Trinity beats Lafayette for record 24th state title

Trinity Shamrocks football

By Jason Frakes, 

USA TODAY High School Sports is a partner of High School Football America

Trinity quarterback Spencer Blackburn keeps it for a run during the first quarter of the Class 4A State Championship between Trinity and Lafayette at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Dec. 3, 2016

Trinity quarterback Spencer Blackburn keeps it for a run during the first quarter of the Class 6-A State Championship between Trinity and Lafayette at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Dec. 3, 2016

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – In four seasons with the Trinity High School football program, running back Jovan Smith said no off-season was tougher than the last off-season.

Spurred by a loss to Male in the third round of the playoffs last year, Shamrocks coach Bob Beatty wanted his team to be tougher and started the process in January.

“I didn’t know Coach Beatty could get that tough,” Smith said. “Practices were harder. We went four days a week in the hot summer. It was a grind, and we fought through it. It made us stronger and faster and tougher.”

The Shamrocks got their ultimate reward Saturday night, getting a test from Lafayette before scoring the final 29 points in a 56-21 victory in the Class 6-A state championship game.

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A crowd of 7,253 at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium saw the Shamrocks reach all kinds of milestones:

* The 24th state title broke a tie with Highlands for the most in Kentucky history.

* Beatty became the first coach in state history to win 12 state titles, breaking a tie with Highlands’ Dale Mueller.

* Trinity became the 17th program in state history – and the quickest – to reach 600 victories, improving its all-time record to 600-160-7.

* The Shamrocks finished 15-0, completing their first undefeated season since 2011.

Beatty loathes discussing such milestones but did relent a bit when pushed on the topic.

“It’s really nice to not be tied with Highlands for the most state championships anymore,” he said.

Trinity quarterback Spencer Blackburn finished his career with a flourish, completing 14 of 16 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 110 yards and two scores on 11 carries.

Smith added 100 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Junior Rondale Moore, the speedy transfer from New Albany who electrified the Trinity offense during the playoffs, had seven receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown.

Lafayette quarterback Walker Wood, a University of Kentucky commit, completed 13 of 17 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown before going out of the game with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter.

Some Lafayette fans and players contended the hit on Wood was late, and his injury escalated the tension in an already heated contest that included 31 penalties – Trinity with 17 for 186 yards and Lafayette with 14 for 140 yards.

The teams did not exchange handshakes when the game was over.

“It hard to see your brother go down like that, late hit or legal hit,” Generals coach Eric Shaw said of his team’s emotions after Wood’s injury. “It’s still hard to see that. That’s how much they love one another.”

After falling to Male 41-14 in last year’s state final and losing to Trinity 45-7 earlier this season, Lafayette provided tougher competition Saturday. Wood’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Quinten Brown brought the Generals within 27-21 with 9:08 left in the third quarter.

But Trinity needed little time to respond, marching 61 yards in seven plays and taking a 34-21 lead on Smith’s 9-yard touchdown run.

Trinity’s Robbie Lewis recovered a fumble on Lafayette’s next possession, setting up Blackburn’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Noah Ellison. Smith’s two-point conversion run gave Trinity a 42-21 lead at the 3:36 mark of the third quarter.

“We came out playing their game and their tempo, but once we play our game and our tempo no one in the state can compete with us,” Blackburn said.

The Generals (13-2) finished with three turnovers, compared with two for Trinity.

“Turnovers were the key,” Shaw said. “Those turnovers stalled drives and gave them great field position. You can’t give them great field position. They’re too good to play them on a short field.”

Smith’s 15-yard TD run and Blackburn’s 71-yard touchdown pass to Moore completed the scoring in the fourth quarter.

The victory capped the ninth undefeated season in Trinity history.

“We won it back in 2014, and it felt great,” Smith said. “But there’s something about being 15-0. It has a ring to it.”

* At halftime, the Kentucky Football Coaches Association named Cooper’s Dante Hendrix the Class 6-A Player of the Year and Ryle’s Mike Engler the Class 6-A Coach of the Year.

Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and jfrakes@courier-journal.com.

LAFAYETTE          7             7             7             0 – 21

TRINITY               14           13           15           14 – 56

T – Spencer Blackburn 30 run (Zach Williams kick); L – Cameron Morgan 4 run (Sutton Averitt kick); T – Blackburn 2 run (Williams kick); T – Jovel Smith 38 pass from Blackburn (Williams kick); L – Walker Wood 3 run (Averitt kick); T – Noah Hoffman 6 pass from Blackburn (run failed); L – Quinten Brown 51 pass from Wood (Averitt kick); T – Jovan Smith 9 run (Williams kick); T – Noah Ellison 8 pass from Blackburn (Jovan Smith run); T – Jovan Smith 15 run (Williams kick); T – Rondale Moore 71 pass from Blackburn (Williams kick).

L                            T

First downs         25                          23

Total yards          342                       481

Rushes-yards      44-160                 33-259

Comp-Att-Int      14-18-1                14-16-1

Passing yards      182                       222

Fumbles-lost       5-2                        2-1

Punts-avg            2-34.5                  0-0

Penalties-yards  14-140                 17-186

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Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.

About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.