#WeNotMe: Slogan continues to motivate as Paintsville prepares for state title vs. Kentucky Country Day

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 6:10 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2020 at 7:06 PM EST
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PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Only one team from the coverage area will be playing for a state title. Let’s take a look at the matchup that features the last team standing in the mountains.

Kentucky Country Day (10-1) vs. No. 10 Paintsville (9-2) - 11 AM, 12/18

How Kentucky Country Day Got Here: Defeated Berea 62-8 (First Round), Defeated Eminence 57-13 (Second Round), Defeated Crittenden County 35-7 (Region Final), Defeated Williamsburg 27-7 (State Semifinal)

How Paintsville Got Here: Defeated Betsy Layne 55-8 (First Round), Defeated Raceland 28-21 (OT) (Second Round), Defeated Hazard 39-7 (Region Final), Defeated Newport Central Catholic 21-7 (State Semifinal)

Kentucky Country Day will appear in its first-ever state final on Friday. Matt Jones’ squad has pretty much breezed through the competition up to this point, winning every game by at least 20 points. The Bearcats downed the Yellow Jackets with a heavy dose of the run game. KCD ran the football 50 times for 298 yards as junior Eric Dickerson paced the unit with 145 yards and a score. Junior Nathan Caldwell put up stellar numbers as well, tallying 91 yards and 2 TDs. Junior Luke Russo threw for 58 yards and a touchdown as senior Drew Russell had two catches for 42 yards including the lone receiving touchdown from Russo. Defensively, the Bearcats forced two turnovers, sacked Williamsburg twice and held the Yellow Jackets to 246 yards of offense.

The Tigers have returned to the state championship for the second season in a row and for the fourth time in school history. Even though Paintsville is 0-3 all time in the state final, the Tigers are hoping that this time around will bring a different result as the program is celebrating its 100th season. Paintsville’s journey through the postseason has been relatively similar to KCD’s with the exception of their overtime thriller against Raceland. In their last contest, Joe Chirico’s team was deadlocked with the Thoroughbreds at halftime but made some adjustments coming out of the locker room. The Tigers outscored Newport Central Catholic in the second half, 14-0 to pick up their ninth victory of the season. Paintsville’s ground game was tremendous, rushing for 348 yards and have now ran for more than 300 yards in a game four times this season. Harris Phelps was outstanding as the sophomore ran at will against NCC to the tune of 168 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Karsten Poe pitched in with 82 yards on the ground while senior Luke Hyden added 61 rushing yards. The Tigers had two takeaways in the victory against New Cath, generated three sacks and surrendered only 189 yards of total offense.

The Bearcats and Tigers are squaring off in a rematch of last season’s state semifinal contest. Paintsville made the trip to Louisville 13 months ago and got the better of Matt Jones’ crew, 44-20. Joe Chirico’s squad led 18-14 at the break before outscoring KCD, 26-6 in the second half to run away with it. It is no secret that both teams love to run the football and have played a physical brand of football to get to this stage. Kentucky Country Day is seventh in 1A in rushing yards per game at 228 YPG while Paintsville checks in with the second most at 250 YPG (only Pineville has generated more at 268 YPG). The Tigers are fourth in run defense in class, allowing 56 yards per game while the Bearcats are giving up just 47 yards per game against the run, second fewest behind Eminence. KCD leads the class in points per game at 40.6 PPG while Paintsville is not far behind in third with 36.1 PPG. Both of these teams are first and second in points allowed as KCD is giving up just 12.4 PPG while Paintsville has surrendered 11.5 PPG. The Tigers and Bearcats are also the top two teams in scoring margin. The Tigers are defeating their opponents by an average of 24.6 PPG while the Bearcats are winning by an average margin of 28.3 PPG. Luke Hyden’s five sacks put him in a five-way tie for fifth best in class while Jalen Todd’s 6.5 sacks is second best behind Crittenden County’s Dylan Yates. Harris Phelps is fifth in rushing yards per game at 118 YPG while his 1,185 total rushing yards is second behind Braxton Newborn of Ludlow.

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