Simon Kenton's offense came into Friday night's playoff game against Tates Creek averaging 42.8 points per game over their last six contests and having not scored fewer than 33 points in a game during that time span. It was the Pioneers' defense however that led them to a 23-13 victory over Tates Creek in the first round of the 6A Kentucky State playoffs.
The Pioneers' defense bowed their collective back multiple times throughout the game with Tates Creek in the redzone, including a stop on 4th and 4 when the Commodores were inside the Pioneers' 20 yardline in the fourth quarter.
- Postgame: SK head coach Jeff Marksberry
- Postgame: SK linebacker Austin Baldwin
"I told the kids tonight after the game that offense wins games and defense wins championships," Simon Kenton head coach Jeff Marksberry said about his defense's performance. "They came out ready to play. We gave up some big plays but they came through when we needed them too."
Early on it looked like the Pioneers' offense could have another big night as quarterback Chad Lawrence found Ryan Winkler for a 42-yard touchdown to put the first points of the game on the scoreboard. Earlier in the drive Winkler became the all-time receiving yards leader in Simon Kenton history with a first down catch.
Simon Kenton left the door wide open for the Commodores to get back into the game at the end of the first quarter though with a fumble around midfield. Just over a minute into the second quarter, Tates Creek tied it up on a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Martrell Berry to wide receiver Austin Crutcher.
The Pioneers moved the football the rest of the first half but they struggled to finish their drives as they ended up settling for two field goals. The first came with 8:52 left in the first half when Simon Kenton looked like they were going to answer the Commodores touchdown, but instead settled for three points courtesy of the right leg of Cody Herald. Then right before the end of the half with 20 seconds left, Herald hit another 23-yarder to give his team a 13-7 lead heading into the locker rooms.
The second half got off to a quick start as Tates Creek recovered an onside kick to open the half and were then able to parlay that into seven points when Berry connected with Crutcher again – this time for a 15-yard score. The Commodores had a chance to take the lead but Simon Kenton linebacker Austin Baldwin hurdled the line on the extra-point attempt and disrupted the PAT to keep the game tied at 13-13.
"He loves to get back there and make plays and make big plays," Marksberry said about Baldwin. "That's been the theme of our defense all year. We've got three good linebackers that feed off of each other."
The Pioneers then went to Herald again after another drive stalled out in the redzone. He nailed the 24-yard attempt to give Simon Kenton a 16-13 lead. They looked like they might put the game away after the ensuing kickoff as Tates Creek fumbled it back to Simon Kenton. However, the Pioneers once again struggled inside the redzone and were forced to call on Herald one time too many. The senior kicker just missed the 35-yard attempt wide to start the fourth quarter.
The Pioneers were able to jump back into the driver's seat midway through the fourth quarter when junior defensive linemen Derek Mills recovered an errant snap on the Commodores punt attempt and returned it for his first career touchdown.
The Pioneers' defense took the game over from there as they forced a Tates Creek stop deep in their own territory and got the ball back to the offense with just over three minutes to play. Simon Kenton was able to run the rest of the clock out to preserve their 23-13 win and advance to the next round to face Henry Clay.
Lawrence was 17-of-23 for 163 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He also carried 19 times for 82 yards. His favorite target Ryan Winkler caught 9 balls for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Simon Kenton will play at Henry Clay next Friday night. Marksberry said that who won the Henry Clay and Conner game made no difference to his team.
"It doesn't matter because we played Henry Clay this season too. We played them in week 4 and that was a tight ball game. We just look forward to the opportunity to play in the second round."
Written by: Rick Broering, TriStateFootball.com