Playing in what might have been their final eight-man football game, the Eminence Warriors blew past North Hardin Christian, 58-18, on Friday night to win the unofficial Kentucky State Eight-Man Series Championship and end the regular season with a 7-3 record.
As teams all across Kentucky close out the regular season this Friday, the Warriors have a bye. They will then open the Class A playoffs against Ludlow at home on Nov. 6. Eminence lost to Ludlow in the first round last year and have never won an 11-man playoff game.
The Warriors, who have won numerous eight-man state titles, and a few other teams were trying to revive the eight-man state playoffs but it most likely came to an end Friday night. Evangel Christian and North Hardin Christian have dropped out of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, Beth Haven has dismantled its entire program and the other interested schools like Caverna and Fort Knox have decided to stick strictly to 11-man. The 58-18 victory over North Hardin Christian is possibly the final chapter to a long run in eight-man for Eminence.
“Our players wanted to end our eight-man tradition the right way,” EHS coach Steve Frommeyer said. “Right now, we’re the only team still left standing in Kentucky in eight-man football. There’s just not an interest any longer.”
Eminence also played North Hardin Christian on Sept. 18 when the Warriors struggled to pull out a win in a contest that came down to the wire. Not this time around.
The Warriors were in front 22-6 after the first quarter, 42-12 at the half and cruised in for the unchallenged win on Senior and Parent Night. The clock continuously ran down during the final quarter with neither team scoring — if a team is ahead by 45 or more points, then the clock continues to run except for timeouts and scores. Eminence proved to be too much this time around.
“We had a barn burner with them in September and had to pull it out in the fourth quarter so for us to win this easy was a little surprising,” Frommeyer said. “I will say that we have improved so much. In my 30-plus years of coaching, this is one of the most improved teams from the beginning of the season to the end. Our whole game has improved so much.”
TJ Cooper led the charge with 17 carries for 297 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Cooper had been nursing a sprained ankle the week leading up to the game but the senior showed little signs of an injury with his burst of speed. He was also playing with an incentive, wearing jersey No. 29 in honor of Jeno Hayden, who was a star player for the Warriors during the early 1990s and is currently in intensive care in Shelbyville. Cooper usually wears No. 33.
“Cooper had another great game. He probably pushed a little harder since he was wearing Jeno’s number,” Frommeyer said of his star player more than 15 years ago who he calls the fastest kid he has ever coached and the only Eminence player to ever play in the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star Game.
Cooper, donning No. 29, scored the game’s first touchdown on a 50-yard run early in the opening quarter. Brad Tapia caught the 2-point conversion pass from Dre Banta to put Eminence ahead 8-0.
Cooper also scored on a 20-yard run later in the first quarter, a 26-yarder and an 18-yarder in the second quarter, and a 65-yarder in the first play of the third quarter.
Other Eminence touchdowns came when Banta intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards, Bradley Foree caught a 35-yard pass from Banta and Brad Tapia scored on an 8-yard carry.
Tapia’s TD and Foree’s 2-point conversion that followed put the Warriors in front 58-18 — that was the final time either team scored with the clock clicking down during most of the final 12-minute stretch with the mercy rule.
Banta finished 5-of-10 passing for 82 yards with Foree catching three of those passes for a team-high 76 yards. Eminence had 467 yards total offense.
Defensively, Brad Tapia had a monster game with 12 tackles, JaCoby Moore and Chad Tapia had six tackles each, and Byrone Foree had five tackles. With Cooper’s hurt ankle, Frommeyer decided to play him exclusively on the offensive side of the ball.
The Warriors played just nine games this regular season but are 7-3 with a 1-0 forfeit win over Evangel Christian, who dropped out of KHSAA and could not fulfill its contract agreement with Eminence. The Warriors host Ludlow for the second year in a row on Nov. 6 in the state playoffs. Ludlow is 5-4 overall, plays at Pendleton County this Friday and defeated Eminence 35-20 last November.
The off week this Friday gives the Warriors the opportunity to rest their players and heal some nagging injuries. Sean Armstrong suffered a shoulder injury against North Hardin Christian, Cooper is still recovering from his ankle injury, Dakota Duffy also has an ankle injury, Byrone Foree has a hurt back and a few others are playing through setbacks as well. Frommeyer said this is a special group that could get the job done against Ludlow.
“We’re excited to play Ludlow again. It’ll give us a chance for some payback,” Frommeyer said of the anticipated showdown. “We set winning our first 11-man playoff game as a goal at the beginning of the season and now we’re going to see if we can achieve it.”
E-mail us about this story at email@example.com.