To say that the Kentucky Warriors have been on a roll in the past two weeks would be an understatement. Just one week after beating the Carter County Wildcats 65-0, the Warriors took their first-round playoff matchup with the Cincinnati Blue Devils by a score of 41-0.
What’s more impressive is all of Kentucky’s scoring came in the first half. The Blue Devils forfeited the game before coming out on the field for the second half.
“It was kind of strange. I’ve never actually been a part of a game like that,” Warriors head coach Jamie Rice said. “I think they just decided it was time for them to go home.”
Rice said the game was played clean by both sides and no fights had broken out before halftime. The forfeit may have come because of the Blue Devil’s lack of depth, as only 20 players made the trip to Spartan Stadium.
As has been true all season, the Warriors defense and special teams lead the way, forcing three turnovers and scoring two touchdowns. The defense allowed just 93 yards on 32 offensive plays by the Blue Devils.
Safety Snook Martin lead the way, picking off two passes and returning a punt for a touchdown. He also recorded four tackles.
Early in the first quarter, Martin surprised the Blue Devils by fielding a short punt and returning 47 yards for a Warrior touchdown. Linebacker Josh Payne then put an exclamation point on the defense’s day when he picked up a fumble on the Warrior’s 31-yard line early in the second quarter and returned it all the way for a touchdown.
“The defense in general, those guys are really starting to get it,” Rice said. With that much pressure on a quarterback (5 sacks, 8 QB hurries) and the way our DBs are playing … I wouldn’t want to play against those guys.”
After jumping out to a big lead early, much of the work offensively fell on the shoulders of Warrior running backs Jontez Jones and Luke Brown. Starting quarterback Jonathon Schweickart attempted just three passes all night, completing two of them for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Though Brown touched the ball just five times, he made his carries count. Late in the first quarter, he jumped clear over a Blue Devil defender on his way to the end zone, something Warrior fans have grown accustomed to seeing since the back’s first season with the team.
Later in the game, with the first half winding down, Brown bowled over a defender on his way to the end zone to the Warrior’s sixth and final touchdown on the night.
“He’s such a hard runner and he’s such a big guy … he absolutely punishes them,” Rice said. “Then, later on in the game, he sets them up and they start diving at his ankles, and he just leaps over them. That guy is just a phenomenal athlete.”
The Warriors’ weren’t the only team to win in a rout in the first round of the Northern Frontier Football League playoffs. The four top seeds in the tournament advanced by a combined score of 169-2 in Saturday’s games.
With the victory, the Warriors advance to the Conference Finals where they will play the Columbus Gladiators. With a trip to the Championship game on the line, the 10-1 Gladiators (their only loss coming by forfeit) will be one of the biggest tests for the Warriors this season.
In a preseason scrimmage, the Gladiators defeated a short-handed Warriors team by a touchdown. However, with his team hitting it’s stride, Rice is confident that the Warriors’ best is good enough to beat the second overall seed.
“If we play well, I think the score will take care of itself,” Rice said. “We’re trying to better ourselves, and what we did the week before.”
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter