The Somerset Briar Jumpers football team recovered and powered through the undefeated Breathitt County Bobcats to get a 40-25 victory at William Clark Field last night.
“We set a goal of going to state finals and fell short a few times, like all teams do,” Somerset High School football coach Robbie Lucas stated. “This time these guys were able to come through. I am extremely proud after we got down by 13 early. There was a reason Breathitt County was 13-0, and they definitely belonged in the state semifinals.”
“These guys do a good job of not getting too far up or too far down,” Lucas said. “They did a really good job of being even keel and playing through some bad plays early on and some good plays by Breathitt. The momentum swung two or three times, and I feel like we got on top of it each time.”
Breathitt received the opening kick and on their first offensive play, quarterback Jaylen Turner found Jacob Noble wide open in the middle of the field for an 80-yard touchdown.
The Bobcats were all over the ball on defense after sending it to the Jumpers and forced a quick three and out.
Not only did the Bobcats have flawless opening possessions on both sides of the ball, but after Somerset punted the ball back to Breathitt, they topped their first offense play.
This time, on the opening play of their second possession, Turner handed it off to running back Charles Collins. Collins ran left and sped past the line of scrimmage, and reached the left sideline. Collins then broke multiple tackles and took it all the way to the end zone for an 83-yard score.
After a failed point after attempt, the Bobcats led 13-0 with just over nine minutes to play in the first quarter.
Although Breathitt had all the momentum in their favor, the Briar Jumpers came out calm and collected. Quarterback Kaiya Sheron completed some short passes to Kade Grundy and Carson Guthrie, and shared carries with Cam Austin and Jase Bruner to work the ball down field.
The Jumpers slowly took it deep into Bobcat territory, and Jase Bruner closed the drive with a touchdown run from 9-yards out.
Not only did Bruner put in work on Somerset’s first scoring drive, he also put the ball right back in the hands of the Jumpers offense a few plays later when he intercepted Turner.
Bruner’s interception was a real momentum shifting play, perhaps the biggest of the game, and with that, the Briar Jumpers took off.
On the first offense play after the interception, Sheron lobbed it up to Grundy who was one on one in the end zone. Although the defender was in front of Grundy, Kade elevated and snatched it above the Bobcat corner for a 30-yard touchdown. After the successful point after attempt by Christian Whitis, Somerset led 14-13 with just over two minutes left in the first period.
Later, at the start of the second quarter, Grundy took a screen pass 75-yards to the end zone, but a holding call brought it back. However, Grundy stole the play of the dive. Sheron launched it deep, and even with the defender all over him, Grundy bobbled the pass and caught it for a 41-yard score.
When Breathitt got the ball back, Turner completed a 21-yard pass to Brandyn Slaughter to put the Bobcats in Jumper territory.
After moving on to Somerset’s side of the field, multiple runners carried it until they got all the way inside the Somerset 10-yard line. Collins punctuated their drive and added his second rushing touchdown of the night, this time from 9-yards out.
Breathitt attempted a two point conversion that would have tied the game, but Collins was stuffed by a pack of Jumpers and Somerset held onto their lead at 21-19.
Later in the quarter, Somerset worked it down field with a powerful ground game and several short completions by Sheron. Mikey Garland smashed it through the line of scrimmage to score his first of the night from 5-yards out.
The Bobcats had two minutes to try and make something happen before halftime, but Jumper defensive back Tate Madden picked off Turner to crush their final opportunity of the half.
The Briar Jumpers were quick to move the ball downfield, and on third and seven from the Bobcat 8-yard line with twenty seven second left in the half, Sheron found Guthrie in the end zone. The score and point after put Somerset up 34-19 heading into the break.
After the break, Somerset had a chance to further extend their lead on the opening possession, but a fumbled snap on third down to end their drive.
Breathitt then capitalized on the stop. First, Turner rolled right and connected with Slaughter to put the Bobcats in Somerset territory. Collins took the drive into his own hands and smashed it all the way to the Jumper 1-yard line and then punched it in for his third score of the game.
After stops by both defenses, the Briar Jumpers added another with a 2-yard touchdown within the first minute of the fourth quarter. However, the failed extra point attempt put Somerset up 40-25, so the Bobcats were still just two possessions away.
However, later in the fourth quarter Chaz Gilmore tipped a pass that Braxton Ohara, and Madden swooped in and snagged his second interception of the night.
The interception allowed the Jumpers to stall out the rest of the clock, and obtain a 40-25 victory.
“Somerset has been to the state finals five times and haven’t won it yet, and that is our goal,” Lucas stated. “In 113 years of football, we have not had a state title in the modern day, and it would mean a lot for this community if we could bring back a state title.”
It is really difficult to choose a top performer for the Jumpers as the whole team was exceptional. Top performers include Sheron, who dominated through the air and on the ground, Grundy, who led the team in receiving yards and caught two touchdowns, Bruner who rushed for a touchdown and came up with a game changing interception, Garland who rushed for two touchdowns and dominated on the ground in the second half, and Madden who came up with two interceptions.
Last season the Jumpers season ended in the state semi-finals, this year however, the Briar Jumpers advanced through the semi-finals and they meet the Mayfield Cardinals next week in the class 2A state championship match up at Kroger Field. This will be Somerset’s sixth state championship appearance. So far the Briar Jumpers have not came home with the trophy, but it could all change next week.