Mayfield High School football makes title game run nearly one year after devastating tornado
A western Kentucky city devastated by a deadly EF-4 tornado nearly one year ago has a reason to cheer this week as the Mayfield High School football team makes its bid for a state title.
For many, the Mayfield Cardinals’ run to the title game shows both the resilience of the team and the Graves County community as it continues to recover from the disaster. The Cardinals will play the Beechwood Tigers Friday, a week before the city marks a year of recovery from the disaster that killed dozens of residents and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes.
Sam Stone, a senior at Mayfield High School, plays right tackle for the team. He says going to the championship is one of the best experiences in his life, especially after how hard the past year has been on the team.
“It's unbelievable,” Stone said. “Just to look at where we were on Dec. 10, it's hard to even see where we are now. We’re a strong community and we fight. That’s how we play and who we are.”
Cardinals coach Joe Morris has led the team to the state semifinals 19 of his 23 years at the school – including three consecutive state championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He said many of the athletes in his program lost their homes in the disaster and the team had to take some time off in the early phases of recovery.
“When we came back we didn’t talk about the tornado a lot,” Morris said. “The best thing was to get better as a football team. We came through it as a community. I hope we have helped this community and have given this community something to smile about.”
Morris – a part of the most successful father-son duo in the history of Kentucky high school football – knows how hard it is to win and overcome big obstacles, but the adversity of a football game can’t compare to the challenges the community has faced since the disaster.
“There’s gonna be ups and downs during the season and there’s gonna be ups and downs during the ball game,” Morris said. “There's ups and downs during life, too, and that's why this is a great game … because it will teach life lessons. No matter what happens we’re gonna play with class and character.”
Mayfield Booster Club president Shannon Arnett is proud of the team’s hard work through the season. He said being able to cheer on the community’s youth is rewarding for him and the rest of the boosters, especially former Mayfield student-athletes and alumni.
“That’s why we continue to stick around and help with the program and school system,” Arnett said. “We want it to be as good as when we were there.”
Arnett, the father of four Mayfield High School graduates, said the result doesn’t matter on Friday – the community will be proud of the team no matter what – but he’s still hoping for a win.
“They have worked really hard this season,” Arnett said. “The Monday after they play in Lexington, they will start practicing for next season. That’s the type of team they are. They are carrying the tradition of making alumni like me and people before them proud.”
This 2A championship game comes at the end of a so-far undefeated season for the Cardinals, who advanced to the championship after beating Lexington Christian Academy 38-28 in the state semifinals last week.
The Mayfield Cardinals will face the Beechwood Tigers at the University of Kentucky’s Kroger Field at 3 p.m. CST on Friday. Tickets to the game are available online or by calling 270-247-4461.