Owensboro Catholic took care of business on a frozen Friday night.
All-State candidate Drew Hartz passed for 278 yards and four touchdowns as the Aces battled past Todd County Central 46-22 in the opening round of the KHSAA Class 2-A football playoffs before a sparse crowd at Steele Stadium.
Catholic (9-2), bouncing back from a three-touchdown defeat at the hands of visiting Apollo in last week's regular-season finale, will host McLean County (7-4) next Friday in the second round.
"Overall, I'm happy because survive and advance is what you want to do at this point," OCHS head coach Jason Morris said. "We knew Todd was better than a 4-seed and we knew they would come in here and run the ball and try to control the game.
"We bend, but we don't break."
Catholic took a lead it would not relinquish at 4:35 of the first, when Hartz hooked up with Finley Munsey for a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0.
Just over two minutes later, the Aces shot in front 14-0 when Dre Thruston returned a Rebel punt 66 yards for a score that made it 14-0.
Todd County Central (6-5) responded on its ensuing possession. Ja'Twan Graham ran for 48 yards and a facemask penalty on the Aces advanced the ball to the OCHS 6. From there, Jon Flores scored to make it a 14-6 game.
On Catholic's next possession, Thruston scored from 39 yards out to extend the Aces' advantage to 20-6 with just 38 seconds remaining in the first period.
Hagan Edge intercepted a pass thrown by Rebels quarterback Bryce Nolan to set up an Aces score early in the second quarter -- a 24-yard TD aerial from Hartz to Braden Mundy that made it 27-6.
Midway through the third period, Catholic drove 66 yards in nine plays -- extending their lead to 33-6 on Chris Boarman's 2-yard TD run.
The Rebels answered with a seven-play, 60-yard scoring march capped by Omarion Riddick's 34-yard touchdown sprint that pulled the visitors within 33-14.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Thruston was on the receiving end of a 35 yard scoring pass from Hartz to make it 40-14.
At 3:42 Nolan tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Preston Moore for the Rebels' final score of the night.
Just over a minute later, Hartz connected with Max Byrne for an 18-yard TD pass to account for the final margin.
Todd County finished with 445 yards of total offense, including 348 yards on the ground. Graham led the attack with 191 yards on 28 carries.
Catholic finished with 385 total yards. Hartz was 18-of-24 for 278 yards with four TDs and an interception, and Thruston scored three touchdowns.
"Dre's a special talent," Morris said. "He utilized his athleticism to get free several times tonight -- we've still got to be better in the trenches."
TODD COUNTY CENTRAL|6-0-8-8 -- 22
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC|20-7-6-13 -- 46
OC-Munsey 3 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
OC-Thruston 66 punt return (Payne kick)
TC-Flores 6 run (kick failed)
OC-Thruston 39 run (kick failed)
OC-Mundy 24 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
OC-Boarman 2 run (kick failed)
TC-Riddick 24 run (Robles run)
OC-Thruston 35 pass from Hartz (Payne kick)
TC-Moore 31 pass from Nolan (Graham run)
OC-Byrne 18 pass from Hartz (kick failed)