The Wayne County Cardinals, 10-1 on the season and Class 4A District Seven champions returned to action last Friday night traveling to District Eight champs Johnson Central.  The Golden Eagles were Class 4A defending State Runners-Up and advanced into the matchup with a 50-6 home win over Harlan County, while the Cardinals advanced into the matchup with a 63-49 home win over Corbin.  The contest marked the fourth meeting overall between the two schools and fourth meeting in five years, as Johnson Central claimed a 43-24 decision at Jewell Field in 2017, to own a 3-0 series advantage.

    Johnson Central scored two touchdowns in the opening four minutes of 
play and Wayne County lost starting quarterback Brody Weaver on their 
first offensive snap of the game, as the Eagles used 35 plays to net 
345 yards, all on the ground, to claim a 36-7 championship win. 
Johnson Central finished with four players with over 50 yards 
rushing, led by senior running back Devin Johnson, as the All-State 
candidate rushed 10 times for 124 yards and two scores.  The stalwart 
scored on runs of 15 and 26 yards, while senior quarterback Riley 
Preece added 76 yards on 11 attempts, which was highlighted by a 15-
yard scoring keeper, as the winners improved to 13-0 on the season 
and will host Madisonville-North Hopkins next week in the semifinals.
    "We knew going in Johnson Central had great size up-front and four 
or five guys that could break plays out of the backfield.  We got off 
to a difficult start with their quick score and a turnover, then we 
lost Brody on our first snap, but our kids never quit.  We actually 
were able to move the football, control the clock and had a couple 
chances to score in the first half, which could've made things 
interesting.  Just hate it for our kids and certainly hate it for 
Brody, but make no mistake we kept fighting, which is all we could 
ask for.  Credit those guys they have a great football team," said 
Cards head coach Shawn Thompson.
    Dillon Preston added 73 yards on 6 attempts, which included a 23-
yard scoring run, while Cody Rice totaled 58 rushing yards, including 
a back-breaking 45-yard scoring run just before halftime.
    "We had two chances to close the gap, one we, well I guess were 
stopped on the goal-line and another we fumbled away in their 
territory, but that score before the half was big.  We had settled in 
and despite being short-handed were moving the football, but that 
score really killed our momentum," said Thompson.
    Wayne County, which had their season end at 10-2, managed 48 plays 
for 214 yards with 11 first downs, led by junior standout Braedon 
Sloan.  Sloan forced into the quarterback spot, rushed 33 times for 
101 yards with a score and completed 6 of 9 passes for 105 yards. 
Senior Thomas Spencer led the way with 2 catches for 71 yards, while 
fellow seniors Dylan Godsey and Tito Ruiz grabbed two catches each 
for 22 and 14 yards.
    "What a job by Braedon Sloan as we have some Wildcat-formation plays 
with him at quarterback, to step-in with no-practice to run the 
offense and give us a chance to compete.  Without Brody, which was 
such a blow to our guys, we kept grinding and kept fighting, I hate 
it so much for our guys, as we felt like we had a good game-plan, but 
that was scrapped one play into our first offensive series.  No 
excuses, but we still hate it for our guys and still proud as heck 
that we never quit," said Thompson.
    Weaver suffered a knee-injury on a pass attempt and was helped off 
the field, as his status to the extent of the injury is unknown at 
press time.
    The Eagles opened the game with the football and used 5-plays to 
travel 54 yards and score on a Riley Preece 15-yard scoring keeper. 
Jake Headly added the kick to make the score 7-0 10-minutes left in 
the opening quarter.
    Johnson Central recovered the ensuing kickoff and four plays later 
it was Devin Johnson scoring from 15 yards out to push the lead to 
14-0 with still 8:13 left in the first period.
    After that Wayne County dominated the next 12-15 minutes of clock 
but was unable to put any points on the board.  The Cards used 13-
plays to march 50 yards and by some angles appeared to score, but a 
Braedon Sloan keeper was ruled short of the goal-line, which gave 
Johnson Central the football inside their own one and was quickly 
forced to punt.
    The Cardinals had excellent field-position in Eagle territory, but a 
fumble inside the 15-yardline stopped a second straight scoring 
    Wayne County forced a fumble of their own on the next series, 
recovered by sophomore linebacker Lee Shelton, but once again a drive 
inside the hosts' 35 yard-line stalled and the Cards were forced to 
punt, after a sack.
Johnson Central made the most of their final series of the second 
quarter and traveled 77 yards in 4-plays, capped off by a Cody Rice 
45-yard touchdown run with just 50-seconds to play in the half to 
make the halftime score 21-0.
    The Cards once again had a nice drive to start the second half, but 
after a turnover on downs it was Johnson Central using a powerful 
ground attack to add to their lead as Dillon Preston scored on a 23-
yard run and Jake Headly added the kick to make the score 28-0 with 
8:27 remaining in the third quarter.
    Wayne County had another turnover on downs on their next series, 
this time inside the Johnson Central 21 yard-line, as the Eagles 
answered that with an 11-play drive, ended with a Devin Johnson 26-
yard scoring run.  Johnson added the conversion run to enact the 
running-clock with a 36-0 edge with 11:44 left in the contest.
    The Cards didn't leave without hitting pay dirt as the squad used 8 
plays to net 52 yards and score on a Braedon Sloan 6-yard touchdown 
run.  The key play of the drive was a Sloan 40-yard strike to Thomas 
Spencer, as Patrick Radilla added the kick to close the score to 36-7 
with 5:15 left in the final quarter.
    Neither team would score again as Johnson Central would claim their 
fourth postseason win in five years against Wayne County with the 
36-7 win.      A review of the defensive stats credit senior linebacker 
Cody Roysdon with 9 tackles, while senior defensive back totaled 8 
stops.  Braedon Sloan contributed 7 tackles, while the senior duo of 
Riley Hancock and Tito Ruiz finished with 6 stops each.  The contest 
marks the end of the road for Wayne's senior class.
    "This team and those guys are really something special.  A district 
championship, ten wins and to have so many season records and even a 
KHSAA record, all that stuff involves and takes everyone.  These kids 
put on a pretty good show every Friday night and we're certainly 
thankful for our seniors and their commitment to this program.  That 
part of this game never gets any easier, but after that sting we'll 
get back to work, as we know 2020 season, literally is just around 
the corner," said Thompson.
    Congrats to Wayne County on a very successful season, a district championship and memories that will last a lifetime.

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