Preview of KHSAA football region final round

KHSAA football
KHSAA football(WYMT)
Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 11:37 AM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - We have reached the halfway point of the postseason for High School Football in Kentucky. Here’s a preview of the matchups that involve the teams in our coverage area.

Class 1A

Hazard (4-5) vs. No. 10 Paintsville (7-2) - 12/4, 7:30 PM

How Hazard Got Here: Defeated Phelps 37-14 (First Round), Defeated No. 2 Pikeville 21-12 (Second Round)

How Paintsville Got Here: Defeated Betsy Layne 55-8 (First Round), Defeated Raceland 28-21 (OT) (Second Round)

It was not a stretch to think that the Tigers would make it this far but the same cannot be said about Hazard. It was hard to fathom that the Bulldogs could get to this point after the difficult regular season they had but the games are played on the football field, not on paper. After starting the season 0-5, Dan Howard’s squad has now reeled off four straight victories including a shocking triumph against the Panthers in Pikeville.

Hazard has leaned on sophomore Max Johnson. The WYMT Player of the Week has been tremendous during Hazard’s four-game win streak, rushing for more than 100 yards in all four games including a 200-yard rushing performance against Phelps back in October that helped Hazard begin their run to get to this point. Johnson racked up 107 yards on the ground and a score on offense but also delivered the fatal blow to Pikeville defensively, returning an interception for a touchdown that ultimately sealed the deal for Hazard to move on.

After smashing Betsy Layne in round one, the Tigers were able to avenge their regular season loss against Raceland with a 28-21 overtime victory. Filling in for the injured Jake Hyden again, Karsten Poe was outstanding against the Rams. The senior ran for three touchdowns including the one that propelled Paintsville to victory in the extra frame. Sophomore Harris Phelps was great as well, rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown. Even though Paintsville allowed more than 20 points in a game for the third time this season, Joe Chirico’s crew were able to bow their necks and stonewall Raceland when it mattered most with a tremendous goal line stand in OT.

These two teams have already played once this season. The Tigers manhandled and dominated Hazard back on September 25th with a 54-0 victory in the Appalachian Wireless Game of the Week. However, it is clear that this is not the same Hazard team that was routed at Memorial Field a little more than two months ago as the Bulldogs have seen drastic improvement since then.

Nicholas County (7-1) vs. Williamsburg (5-2) - 12/4, 7:30 PM

How Nicholas County Got Here: Defeated Paris 36-16 (First Round), Defeated Bishop Brossart 1-0 (Forfeiture Due to COVID-19) (Second Round)

How Williamsburg Got Here: Defeated Lynn Camp 42-0 (First Round), Defeated Pineville 49-13 (Second Round)

For the second consecutive season, the Bluejackets have advanced to the quarterfinal round. Robert Hopkins’ squad was dismantled by Pikeville at this same exact juncture of the postseason last season, 54-14. After narrowly defeating Paris in the regular season, Nicholas County downed the Greyhounds in commanding fashion two weeks ago. The Bluejackets’ only loss up to this point came at the hands of Bishop Brossart in a 42-34 triple overtime affair back on October 2nd but Nicholas County was able to avoid a rematch as last week’s playoff tilt with the Mustangs was canceled due to COVID-19.

After starting the season with back-to-back losses, Jerry Herron, Jr.’s ballclub has been scorching hot as they have won five straight games. The Yellow Jackets have scored at least 40 points in all five of their victories this season and have pitched two shutouts. Williamsburg’s last loss came to Lexington Christian back on September 25th. It will be a contrast of styles in this battle of the “Jackets” as Nicholas County’s go-to weapon on offense is the ground game while Williamsburg likes to attack defenses through the air.

The senior duo of Seth Tincher and Spencer Neace have tallied 18 rushing touchdowns combined on the season as Tincher produced 215 rushing yards and four scores in the Bluejackets’ last contest against Paris. Williamsburg signal caller Sydney Bowen has been pretty good filling the void that Dalton Ponder left behind as the sophomore has tossed 17 touchdown passes while having thrown only three interceptions. Bowen also leads the team in rushing with 418 yards and eight rushing scores.

These two schools will be meeting for the first time since the 2010 season. That was a 54-20 victory for Williamsburg in the first round of the playoffs.

