In an interview Thursday, Warren East head coach Ben Bruni said he believed defense would determine the winner of his Raiders' high-octane matchup at Lone Oak in Friday's KHSAA Class 4A Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl semifinals.
Unfortunately for he and his squad, Bruni was almost right.
Demetric Ray's 16-yard fumble return for touchdown gave the Raiders a 35-28 lead late in the fourth quarter but the Purple Flash scored ten points in the game's final 3:31 to end East's season, 38-35.
Other than the fumble return, the game ended up as billed - a punch-counter punch matchup of the two most prolific offensive teams in class 4A.
Lone Oak's Corey Robinson, whose 86 touchdown passes were a national single-season record entering the game, finished 34-of-55 passing for 503 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders' Jordan Ellis was 16-of-26 for 204 yards and four scores of his own.
But it was Robinson who had the last say.
After East's go-ahead score, Robinson led the Purple Flash on a five-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in his 6-yard scoring strike to Daniel Edwards with 3:31 remaining. After an East punt, he captained a 45-yard drive to the Raider 1-yard-line that resulted in Jack Coorts' 18-yard field goal to clinch the victory.
Shenard Holton was Warren East's other offensive star. He finished with five catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns, while leading East with 74 rushing yards on 16 carries. Jamarielle Brown caught eight passes for 171 yards and two scores for Lone Oak, breaking a state record for single-season receptions in the process.
Lone Oak (14-0) moves on to next week's state title game in Louisville, when the Purple Flash will take on Lexington Catholic. Warren East's season ends at 11-3.