If you took a look at the stat sheet, Saturday’s matchup of Christian Academy of Louisville vs. Bell County in the 2023 KHSAA 3A State Championship, the game looked a little one-sided. That is, if you look at the time of possession.
In barely 12 minutes, CAL managed to put up 41 on the Bobcats to earn their second straight 3A State Championship. Head Coach Hunter Cantwell has been with the Centurians for five years. Two out of those five have resulted in championship trophies.
Cole Hodge: the Renaissance Man
Quarterback Cole Hodge can do it all. From throwing 80-yards down the field, to running in touchdown after touchdown, the senior has proven himself all season long to be the most versatile player of this CAL team. The East Carolina commit had 3,870 passing yards coming into Saturday’s game, and added 225 more on 18-20 passing with two throwing touchdowns. Hodge didn’t even throw his first incompletion until the third quarter. The QB was named MVP after leading his team to victory.
On the ground, Hodge added three more touchdowns, bringing CAL’s grand total to five. Hodge only had 37 rushing yards, but boy did those yards make an impact on the game. But, Hodge wouldn’t have been able to win this game on his own. With the help of brother Connor Hodge, sophomore standout RB Jeffrey Vazzana, WR Trey Cotton, and fellow senior Justin Ruffin, CAL made winning look easy.
Cotton was a crucial piece for CAL’s win. The junior WR had 82 receiving yards on four completions. Also an important part of Saturday’s victory was Ruffin. The senior recorded 59 receiving yards, including a 31-yard touchdown pass from Hodge. Vazzana totaled nine yards on three receptions. Senior LB John Cobaugh even added a touchdown off a 77-yard fumble recovery.
Connor Hodge, Cole’s younger brother, had an impact on both sides of the field. The junior had 75 receiving yards, including a 5-yard reception to mark the final touchdown of the game. Plus, Hodge had 10 tackles, five of which were solo.
Bell County, the team that likes to take it slow
The Bobcats held possession of the ball for 35 minutes and 48 seconds, just shy of three quarters of the total play time. In fact, the Bobcats had possession for the entirety of the first quarter but didn’t score once. In 12 minutes, Bell County slowly inched its way down the field on the ground. QB Blake Burnett didn’t even throw the ball for the first time until midway through the second quarter.
Burnett finished Saturday’s game with only 57 passing yards on 4-6. Instead of Saturday’s game relying on their passing game, the Bobcats relied on the country’s rushing leader, Daniel Thomas. The senior had 40 carries totaling 133 yards on the ground. Thomas, who is also a Mr. Football candidate, added one of two touchdowns to the board for the ‘Cats.
The only other touchdown came from Blake Evans at the very beginning of the second quarter: a one-yard rush into the end zone. Bell County’s defense, on the other hand, left little to be desired. As a team, the Bobcats only had 24 tackles, allowing 283 total yards from the Centurians.
It seemed as though the Bobcats were trying to stick with what worked all season long. But against a team as defensively elite as CAL, playing a full 48 minutes on the ground wasn’t going to work in their favor.