Class 2A

Breathitt County (6-1) vs. Beechwood (7-2) - 12/4, 7:30 PM

How Breathitt County Got Here: Defeated Knott Central 66-26 (First Round), Defeated Leslie County 41-19 (Second Round)

How Beechwood Got Here: Bye Week (First Round), Defeated Lloyd Memorial 38-0 (Second Round)

With their victory against Leslie County, the Bobcats have now won at least six games in each of the last three seasons. Kyle Moore’s crew recorded a season-high in scoring against Knott Central then backed up that 40-point victory with a 22-point win against the Eagles. Breathitt County’s lone defeat was to the Pike Central Hawks back in late October, 54-34. Offensively, the Bobcats have a plethora of weapons as it starts with field general Jaylen Turner. The junior has piled up more than 1,600 total yards and 25 total touchdowns. Turner’s 16 passing touchdowns put him in fifth in 2A. Not to be outdone, Lane Weddle has had a profound impact offensively with 715 rushing yards to go along with 13 rushing TDs. The senior is averaging 102 yards per game rushing and has three interceptions on the defensive side of the ball. Weddle even leads the team in total tackles with 48 this season.

As for Beechwood, the Tigers are just two seasons removed from a state championship in the lowest class but moved up to 2A last season. In their first year of being in 2A, Noel Rash’s squad made it all the way to the state semifinal before losing to Mayfield, 35-7. Beechwood started the season with a 2-2 record but have since rattle off five victories in succession. The two losses for the Tigers have come to 5A Covington Catholic (19-17) and 6A Dixie Heights (28-20). Quarterback Cameron Hergott is third in 2A in passing yards per game at 211, trailing only Somerset’s Kaiya Sheron and LCA’s Drew Nieves. The senior has also thrown for 18 touchdowns, good enough for fourth in class. This one will be a classic battle of offense versus defense as the Bobcats are scoring the most points per game in 2A at 44.6 PPG while the Tigers lead 2A in fewest points per game allowed at 9.8 PPG. In fact, they are the only team that is giving up less than ten points per game on average and have pitched shutouts in three of the last four games.

Class 3A

Bell County (6-3) vs. No. 3 Belfry (7-3) - 12/4, 7 PM

How Bell County Got Here: Defeated McCreary Central 43-6 (First Round), Defeated Rockcastle County 13-6 (Second Round)

How Belfry Got Here: Defeated Magoffin County 54-12 (First Round), Defeated Lawrence County 1-0 (Forfeiture Due to COVID-19) (Second Round)

The Bobcats and Pirates are facing each other this Friday which means we are getting a rematch between the two winningest coaches in the history of Kentucky High School Football. Bell County Head Coach Dudley Hilton is seeking his 400th career victory and will look to get his team to the state semifinal for the second straight time. Belfry went on to beat the Bobcats in last season’s 3A State Championship contest, 30-20. Hilton and Belfry Head Coach Philip Haywood have amassed more than 850 victories between each other in their illustrious careers.

Bell County enjoyed a commanding victory against the Raiders to open their playoff run but their last contest at Rockcastle County was much closer. Bell County started off with a 2-2 record but have since gone 4-1 as the Bobcats have gotten back to their identity of imposing their will on their opponent. Brandon Baker is the team’s leading rusher as the junior has ran for nearly 1,000 yards at 997 on the season. The Running Back has also found the endzone 13 times in 2020. Baker’s 111 yards per game slots him into ninth for the most yards per game rushing in class. However, the Bobcats will not have Baker in this contest as he tore his ACL in last week’s contest against Rockcastle County.

As for Belfry, the Pirates have losses against 6A North Hardin, Pikeville and Johnson Central. The reigning 3A State Champs routed Magoffin County to open the postseason then advanced the quarterfinal round by virtue of Lawrence County having to cancel the rest of their season due to COVID-19. The Pirates follow the lead of Isaac Dixon. The Running Back has followed his stellar junior campaign with an even better one in his farewell season. The senior’s 1,405 rushing yards on the season puts him in second in 3A and his 22 rushing scores are the most in the class. Dixon’s 14.6 yards per carry not only leads the class but is also tops in the state. This matchup will be about who can be tougher and more physical since both teams love to run the football and pride themselves on stopping it.

Bell County and Belfry have met one other time in the playoffs. That was a 14-13 victory for the Pirates over the Bobcats in the second round. The Bobcats were led by current Head Coach of the Corbin Redhounds, Tom Greer.

