With a 42-15 victory on Friday night at the Reservation, the Southwestern Warriors eliminated the Whitley County Colonels from postseason play for the second consecutive year.
Southwestern, with the 27-point victory over the Colonels, will now meet up with Pulaski County in next week's Class 5A District 8 Championship game. Whitley County, meanwhile, will see their 2020 season come to a close with an overall mark of 2-6.
The Warriors rattled off 35 unanswered points to begin the playoff game, and they would never look back, rolling to a 42-15 triumph over the Colonels, who added a pair of late scores to spoil the Southwestern shutout attempt.
Second-year Warrior football coach Jason Foley enjoyed seeing his team open the postseason firing on all cylinders, tallying five touchdowns before Whitley County got on the board late in the fourth quarter.
"I was very pleased with the way that we came out," began Foley. "I thought the first half was excellent. We are hard to beat when we come out strong, and that is what we did tonight. It's a win or go home format, and I thought our guys were ready to play."
After making an interception on the defensive side of the ball, Southwestern's Tanner Wright capped off the ensuing drive with a two-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the ballgame. Wright's score allowed the Warriors to take an early, 6-0 advantage over Whitley County.
Southwestern tallied 21 unanswered points in the second period to take a 27-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Wright scored on a 21-yard touchdown run and Giddeon Brainard ran through the defense for a 67-yard score before Chanler Crabtree hit Maison Hibbard for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Less than two minutes into the third stanza, Southwestern's JJ Hutchinson tallied his first-ever varsity touchdown on a 29-yard touchdown run. With Connor Crisp's two-point conversion run, the Warriors would take a 35-0 lead over Whitley County that would remain the same until less than four minutes left in the contest.
With 3:55 left to play in the ballgame, Whitley County's Chase Pennington fell onto a loose football in the endzone, allowing the Colonels to get on the board for the first time of the night. A Christian Grubb two-point conversion run cut the Warrior lead to 35-8 with just under four minutes to go.
Both teams added scores over the course of the final two and a half minutes of action. Hutchinson tallied a five-yard run for the Warriors, while Caden Petrey hit Sam Harp for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Southwestern finished with 464 yards of total offense, racking up 399 yards on the ground and another 65 yards through the air. One blemish on the evening for the Warriors was that they were penalized on ten occasions for 105 yards.
The Warriors' rushing attack was led by Brainard, who rushed for a game-high 110 yards on just five carries. Wright added 84 yards and two scores on 13 attempts, while Christian Walden had six rushes for 73 yards. Crisp had eight attempts for 68 yards, while Hutchinson chimed in with 45 yards and two touchdowns on four carries.
Offensively, the Colonels had 277 total yards of offense. Whitley County had 203 passing yards and 74 rushing yards.
Whitley County's bright spot on the night was the arm of Petrey, who was 13 of 23 for 203 yards, one touchdown, and a lone interception. Harp, who hauled in three receptions for 88 yards and one score, was the Colonels' leading wideout.
Southwestern, who moved to 9-1 on the year with the win, will now turn their attention to next week's district title game, where they will face the Pulaski County Maroons. Pulaski County advanced to the district championship game with a 33-12 victory over North Laurel.
Foley and company are looking forward to practicing the week of Thanksgiving and then going up against a crosstown rival on Black Friday. The Warriors will look to win their second straight district championship with a win over the Maroons, who took the regular-season meeting by a 15-12 margin.
"To be able to practice Thanksgiving is a special feeling, and not a lot of teams get to experience that, concluded Foley. "We are very excited about that, and we are looking forward to the next round."
Follow Michael Childers on Twitter -- @MChilders_22
WC -- 0 0 0 15 -- 15
SW -- 6 21 8 7 -- 42
WC: Leach 4 -- 35, Gilbert 7 -- 20, Smith 2 -- 12, Steely 3 -- 5, Petrey 11 -- 2
SW: Brainard 5 -- 110 TD, Wright 13 -- 84 2 TD, Walden 6 -- 73, Crisp 8 -- 68, Hutchinson 4 -- 45 2 TD, Ethan Ware 4 -- 33, Farler 1 -- 6, Hibbard 1 -- (-3), Crabtree 4 -- (-17)
WC: Petrey 13/23 203 TD INT
SW: Crabtree 5/12 65 TD, Hibbard 0/1
WC: Harp 3 -- 72 TD, Steely 4 -- 57, Potter 1 -- 38, Gilbert 1 -- 12, Hamblin 1 -- 9, Estes 1 -- 7, Leach 1 -- 4, Croley 1 -- 4
SW: Hibbard 2 -- 42 TD, Ian Ware 2 -- 14, Hutchinson 1 -- 9