Central High is the oldest predominately African-American school in Louisville. It's most famous for being the alma mater of three time world boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
They've won state titles in basketball and track, but the football one had not only eluded them, but they endured ten years of futility before Central began to get competitive on the football field.
Today at The Pizzeria (AKA Papa John's Cardinal Stadium) the Yellowjackets won their first KHSAA football title. Senior Darrell Taylor scored three touchdowns to help the seventh-ranked Yellowjackets (10-5) overcome five turnovers and topple previously unbeaten Belfry 27-17. With the victory Central Coach Ty Scoggins became the first African-American head coach to win a KHSAA football title. Harrodsburg's Alvis Johnson led teams to KHSAA state football final appearances in 1988, 1996 and 1997 but fell short.
Taylor rushed for 165 yards on touchdown runs of 48 and 45 yards. He cane up with a momentum-turning 76-yard interception return on the final play of the first half.
“That was a huge play in the game,” said Belfry coach Philip Haywood, whose team trailed 14-10 at intermission after the return. “They had some big plays, more than we wanted.”
Belfry (14-1) won back to back Class 2A titles in 2003-04 and was seeking their first Class 3A title. The Pirates came in averaging 43.6 points per game and until running into the determined Yellowjackets hadn’t trailed in a game all season. Belfry outgained Central on offense (282 yards to 238 yards) and held possession of the football nearly six minutes longer than the Yellowjackets.
Belfry's Dustin May rushed for 128 yards and two TD’s. May’s second TD narrowed the Central lead to 21-17 early in the fourth quarter. Belfry drove deep into Central territory, but on a third-and-5 from the Yellowjacket 14 yard line defensive linemen Terryl Wadlington forced and recovered a fumble by Pirate quarterback Andrew Elkins to end that scoring threat with 4:24 left in the game.
The seeds for today's championship game victory were sown last year when Central fell a game short of making the championship game in their semifinal loss to Bowling Green.
Their 2007 title run included a game winning 30 yard field goal from Sudanese-born kicker Rizik Lado in their 17-14 semifinal win against Paducah Tilgham. There's a sizable community of Sudanese people living here, and it was nice to hear about a member of that community in context with this historic championship.
Today's game was attended not only by current Central students, but their alumni as well. The celebration by ecstatic Yellowjacket fans and alums is probably still going on in the West End and elsewhere in Da Ville.