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
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.