
Max Nussbaum ran for 102 yards on 21 carries, but was held to just nine yards on three carries after the half. He finishes his career with 24 rushing touchdowns, but failed to score here. Fieger completed 7 of his 13 passes for 41 yards and two scores in the loss.
It marks the fourth straight year that Mayfield has handed Beechwood a season-ending loss late in the playoffs. The Cardinals will look to win their second state championship in three years and 11th overall when they square off next Friday versus Fairview in the state championship game at Western Kentucky University's Houchen Stadium.