Tilghman, defending 3-A state champion and ranked 4th in the latest Class 3-A poll, scored two touchdowns in the second and third quarters and prevailed 41-21. But the game was much closer as WCHS sliced a 24-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to just 13 points and had the ball in Paducah territory.
"We continued to fight just like we've done all year. Even though we were down three touchdowns, these kids never gave up and really had them (Paducah) back on their heels," noted WCHS head coach Matthew Kettler. "I'm very proud of how we played and we had a chance to pull off a big upset."
Webster (3-4, 1-1) took the fight to the Blue Tornado from the opening kickoff. After a stalled initial possession by the Trojans, a muffed punt by Tilghman opened the door for WCHS. Laken Benson recovered the loose ball at the Paducah 46 and Coach Kettler opened the offensive series with a little 'razzle-dazzle'. Jamey Kennada took the snap from center and sprinted to his left. Quarterback Landon Harting was lined-up in the slot on the left side of the ball and he took the pitch from Kennada and sprinted by to the right of the field. The misdirection caught the Tilghman defense asleep as Harting launched a 'bomb' to Benson who was sprinting down the right sideline. Benson caught the 40-yard pass and raced to the 1-yard line before being dragged down.
Three plays later, Harting punched in the 1-yard touchdown. Kyle Welshans booted the PAT as Webster held a surprising 7-0 lead with 7:24 to go in the first quarter.
"We came into this game to win it, we weren't just gonna roll over simply because they were defending state champions and ranked fourth in the state," Kettler stated.
The speedy Tilghman squad was quick to answer, scoring a touchdown in just three plays on its next possession. A 47-yard romp by all-state running back Justin Williams set up the score. PT quarterback Sam Cox finished off the drive with a 6-yard TD run. The extra point sailed wide as WCHS held a slim 7-6 lead with 7:01 on the clock. Webster moved into Tilghman territory again on its next drive but the movement stalled and the Blue Tornado took over at the WCHS 25. A nine-play drive by PTHS powered the ball all the way to the Webster 8-yard line. But an inspired Trojan defense would not give in, as Kennada and Michael Whitacker stopped Williams in the backfield on a fourth-and- one at the eight.
"That was one of the times that we did a nice job of stopping the run. But that's certainly something we've got to get better in doing, stopping the run," Kettler added.
Tilghman rolled up 366 rushing yards, led by 205 from Williams on 14 carries. Tilghman scored the go-ahead touchdown midway through the second quarter on an 18- yard romp from Williams. The PAT made it 13-7 with 7:14 left in the first half.
Webster threatened to score on its next possession as Harting again hooked-up with Benson a 63-yard completion all the way to the Tilghman 19. That reception pushed Benson's season-total past the 400 yard mark. But the Blue Tornado defense stood firm and held on downs with 4:39 on the clock.
"They've just got college talent all over the field," Kettler said. "Even if you get deep into their territory, they have the players to stop you cold," the WCHS coach added.
Williams highlighted Paducah's next scoring drive with a 47-yard sprint to the WCHS 38. Two plays later, Cox passed to Terrell Murdock for a 10-yard TD reception. The PAT boosted Tilghman's lead to 20-7 at intermission.
Paducah looked to blow the game wide open in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Cox fired a 57-yard touchdown strike to University of Kentucky signee and Mr. Football candidate Josh Forrest on the first play of the second half. That pushed the lead to 27-7. Another big pass play to Forrest ignited Tilghman's fifth touchdown in a row to expand the margin to 34-7 with 8:55 left in the third quarter. But the Trojans fought back, riding the strong arm of quarterback Harting. He hooked up with senior Derrick Douglas for a 19-yard gainer facing a fourth-and-10 at the Tilghman 20. Harting finished off the drive on the last play of the third quarter with a 1-yard run for his second touchdown of the game.
"They (Paducah) pretty much stopped our running game so we went to the air and had some success," Kettler explained. Webster managed just 45 yards on the ground but Harting passed for 185 yards on 13-of -35 attempts.
A Tilghman fumble, one of three turnovers by the Blue Tornado on the night, led to Webster's third touchdown of the game. Taking over at the PT 42, Harting connected with Clay Putman at the 31. On the next play, Harting tossed a strike to Putman for the 31-yard touchdown, Putman's first of the season. Welshans added the PAT and the Trojans had trimmed the lead to 34-21 with 8:34 left in the game.
The excitement on the WCHS sideline really started to mount when Welshans "squibbed" the ensuing kickoff and caught Tilghman asleep. Webster recovered the on-side kick at the PT 48. But the Trojans could manage only four yards on three plays, forcing a punting situation at the 44. Kettler again tried a 'trick play' and called the fake punt. And it was just inches from being successful as Harting's pass went off the fingertips of wide-open Benson sprinting down the sideline.
"We had the momentum right then and if we make that play and score, then we have a real shot at an upset," Kettler said.
Webster got the ball right back on an interception by senior Jacob Clinard. Thanks to a pass interference call against Tilghman on a fourth down pass attempt to Benson, the Trojans were poised to score at the PT 25. But again, the Paducah defense showed why it's so highly touted in the state, holding the Trojans on four downs and taking over with 3:25 to go. A pair of quarterback sacks did most of the damage.
PTHS put the finishing touches on the victory with an 80-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 6-yard TD run from Shaquille Jordan. The PAT set the final at 41-21.
"We've just got to fix a few things on both sides of the ball and we've got to do a better job of protecting our quarterback and a better job up front on blocking for the run," Kettler added.
Tilghman amassed 476 total yards while the Trojans managed 232. Jamey Kennada led WC's rushing attack with 34 yards on 17 carries. Putman added 22 yards on seven totes. Benson paced the receiving corps with 125 yards on six catches. Webster took advantage of Tilghman miscues as the Blue Tornado fumbled five times and lost four. They also were flagged 10 times for 135 yards in penalities. The Trojans step out of district play this week, hosting a very solid Glasgow squad. The Scotties will travel to Dixon sporting an impressive 5-1 record, including five wins in a row.
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