LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It was going to take a miracle.
As the clock struck 0:00 at Kroger Field in the Class 2A State Championship Football Game Saturday afternoon, the Mayfield Cardinals led the Somerset Briar Jumpers 31-28. However, a pass interference call in the end zone gave the Jumpers one last shot from the Mayfield 20-yard line.
With the majority of the Cardinals' defenders playing deep, junior quarterback Kaiya Sheron took the snap and found senior receiver Tate Madden wide open in the right side of the end zone for a walk-off 34-31 victory.
"Coach called a good play," a joyful Madden said with his arms wrapped around the state championship gold trophy. "I didn't know I was going to be that wide open and I kind of got scared, but I wanted to win this game. We just deserved this state title trophy so much. Mayfield gave us a good game and gave us all we wanted."
"On that last drive we knew we were going to have to get some chunk plays really fast and we did a good job of that," Madden added. "We weren't down on ourselves, and we knew we could still win this game."
After five unsuccessful state championship appearances, and well over 100 seasons of Briar Jumper football, the sixth time is a charm as the Jumpers left Kroger Field with the championship trophy.
The odds were stacked up against Somerset leading up to the miracle pass. Mayfield turned the ball over on downs deep in Jumper territory, leaving Somerset on their own 14-yard line with just twenty-eight seconds left on the clock.
On first down, Sheron was forced to scramble, because nothing was open, and he got out of bounds after a gain of 6 yards. He followed that with an incompletion, but on third down, Sheron found junior receiver Kade Grundy with a first-down throw to the SHS 27-yard line with just nine seconds left on the clock.
With time running out, Sheron hit Madden in stride down the left sideline for a 38-yard completion. Madden went out of bounds at the Cardinal 35-yard line with enough time for one final play.
With one final shot at victory, Sheron rolled right and targeted Grundy in the right side of the end zone as time expired. But before the ball reached its target, Grundy was hit from behind by Mayfield sophomore defensive back Ben Gloyd and multiple flags came out.
The pass interference call on Gloyd set up the Kroger Field miracle, and the Briar Jumpers left the field as champions.
"Our defense stepped up and got a stop, and our offense kew what to do," Sheron exclaimed. "We scored twice the same exact way. We knew that they were going to cover our strong side and we had a guy wide open both plays. We stuck to that and we scored."
From the very beginning, Somerset was considered the underdog in this matchup. Mayfield has been a small school powerhouse for years and won back to back to back class 1A state titles earlier in the decade before moving to 2A. The Cardinals then took home their fourth consecutive state championship, this time in Class 2A. Not only that, but Mayfield has been 2A runnerups for the past two seasons, and this was supposed to be the year they emerged with another title.
However, Somerset came out of the gate hot and quickly took it into Mayfield territory after receiving the opening kickoff.
The Cardinal defense stopped the Jumpers on third down on the opening drive. However, on fourth and one from the Mayfield 43-yard line, senior Jase Bruner busted through the line and took it all the way to the end zone. Senior Tommy Wombles sent through the point after attempt and the Jumpers took a 7-0 lead early in the first.
Mayfield wasted no time answering Somerset's score, and on the third play of their first offensive drive, senior quarterback Jayden Stinson hit fellow senior Diaz Perry in stride over the middle of the field for a 77-yard touchdown. The touchdown evened the score with just under nine and a half minutes left in the first quarter.
Midway through the quarter, Somerset moved the ball all the way to the Mayfield 1-yard line, and junior Mikey Garland broke a tackle and powered into the end zone to help re-establish the Jumper lead.
Later in the second period, after senior Alonzo Daniel recovered a Somerset fumble, the Jumpers stopped Mayfield on third down with the Cardinals near the Somerset goal line. Senior kicker Micah Haley booted a 22-yard field goal, and Mayfield trailed 14-10 with just over seven minutes left before halftime.
The Jumpers duplicated their last offensive drive and they easily marched it very deep into Cardinal territory, and Garland ran in his second touchdown of the game, this time from 3-yards out.
With just under two minutes left in the first half, Mayfield drove it downfield with urgency. Stinson quickly took them into SHS territory with completions to senior Tate Puckett and Perry. After advancing all the way to the Somerset 1-yard line, senior Markeacio Jackson pounded it in to cut the Somerset lead to four at 21-17 going into halftime.
After the break, both defenses battled and held the third quarter scoreless. However, the Jumpers were driving toward the end of the period, and at the start of the fourth quarter, Mikey Garland pulled off the hat trick and scored his third touchdown of the night. His 5-yard scoring jaunt put the Jumpers up 28-17 with 11:35 left to play.
Following the Jumpers' score, Stinson's passing completions and big runs by junior running back Kylan Galbreath moved the ball deep into Somerset territory.
On second and eight to go from the Jumper 11-yard line, Stinson connected with Puckett the back of the end zone, and completed a pass to sophomore Nathan Watkins for a successful two-point conversion to cut the Somerset lead to just three points.
Even though Somerset led for majority of the game, and Mayfield had not had a single lead, everything was about to change.
On the kickoff following the Cardinal touchdown, the ball slipped right through the hands of junior Cam Austin and he was unable to get to it before a pair or Cardinals jumped on it. The recovery put Mayfield at first and goal from the Somerset 7-yard line.
Galbreath found an opening and scored from 7-yards out on the Cards' first offensive play after the recovery. For the first time in the game, Mayfield had a lead.
Somerset go the ball back, but the Cardinals quickly forced them to punt. As Mayfield drove the ball downfield and time ticked off the clock, things looked grim for the Jumpers.
However, Somerset's prayers were answered and a miracle at Kroger Field gave the mighty, fighting Briar Jumpers the perfect end to a fantastic season.
Prior to the Class 2A State Championship game, Somerset junior quarterback Kaiya Sheron was named the Class 2A Player of the Year, and was named MVP of the championship game. Sheron gave credit to the Briar Jumpers' large fanbase that made the trip to Kroger Field.
"This win is for that community behind me (in the stands) and I think that is everybody in Somerset," Sheron laughed. "They had our back, we had theirs. We knew we were capable and we knew what we had to do to win this thing."