Mayfield over Murray High

Murray High quarterback Rowdy Sokolowski tries to escape several Mayfield players in the Class 2A First District Championship Friday night.

MAYFIELD — Every time the Murray High Tigers coughed the ball up Friday night, they were one more turnover closer to giving the Class 2A District 1 bragging rights back to the hometown Mayfield Cardinals. With an overwhelming total of seven fumbles, the Tigers (8-3) gifted the Cardinals (11-1) points and field position all night long in the second round of the playoffs, eventually falling 55-6.

Exactly 350 days from the last playoff meeting between the two schools, Mayfield got their revenge for their loss in last year’s triple-overtime classic and this season’s loss, as well. Exploding for 430 yards of offense this time, the Cardinals jumped out of the gate early after stopping Murray on 4th-and-3 from inside their own territory. A 21-yard touchdown pass from Cardinal sophomore quarterback Zane Cartwright to junior wide receiver Isaac Stevenson at the 7:58 mark of the first quarter was all Mayfield needed to beat Murray on this night, but they weren’t satisfied with stopping there.

On the next play from scrimmage, Murray fumbled for the first time in the game, and Mayfield was quick to take advantage, as Cartwright found junior wide receiver Gavin Jackson for a 36-yard touchdown pass for a 14-0 lead, just 13 seconds after their first score. The Cardinal offense wouldn’t look back.

Mayfield’s defense wasn’t to be outdone, however. They forced another Murray punt on the next series and Cardinal senior and newly-committed Murray State Racer Kylan Galbreath scored on the ground from the Tiger 27-yard line to make the score 21-0.

And as if from a terrible déjà vu nightmare, Murray would fumble once again on their next play from scrimmage and three plays later, sophomore running back Jutarious Starks would find the end zone on a 17-yard run to make the score 28-0 with 1:53 left in the opening period and the rout was on from there.

Murray just couldn’t get their ground game into a rhythm all night long, which was partly due to the turnovers and missing starting sophomore  running back Gage Sokolowski who did not suit up for the Tigers. They managed only 142 yards on the ground, well below their season average of 333 yards per game and good for third best in the state of Kentucky. 

Three more touchdowns setup by Tiger turnovers were put on the scoreboard by the Cardinals in the second quarter to fire up the running clock and give Mayfield a 48-0 halftime lead.

“We ran into a good Mayfield football team on a good night,” said first-year Tiger Head Coach Darren Bowling. “We were a little flat coming off the big win last week and we were a little out of sync having to move players around due to unfortunate circumstances beyond our control.”

Murray was finally able find the end zone when senior quarterback Rowdy Sokolowski ran the ball in from the Cardinal 2-yard line on 4th-and goal with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. Mayfield held Sokolowski to just 11 rushing yards in the game, well below his average. Sokolowski walked off the field for the last time in the black and gold on Friday night, with career totals of 1,922 passing yards, 23 passing TD, 1,942 rushing yards, 29 rushing TD, a 1st District Championship (2020) and was the signal-caller in both of the two wins over the rival Cardinals, the first ones this century. No other Murray High quarterback can claim the latter.

“This group of seniors played every game with heart, determination, class and pride,” said Bowling. “They say that coaches have an opportunity to change the lives of our youth, but I say that my coaching has been influenced by the young men I have had the pleasure to coach along the way, and this group of seniors has definitely left its mark on me.”

Bowling will now have to look to the future after his first year in Tiger Town. He will be losing several key pieces to his offense and defense as ten seniors depart his already undermanned team. He’ll have to start by naming a quarterback to fill in after Sokolowski, which all signs point to rising-junior Colin Wilson taking the reins, but he has yet to throw a pass in a Tiger uniform.

Seniors Caleb Gill, Caleb Cauley, Tuaete Vou, Cameron Youngblood, Tyrone Grogan, Mekhi Hudspeth, Zach Lasater, Will Mitchum and Andrew Orr wrapped up their Tiger careers Friday night, as well, so Bowling has his work cut out for him to keep his program growing.

“I feel like God led me to Murray High School for a reason. Maybe it was for these seniors. Maybe it was for me. Or maybe, just maybe, it was for both. There is a time and season for everything and this season was good for all of us.”