TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By John Stepp / The Endzone Staff
CORBIN — It’s not often that high school football games are decided by game-winning field goals, but the Knox Central Panthers had to use the leg of freshman kicker Jacob Tate to get past Southwestern Pulaski, 31-28 in the opening game of the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic.
Tate was not the only hero for the Panthers on Friday night. Knox Central also got big games from senior running back Jonathon Gist and junior wide receiver Matthew Barger. Gist finished the game with 213 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns, while Barger had a overall outstanding performance with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, an 11-yard touchdown reception, an interception and fumble recovery.
“G-man played a big ball game for us. I have to do a better job on play calling and getting him a little more rest. I’ll take some blame for being predictable, but he did a heck of a job,” said Knox Central Coach Scott Russell. “Matthew played a great game. He does a little bit of everything for us. I wanted to play him some more at quarterback tonight, but we didn’t get to do that.”
After the Panther fumbled on the opening kickoff, Southwestern answered quickly with a touchdown run from Logan Campisano. Barger answered the score with a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to tie the game at seven, apiece.
The Warriors wasted no time putting their second touchdown on the board, this time on a touchdown run by quarterback Jesse Meece, to give Southwestern a 14-7 lead with 8:42 left to play in the first quarter. Knox Central tied the game at 14-14 with just over a minute left in the second half, when freshman quarterback Casey Diamond connected with Barger for a score.
“It’s good for our character to come out here and show that we can come back from being down a touchdown and pull it out in overtime,” said Russell. “Don’t be fooled by that score last week, though. Southwestern has a very good football team.”
The teams continued to match scores in the second half, heading into overtime tied at 28-28. After the Knox Central defense held the Warriors on four downs to open the overtime period, Tate nailed the game winning field goal to seal the victory.
“We’ve been sending him (Tate) to all these kicking camps this summer and we wanted to be able to use him as much as we can. Once we got down there we said that we were going to kick it and it worked out for us,” said Russell.