(WYMT) - Two rounds of the High School Football playoffs down, three more to go. Let’s preview this week’s matchups that feature nine “Mountain” teams.
No. 6 Williamsburg (10-2) vs. No. 9 Paintsville (9-3)
How Williamsburg got here: Williamsburg defeated Harlan 48-8 (First Round), Defeated Lynn Camp 61-0 (Second Round)
How Paintsville got here: defeated Fairview 67-0 (First Round), defeated Raceland 32-18 (Second Round)
This matchup will feature a contrast in styles: a prolific offense versus a tenacious defense. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 44 points per game which leads 1A and is 11th best in the state. Dalton Ponder threw for five touchdowns against Lynn Camp last Friday. The senior quarterback now has 45 passing touchdowns this season. Only Drew Hartz of Owensboro Catholic has thrown for more TDs in the state.
The Yellow Jackets are the only team in 1A to have a receiver that has more than 1000 receiving yards this season (they actually have two). Caleb Rose and Gavon Thomas are also leading the class in touchdown receptions with 15.
As for Paintsville, the Tigers are allowing the fifth-fewest points per game in 1A with 15 and are tied with Williamsburg and Fulton County with the second most interceptions with 17. Nick Keeton and Jaylyn Allen are in the top ten in sacks in 1A. The Tigers won last year’s lone contest during the regular season at Williamsburg, 19-13.
Nicholas County (9-3) vs. No. 2 Pikeville (11-0)
How Nicholas County got here: defeated Bracken County 46-0 (First Round), Defeated Bishop Brossart 18-13 (Second Round)
How Pikeville got here: Bye (First Round), defeated Hazard 45-12 (Second Round)
After having started the season 3-3, Nicholas County has hit their stride. The BlueJackets are carrying a six-game win streak into this week’s contest against Pikeville. The Panthers will look to put the clamps on Cain Saucedo as the senior has rushed for more than 1700 yards and leads 1A in rushing TDs with 31. Defensively, Tyler Horn has the most interceptions in class with eight. Nicholas County is averaging 38 PPG which is fifth-best in 1A.
Pikeville’s Isaac McNamee has thrown for 23 touchdowns and is second in 1A in completion percentage at 64.7 percent. The Panthers are just one of a handful teams that are in the top ten in both points scored and points allowed. Chris McNamee’s squad also has the fourth-best margin of victory, defeating their opponents by an average of 23.5 PPG. Pikeville won the last contest between these two schools back on November 7th, 2014. That was a 51-0 rout by the Panthers.
Walton-Verona (8-4) vs. No. 5 Breathitt County (12-0)
How Walton-Verona got here: defeated Gallatin County 41-6 (First Round), Defeated Owen County 48-20 (Second Round)
How Breathitt County got here: defeated Knott Central 48-6 (First Round), Defeated Middlesboro 50-15 (Second Round)
The Bearcats come into this tilt having won four of their last five, the only loss coming to Louisville Holy Cross. Jeff Barth’s team is allowing the fifth-fewest points in 2A at just under 17 points per game, but have surrendered at least 30 points or more in three of their four losses. Walton Verona’s whole is greater than the sum of its parts on offense as the Bearcats do not have a player in the top 30 in class in receiving or rushing. However, the District 5 champions are rushing for the twelfth most rushing yards as a unit in 2A at 192 per game.
On the Breathitt County side of things, the Bobcats continue to leave opponents in their wake. Senior running back Charles Collins is averaging 117 yards per game on the ground and leads the class with 29 rushing scores. The Bobcats continue to top the 2A standings in both points scored and points allowed. Kyle Moore’s crew is scoring slightly above 50 points per game while giving up about nine points per game.
McLean County (8-4) vs. No. 4 Somerset (11-1)
How McLean County got here: defeated Hancock County 36-8 (First Round), defeated Owensboro Catholic 37-36 (Second Round)
How Somerset got here: defeated Danville 34-14 (First Round), defeated Lexington Christian 28-26 (Second Round)
After a 55-21 regular season loss to Owensboro Catholic, the Cougars flipped the switch and are now bringing a five-game win streak into this matchup. McLean County is one of three teams in the state to rush for more than 4000 yards. Only Shelby Valley and East Jessamine are rushing for more. Landen Capps sits third in 2A in rushing yards and is averaging eleven yards per carry. The senior has also run for 14 touchdowns. Junior Andrew Munster leads 2A and is third in the state in total tackles with 181. The linebacker/fullback has also scored 17 rushing touchdowns while junior Defensive Back Brady Dame has the second-most interceptions in 2A with seven.
Turning to Somerset, the Briar Jumpers are in the top five in both points allowed and points scored in class. Defensively, Somerset has been opportunistic, forcing the third most fumbles with 12 and recovering the most second with 17. Quarterback Kaiya Sheron has 21 touchdowns and is one of five players to average more than 200 yards per game through the air in 2A. Kade Grundy is Somerset’s leading receiver as the junior has racked up more than 1000 receiving yards.
