FORT MITCHELL, Ky. – Max Nussbaum carried the ball 36 times and scored five touchdowns to help launch Beechwood to the Class 1A regional title, as the Tigers defeated Frankfort, 35-13, on Friday night.
Nussbaum rushed for 157 yards and four scores, caught two passes for 81 yards and another touchdown and grabbed an interception on defense to help advance the Tigers to the state final four.
"Max got things going for us early on, then the offensive line started getting cranked up," said Beechwood coach Noel Rash. "Our coaching staff did a tremendous job, figuring out where the pieces belong and who we should be getting into. That combination, with Max Nussbaum, is a deadly force for us."
The Tigers set the tone early, methodically taking the ball down the field 54 yards on nine plays on their first possession, capped by a 1-yard Nussbaum end zone plunge.
"That's what we've been doing forever, just going with power and running over people" said the senior, fresh off collecting the Tigers' title trophy.
As sure and steady as Beechwood was, Frankfort appeared rattled from the get-go. The Panthers' much-hyped offense moved the ball to the Beechwood 16 yard line on their first possession, thanks in large part to a pass interference call on the Tigers, before a high snap sailed over quarterback Chris Hawkins' head.
Running back Teantre McGee recovered the ball, but unwisely kept trying to turn nothing into something before finally being brought down for a 36-yard loss. Frankfort was forced to punt from midfield two plays later.
McGee fumbled on Frankfort's 24 yard line on the Panthers' next possession as well, setting up Nussbaum's second running score of the night, then Nussbaum intercepted a Hawkins pass on the Panthers' next play from scrimmage midway through the second quarter.
The Tigers staked a commanding lead on their next possession when Kyle Fieger found Nussbaum down the left sideline for a 59-yard scoring strike with 3:54 left before the half.
Frankfort finally showed some life before the break when receiver Aaron Jackson, who came into the game with 17 touchdowns this season, took a short pass from Hawkins and weaved his way to the end zone from 48 yards out at the 1:14 mark.
The second half could be summed up in four words: Nussbaum up the middle.
With the Tigers in control, the senior ran the ball 18 times between the tackles — on all but six of Beechwood's plays — adding two more touchdown drives to his tally before Frankfort added a late TD pass to Jackson as time waned.
Beechwood finished with only a 303-to-241 offensive yard advantage, but forced three Panther turnovers. The Tigers also held the Hawkins-Jackson connection, which paired for more than 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, to lackluster totals.
"We just put five guys in the box and took away their passing game," said Nussbaum.
Hawkins completed just 15 of 31 passing attempts for 153 yards — 48 of which came on Jackson's elusive scoring scamper before the half. Jackson ended the night with only five catches for 100 yards.
"Any time you put five guys in the box like we did, you've gotta run. But when you've got guys (on defense) like Nussbaum and Justice, McKown and Taylor Overstreet... those guys were special tonight," said Rash. "We forced them to throw into a bunch of defenders."
With the win, Beechwood advances to face its playoff nemesis Mayfield (12-1) next week. The Cardinals have eliminated Beechwood in five of the last six years. In his post game speech, Rash pointed to this year's highly anticipated tilt.
"Enjoy tonight, but we've got to come in and get right back to work in the morning. You earned this," he told his team, before signaling the Cardinals' reign is coming to an end. "This is your time! Earn it!"
at BEECHWOOD 7-14-7-7—35
B-Nussbaum 1 run (Sletto kick)
B-Nussbaum 7 run (Sletto kick)
B-Nussbaum 59 pass from Fieger (Sletto kick)
F-Jackson 48 pass from Hawkins (Spade kick)
B-Nussbaum 5 run (Sletto kick)
B-Nussbaum 3 run (Sletto kick)
F-Jackson 14 pass from Hawkins (pass failed)
RECORDS: Beechwood 9-4, Frankfort 11-2.
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