Gabe East

Caldwell’s Gabe East (22) tries to take down LaRue’s Anthony Adkins (20) during Friday’s playoff game at Tiger Stadium. Adkins ran for 309 yards and four touchdowns as the Hawks upset the Tigers 44-41.

Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is razor thin.

Friday night, Caldwell County had more yards than LaRue County and each side found the end zone six times.

But LaRue, which stuggles in the kicking game, converted four two-point conversions while the Tigers kicked five extra points and failed on their only two-point try.

That three-point swing was the determining factor in the game, as the visiting Hawks upset the Tigers 44-41 on a frigid night at ­Tiger Stadium in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

LaRue (7-5) will visit Elizabethtown in the 1st Region championship next week. ­E-town held off Paducah Tilghman 27-21 on Friday.

For Caldwell, its season is over at 8-4. A string of six straight appearances in the regional championship game also ends, as does Caldwell’s stay in the Class 3A ranks. The Tigers return to 2A starting next season.

But this one stings, with Caldwell losing over 20 seniors from a squad that had its sights set on avenging three years worth of losses to Elizabethtown in the regional final and advancing to the state semifinals with a chance to go to the state championship game in Lexington.

“We got a great effort from our kids and I couldn’t be prouder of this group. It came down to just a play or two — it was that close,” said Caldwell head coach David Barnes afterward. “We were having some success moving the football, but we just came up short there at the end.”

No more than seven points ever separated Caldwell and LaRue. Only once did either side put up back-to-back touchdowns — the Tigers in the third quarter while turning a 20-14 halftime deficit into a 35-28 advantage entering the final frame.

The lead changed hands eight times in the contest. But, ultimately, the game came down to Caldwell’s inability to contain LaRue running back Anthony Adkins.

The Louisville commit rushed for whopping 309 yards and four TDs. He also ran for all four of the Hawks’ two-point conversions.

Adkins carried the ball 31 times in the contest and was a workhorse in the second half.

“He’s a strong kid and a strong running back,” said Barnes. “He wasn’t doing anything we didn’t see on film. We knew it would be tough against their running game.”

Making matters worse for Caldwell was losing Jameer Riley in the second half after he was injured making a reception.

“Jameer pulled his groin on that pass and we didn’t want to risk putting him back out there,” said Barnes.

Still, Caldwell had its share of chances in the second half.

The Tigers went up 35-28 when Joby Jaggers found Travis Newsom deep down the middle and he raced 66 yards to paydirt. That came with 1:38 left in the third quarter.

But Adkins broke off a 71-yard touchdown run — then added a two-point carry to put LaRue up 36-35 with 10:59 left in the contest.

Jaggers scrambled for a 21-yard scoring run at the other end. That gave Caldwell a 41-36 lead with 8:12 left, but a two-point pass was incomplete in the back of the end zone.

LaRue ate up almost 6 minutes of clock with its run game before Jerimiah Belton scored on a 9-yard run with 2:18 to play. Adkins ran for two to give the Hawks a 44-41 advantage.

Caldwell took over near midfield after a short kick by LaRue. The ­Tigers quickly reached the LaRue 33-yard line, but the drive bogged down there.

Three incomplete passes turned the ball over on downs, leaving LaRue to just kneel with the ball to run out the clock and leaving an emotional scene on the Caldwell side of the field.

“This senior group has been great,” said Barnes. “They’ve won four district championships. They’re a special group. That’s why this one hurts so much. I wouldn’t trade these kids for anyone else.”

Jaggers passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns while also running for two more scores for the Tigers.

Caldwell had 460 yards of total offense while LaRue had 417. But the Hawks put up 409 yards on the ground while attempting just three passes.

Neither team turned the ball over despite the playing conditions, which saw brief snow flurries in the second quarter. Each side had one fumble, but was able to recover and maintain possession.

LaRue ran just two more offensive plays than Caldwell — 62-60. The difference there was the two kneel-downs to end the game.

Caleb Burden led the Tiger defense with 16 tackles and a sack. Travion Samuel made 11 stops while Tate ­VanHooser and Russ Beshear each had 10 tackles.

DeEric Hollowell rushed for 90 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown carry in the second quarter for Caldwell.

Gabe East had an 8-yard TD grab while Trel Riley turned a short pitch into a 27-yard scoring pass in the third quarter.