Cameron Vocke knew he would have to step up in the absence of senior running back Joe Colosimo.
Colosimo, sidelined by a knee injury from the week before, would not be available for Beechwood's Class 1A football playoff game against Bellevue.
But Vocke, a sophomore averaging nearly six yards per carry for 368 yards total coming in, was ready for the challenge.
Vocke rushed for 175 yards on 15 carries to help the Tigers defeat the rival Tigers of Bellevue, 41-20 in the Region 2 final Nov. 20 in Fort Mitchell.
The red Tigers (9-4) travel more than 300 miles to play Mayfield (12-1) in a state semifinal Nov. 27. The winner plays either Lexington Christian or Hazard in the state final Dec. 5 in Bowling Green.
Vocke had three touchdowns, including a combination of ballet and wrestling in the third quarter, as he tiptoed the sideline and dragged a tackler into the endzone to make it 35-7.
"It's fun," Vocke said. "We played hard. It was a good win. I knew it was going to be hard, filling big shoes. Joe Colosimo is good."
The Tigers started off strong, going 81 yards from the opening kickoff to score on a run by senior quarterback Matt Rigdon, who also topped 100 yards on the night.
On Beechwood's second possession, Rigdon threw a "pick six" to Bellevue's Alex Hegge, who returned the pass 30 yards, with the PAT tying at 7.
Vocke answered right back with a 69-yard touchdown run, and then scored from 10 yards out to make it 21-7.
Bellevue tried to get back in the game, going for it on fourth-and-short in Beechwood territory. The red Tigers stopped the play, and on the next play Rigdon connected with Jacob Maus for a 47-yard touchdown to give Beechwood a 28-7 halftime lead.
Beechwood had won the teams' regular season meeting, 20-8, on a wet, muddy track on Bellevue's grass field.
This one, played on a cold but dry night on Beechwood's artificial turf, seemed to favor Beechwood's speed as the red Tigers rushed for 355 yards.
"Our speed is tough to compete with," Beechwood head coach Noel Rash said. "The moves they make were pretty special and you can't do that on that nasty surface. It turned out to be a difference-maker."
Rash praised Vocke for stepping up in the absence of Colosimo, who may be able to return for the state semifinal.
"He's a very blessed soul," Rash said of Vocke. "He's just a playmaker and he's that way on defense, too. He's a very talented kid and a great team guy. He loves this team. He doesn't care if he gets one carry or 30."
Beechwood, with a young starting lineup containing many sophomores and juniors, lost its four games to bigger area schools this season. The Tigers, going for their third straight state title, have not lost to a Class A team since the second round of the 2006 playoffs.
Bellevue head coach Dave Eckstein praised Rash's handling of a younger team.
"This is the best job Noel Rash has done coaching," Eckstein said. "Obviously they have talent, but he has really coached this team into a potential state championship team. Not a lot of people expected that."
Mayfield, who beat Beechwood in the 2002 state final, has a balanced offense that averages 42 points per game. The Cardinals rallied for a 31-28 win over Crittenden County in the Region 1 final.