LOUISVILLE – Technically, it can’t be labeled an Instant Classic.
After all, ESPN has dibs on that.
What transpired here Saturday night at old Cardinal Stadium, however, is going to go down in the memory of the 20,000-plus fans that shivered through the Class 4A state championship as quite possibly the greatest high school football game they will ever witness.
Generations of Kentucky prep football fans will talk about the night Louisville’s Trinity and Male high schools treated them to the most thrilling, explosive game imaginable. And unlike some sports stories that get embellished and contorted into artificial greatness as time passes - cue up the E. Street Band for a little “Glory Days” - they won’t have to make up astonishing tales for this one.
It’s all in the record books for the sports world to gawk at forever more:
Trinity 59, Male 56.
In the highest scoring state championship game in history, the Shamrocks and Bulldogs combined for 1,337 yards, 17 touchdowns, 63 first downs, just three punts (all in the first half) and, amazingly, only one turnover. That proved to be a big one as Trinity intercepted a Male pass at its 1-yard line with just over a minute to play to end the slugfest and clinch its 14th state championship.
“There was a lot of heart shown on both teams,” said Trinity coach Bob Beatty. “Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose, but that will be something we all hold with us for the rest of our lives.”
That sentiment was echoed on the Male side.
“I tip my hat to the kids on both these teams. We saw something pretty special tonight,” said Bulldogs coach Bob Redman. “There weren’t any losers out there tonight.”
Fittingly, two of the best players the state has ever produced were at center stage for the epic battle. Brian Brohm (right), a junior quarterback and recent Sports Illustrated coverboy, led Trinity up against Male’s senior quarterback, Michael Bush.
Bush, who was named Mr. Football earlier in the week, is one of the nation’s most coveted recruits for the Class of 2003. He has dozens of scholarship offers with almost every major program knocking at his door.
Meanwhile, Brohm, the younger brother of former University of Louisville and NFL quarterback Jeff Brohm, figures to be one of the marquee names for 2004. In his two seasons as the Shamrocks’ starter, he’s passed for 86 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
On this night, both of them were on top of their games like never before.
Brohm completed 19 of 25 passes for 552 yards and seven touchdowns. His gorgeous scoring strikes came from 32, 72, 45, 18, 36, 77 and 85 yards out. He also ran for an additional 52 yards and another score.
Bush was 33-of-47 for 468 yards and six touchdowns while carrying the ball 24 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. He never came off the field, playing more than 150 plays on offense, defense and special teams in a “Rocky-type” effort that personified this heavyweight bout.
“He’s a warrior,” Beatty said. “I knew the kid was exhausted, but he kept coming out with a lot of heart.”
And these were no pushover defenses, either, mind you. Trinity entered the game as one of the toughest units in the state, surrendering only 6.1 points per game. Male wasn’t much worse on the season, allowing only 13 points per game against an incredible schedule that included the likes of Hopkinsville, Fort Thomas Highlands, Lexington Catholic, Owensboro and St. Xavier.
At one point in the third quarter, the two fighters exchanged knockout punches four times in a 3:51 second span, begging for the pep bands to break into dueling “Anything you can do, I can do better” melodies.
“It was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal,” Beatty said. “Never seen anything like it.
“What I think we saw tonight was two special kids who were not just city or state recognized, but nationally recognized. These are big-time kids… Those two guys are the best talent I’ve ever seen on the football field at one time. They’re in Sports Illustrated for a reason. When they come in and recognize your kids, you know there’s something very, very special.”
Bush (6-3, 235, 4.45), who caught 64 passes for more than 1,000 yards as a junior, was in his first season as a starting quarterback. He went from an athlete simply playing the quarterback position early in the season to incredibly poised and polished by Game 15. He finished the season with 2,891 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Prone to prematurely scramble and throw off-balance in September, December found Bush sitting comfortably in the pocket and delivering darts. That’s not to say he still can’t make things happen with his feet, though. He has that intangible “feel” for the game to avoid pressure and side-step defenders. And he does all of it with a calm and ease that makes it appear like he’s barely breaking a sweat.
Brohm (6-2, 192, 4.65), meanwhile, is adept at throwing out of the pocket or on the move. The Shamrocks often roll him to both sides, and he delivers with accuracy and authority. He throws an extremely “catchable” ball, leading receivers to near perfection. All he did this season was throw for 3,777 yards and 47 touchdowns with one lonely interception. Another year to mature physically could spell even more trouble for opponents.
Bush’s attention now turns to hoops – where he just may win the Mr. Basketball award as well – and the process of taking official visits. Louisville is considered to be the leader for his services, although Bush has not gone as far to state that publicly. Ohio State is also rumored to be making a strong push, with Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Wake Forest in the mix. All have agreed to let him pursue both sports.
The recruiting ride is just beginning for Brohm, who has been linked early with Notre Dame, Louisville and Kentucky.
Hold on tight.
CLASS 3A CHAMPIONSHIP
BOYLE CO. 21
ROCKCASTLE CO. 0
The Rebels became only the second team in state history to win four straight championships, turning back the Rockets in a rematch of last year’s title game.
Boyle County won back to back Class 2A titles in 1999 and 2000, and moved up to capture the last two in 3A. Beechwood won four straight Class A championships from 1991-94.
Senior wide receiver/safety Jacob Tamme was named MVP, catching four passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns and picking off a Rockcastle County pass.
CLASS 2A CHAMPIONSHIP
BREATHITT CO. 51
Breathitt County quarterback Justin Haddix capped a remarkable senior season and outstanding career by passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns. His three scoring strikes gave him 58 this season, setting a new state record. Male’s Chris Redman held the old mark of 57.
Haddix finished with 4,359 yards this season, the third highest figure in state history, and only eight interceptions. The Mr. Football runner-up also had 1,115 yards on the ground.
It marked the Bobcats’ third state championship, the previous two coming in back-to-back fashion in 1995 and ’96.
Corbin managed just 31 yards rushing and 27 yards passing against Breathitt’s stingy defense.
CLASS A CHAMPIONSHIP
Senior running back Derrick Parrott carried the ball a whopping 33 times for 157 yards and a touchdown to lead the Cardinals to their seventh state championship in school history but only the first since 1995.
It was the second week in a row Parrott played the workhorse role for Mayfield, coming off a 35-carry, 161-yard effort in the semifinals against defending Class A champ Danville.
In a matchup of perennial powers, Beechwood was denied its ninth state championship.
Mayfield coach Joe Morris joined his father, Jack, in winning state titles for the Cardinals, making them the only father-son tandem in history to accomplish that feat.