Fleming County (10-2) vs. No. 3 Bell County (12-0)
How Fleming County got here: defeated Pendleton County 50-8 (First Round), defeated Mason County 35-7 (Second Round)
How Bell County got here: defeated Garrard County 44-0 (First Round), defeated Rockcastle County 39-0 (Second Round)
With the exception of their 55-7 loss to Russell, the Panthers have looked strong throughout the season as they will put their seven-game win streak on the line against Bell County. Fleming County comes into this week having put up the third-most points in 3A (41.4 PPG). Panthers quarterback Jonathan Maher is averaging the fourth-most yards per game in 3A with 183. Bill Spencer’s team has two receivers with at least 600 yards this season in senior Kaleb Flanery and sophomore Logan Pinkley.
On defense, the Panthers have picked off their opponents 17 times. Only Bardstown, Taylor County and Mason County have more interceptions.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Bobcats continue to stifle the opposition as they lead the class in points allowed at about 10 PPG. Bell County leads 3A in scoring as well, averaging around 44 PPG. Dudley Hilton’s pass defense is second in passing yards allowed, having given up only 54 yards per game behind Magoffin County.
Despite a couple of down games, sophomore Brandon Baker is still averaging 102 yards per game and has also run for 15 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Jason Jones has caught a touchdown pass in each of the last four games and is eighth in 3A in receiving. Senior quarterback London Stephney has accounted for 14 rushing and 16 passing touchdowns this season.
Ashland Blazer (10-2) vs. No. 8 Belfry (8-3)
How Ashland Blazer got here: defeated Greenup County 49-14 (First Round), defeated Russell 33-14 (Second Round)
How Belfry got here: defeated Floyd Central 46-7 (First Round), defeated Pike Central 60-0 (Second Round)
The Tomcats did not end the regular season on a positive note against Spring Valley out of West Virginia, but have rebounded nicely through the first two rounds of the postseason. Ashland Blazer sits eighth in team rushing, averaging about 265 yards per game. Blake Hester is third in 3A in rushing with 148 yards per game and is also tied for the third-most touchdowns with 21.
The Pirates have gone through a similar phase. Philip Haywood’s squad was blown out by Johnson Central in the regular season finale but the Pirates have bounced back in a big way the last two games. Belfry is averaging 331 yards on the ground. That is just one less than class leader, Hart County. Both teams are in the top ten in points allowed. Belfry is fifth at 14.3 PPG while Ashland Blazer comes in sixth at 14.8 PPG. These two schools met every year between 2009 and 2012 during the regular season. The Tomcats won three out of the four contests, including the last meeting back on October 5th, 2012 by a score of 35-20.
Wayne County (10-1) vs. No. 1 Johnson Central (12-0)
How Wayne County got here: defeated Lincoln County 56-33 (First Round), defeated Corbin 63-49 (Second Round)
How Johnson Central got here: defeated Letcher Central 49-7 (First Round), defeated Harlan County 50-6 (Second Round)
The Cardinals have scored 40 points or more in all but two games this season and have not lost since Week 2 against Pulaski County. Wayne County is one of three schools in 4A to have a top ten rusher and a top ten passer. Junior Braedon Sloan leads the state in rushing with 246 yards per game and rushing touchdowns with 47. Quarterback Brody Weaver is tenth in 4A in passing as the junior is throwing for about 166 yards per game and has the eighth-most passing touchdowns with 20.
The Golden Eagles stiffest challenge also came during the second week of the season against Capital. Jim Matney’s unit came out on top in that contest, 28-13. The Golden Eagles have crushed the competition, beating their opponents by an average margin of 37 points per game. Despite throwing for less than 100 yards per game, senior Ryley Preece has amassed 17 passing touchdowns. The two-way star has also run for 12 touchdowns while tallying four interceptions on defense. The scoreboard will be lit up early and often as both teams are inside the top five in class in scoring.
Southwestern (7-5) vs. Frederick Douglass (12-0)
How Southwestern got here: defeated Pulaski County 17-7 (First Round), defeated Whitley County 21-15 (Second Round)
How Frederick Douglass got here: defeated Great Crossing 50-0 (First Round), defeated Scott County 24-14 (Second Round)
At one point during the season, Jason Foley’s team sat at 2-5. After their shutout loss to Whitley County, however, the team has rattled off five in a row and will look to pull off the unthinkable this week. Southwestern will lean on their ground game as they sit 18th in 5A at about 186 rushing yards per contest. The Warriors have forced the most fumbles in class along with Woodford County with 14. Senior linebacker Austin Barnes leads 5A in total tackles with 134. The Warriors will have their work cut out for them, though as Brian Landis’ squad has dominated their opponents.
The Broncos are winning by an average margin of 39.5 PPG. Only Boyle County and Breathitt County are defeating their opponents by more. Frederick Douglass had their closest outing of the season so far last week against Scott County but the District 6 champions still eliminated the Cardinals by double digits.
Offensively, Frederick Douglass does things by committee. The Broncos do not have a player in the top 20 in rushing or receiving. However, Frederick Douglass is scoring just above 44 PPG, good enough for third-best in 5A. On defense, the Broncos are allowing the fewest points per game in the state at about five. The Lexington powerhouse has also pitched a state-leading nine shutouts on the year.