Class 4A

No. 5 Corbin (8-1) vs. No. 1 Johnson Central (9-0) - 12/4, 7:30 PM

How Corbin Got Here: Defeated Lincoln County 38-14 (First Round), Defeated No. 9 Knox Central 41-0 (Second Round)

How Johnson Central Got Here: Defeated Harlan County 46-8 (First Round), Defeated No. 8 Letcher Central 50-0 (Second Round)

After bowing out in the second round of the playoffs last season, the Redhounds are back in the quarterfinals and have made it to the region final six times in the last seven seasons. Corbin started the season with a close loss to Beechwood but have gone undefeated ever since including a victory against Lincoln County in round one where Tom Greer’s squad methodically put the Patriots away.

In their latest contest against Knox Central, the Redhounds were clinical in their drubbing of the Panthers, rushing the football for 295 yards while pitching their second shutout of the season. The tandem of Seth Mills and Peyton Addison had their way early and often against Knox Central as Mills tallied 134 yards and two scores while Addison pitched in with 106 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Mills leads the team in rushing yards (613), rushing touchdowns (11) and interceptions (five).

Taking a look at the Golden Eagles, Jim Matney’s squad carries a 24-game win streak into Friday’s matchup. Johnson Central has been in the region final in each of the past six seasons and are looking for their second straight 4A title. Senior Dylan Preston recorded 211 yards and three touchdowns in the shutout victory against the Cougars. The two-way star sits third in rushing yards per game in 4A with 156 YPG while his 25 rushing touchdowns slot him into second place in the class. Preston has also tallied 7.5 sacks this season, good enough for a tie for third most in 4A. Both teams come into this contest with top ten defenses in class. Corbin is allowing the sixth fewest points per game at 10.9 PPG while the Golden Eagles are surrendering just 7.9 PPG, good enough for second best behind John Hardin.

Both teams also have potent offenses as the Redhounds average the seventh most points per game at 34.1 PPG while Johnson Central is generating 48.1 PPG, also second best in that category, this time behind Boyle County.

Class 5A

Frederick Douglass (6-1) vs. No. 7 Southwestern (10-1) - 12/4, 7 PM

How Frederick Douglass Got Here: Defeated Great Crossing 60-21 (First Round), Defeated Scott County 39-21 (Second Round)

How Southwestern Got Here: Defeated Whitley County 42-15 (First Round), Defeated No. 6 Pulaski County 35-14 (Second Round)

The Broncos have already advanced to the region final three times within the first four years of the history of the program. Frederick Douglass’ only loss of the season has been to 6A powerhouse North Hardin as Nathan McPeek’s crew heads into Friday’s contest on a six-game win streak. With the exception of the season opener, the Broncos have tallied at least 29 points in every game they have played this season. In fact, Frederick Douglass’ 42.9 PPG is fourth best among teams in the 5A Class.

The Broncos have been sound defensively as well, giving up the fifth fewest points per game in class at 12.6 PPG. Douglass made quick work of Great Crossing then pulled off a surprising result, handing Scott County its first loss of the season and showing them the KHSAA Playoffs exit in the process. Quarterback Samuel Cornett is averaging 164 yards per game through the air which slots him into tenth in 5A but the junior’s 22 touchdown passes puts him in a tie for the second most with Graves County’s John Brown. Junior Wide Receiver Dane Key has proven to be a nice target for Cornett as the four-star prospect according to 247sports has snagged the third most touchdown receptions in class with ten.

Heading over to the Warriors side of things, Jason Foley’s crew has been on fire. Southwestern has won four in a row including a payback victory against archnemesis Pulaski County last time out. The Warriors are ninth scoring in 5A at 33.9 PPG while they are allowing the 11th fewest points per game at 19.8 PPG. Southwestern is all about the ground game as they have a great tandem in Tanner Wright and Giddeon Brainard. Wright is tenth in 5A in rushing yards per game with 120 YPG while Brainard has ran for the second most touchdowns with 16, putting him in a tie with Bullitt Central’s Kylor Close.

The Warriors are allowing just 41 yards per game on the ground, good enough for second in class behind Doss. Southwestern has also been opportunistic when it comes to recovering the football as they have recovered the most fumbles in 5A with 14.

These two programs met in the same spot in the playoffs last season. The Broncos routed the Warriors, 44-8. The Broncos would go on to lose to Covington Catholic in the 5A State Championship, 14-7.

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