A breakdown of the weekend state championships

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The road ends here. Let’s take a look at the three games of interest on Friday and Saturday as Pikeville, Belfry and Johnson Central look to win the state title in their respective classes.

Class 1A

Pikeville (11-2) vs. Russellville (12-1) – 12/3, noon

How Pikeville got here: beat Phelps 49-0 (district semi-final), beat Hazard 28-6 (district final), beat Williamsburg 50-21 (region final), beat Raceland 36-7 (state semi-final)

How Russellville got here: bye (district semi-final), beat Crittenden County 24-7 (district final), beat Newport Central Catholic 21-0 (region final), beat Bethlehem 34- 21 (state semi-final)

It doesn’t always line up with where the top two in-class teams play for all the marbles, but it does here. It will be a Panthers clash as Russellville and Pikeville are ranked 1-2 in the RPI standings. Both teams are also used to winning multiple state titles. Russellville has won the State Championship three times, the most recent being in 1990. Pikeville has won five State Championships as Chris McNamee’s side left Kroger Field with their last title just a short time ago. two seasons. These two teams also met in the 1987 Class A State Championship game as Pikeville knocked out Russellville in that contest with a 28-6 victory, putting the finishing touches on a perfect season.

With the exception of their two losses to Lexington Christian and Madison Central, Pikeville has had another formidable season. They made short work of Raceland last week, winning their fourth straight game by at least three TDs. The Brown and White Panthers were punctuated by junior Blake Birchfield as the first 1A rusher generated 192 yards and three scores on 22 rushes. Isaac McNamee was solid in the passing game as well as the senior threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Wade Hensley led the team in the receiving department with five catches for 109 yards and one touchdown. Senior Zac Lockhart also had a good outing with four receptions for 74 yards and one score. Pikeville had three interceptions against the Rams. Pikeville enters the championship game with the sixth-

the class-leading offense at 34.2 PPG while allowing the second lowest points per game at 9.8 PPG.

Glancing at Russellville, head coach Mikie Benton brought the program back to the final for the first time in 31 years. Russellville’s only stain on the notebook so far has come at the hands of Glasgow in Week 2 as the Scotties also had a playoff run before being knocked out last week. Russellville has not lost since then, taking 11 straight wins and limiting opponents to single digits in seven of those wins. In the regional championship clash against Newport Central Catholic, the Panthers were stranded in a scoreless tie before the final quarter before scoring 21 unanswered points to defeat the Thoroughbreds. Like Pikeville, Russellville kicks off his offense with the running play as senior Jovari Gamble is the eighth rusher in the class with 108 yards per game. Gamble had 180 yards and two goals against Bethlehem last week. Gamble and Birchfield are tied for second on ground scores in 1A with 23. Senior Lennon Ries delivered two touchdown passes to go for 145 yards as his senior compatriot Anthony Woodard was on the receiving end of Ries’ two touchdown passes against the Eagles. Russellville scores 32.5 PPG, good enough for seventh best in class while allowing just 10.7 PPG, third best in class in that statistic. Senior Chevis Elliott leads the interception class with nine.

Class 3A

Belfry (8-5) vs. Paducah Tilghman (8-5) – 12/4, noon

How Belfry got here: beat Pike Central 57-0 (district semi-final), beat Lawrence County 21-14 (district final), beat Bell County 41-20 (region final), beat East Carter 48-26 (state semi-final)

How Paducah Tilghman got here: beat Trigg County 55-22 (district semi-final), beat Union County 31-28 (district final), beat Christian Academy-Louisville 41-34 (regional final) , defeated Glasgow 39-20 (State semi-final)

Both of these schools went through trials and tribulations during the regular season but rebounded and are now the bottom two in this class. The Pirates are looking to add an eighth trophy to the trophy as the Pirates won their last championship in 2019. The Blue Tornado are back in the state title match for the first time since 2009 as they beat Somerset to bring him home for the third time in the program history. It will also be the second time that

these two schools met for the State Championship as Paducah Tilghman defeated Belfry in the 1985 3A State Championship match, 29-14.

To say that Philip Haywood’s team got off to a terrible start would be an understatement. The Pirates hadn’t started a season so badly since 1947, losing their first four games (five if you include the cancellation to Lexington Christian). The brutal out-of-district schedule proved to be beneficial once again, even as Belfry turned hot in the playoffs. With the exception of Lawrence County, the Pirates have won all of their playoff games by at least 21 points. In last week’s win over East Carter, Belfry ran for a season-high 560 yards. Isaac Dixon led the charge for the Pirates throughout the season and the senior did so again against the Raiders, accumulating 245 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Dixon also had an interception on the defensive end of the ball. Senior Zayne Hatfield also put in an exceptional performance, racking up 155 rushing yards and one scoring. Sophomore Dr. Young totaled 86 yards and two touchdowns. Dixon is averaging 134 yards per game in the class, good enough for fourth best as his 24 rushing scores put him in third. The Pirates are averaging 31.8 points per game, making them the ninth highest-rated team in 3A while allowing 22.9 points per game, good enough for the 15th best in that category.

Like Belfry, Paducah Tilghman chose the best time of the season to play his best football. The Blue Tornado opened the season on a high note with a win over McCracken County, but things turned sour for Sean Thompson’s crew after that, losing three straight games. The Blue Tornado finished the regular season winning three of their last five games, but really got things going in the second season, pulling off three incredible upsets. After easily handling affairs against Trigg County the second time around to start the playoffs, Paducah Tilghman traveled to Morganfield to stun Union County. This victory was followed by another shocking victory over CAL and then another phenomenal display against the Scotties. The Blue Tornado is led by quarterback Jack James as the rookie is second in 3A for passing touchdowns with 32. James averages the third most passing yards per game in the class at 205 YPG. James threw for 197 yards and three scores against Glasgow. Sophomore Malachi Rider has also had a strong season, rushing for just over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns. The receiving corps is led by Brian Thomas as the senior caught the second-most assists in the class with 52 receptions and is tied for the fourth-most touchdowns with 12. Paducah Tilghman comes on this day. week with the seventh best score. in the class at 33.5 PPG. The Blue Tornado gives up 24.7 PPG, good enough for the 17th best in its class.

Class 4A

Boyle County (13-1) v Johnson Central (11-1) – 12/3, 8 p.m.

How Boyle County got here: beat Anderson County 52-12 (district semi-final), beat Lexington Catholic 47-13 (district final), beat Scott 51-14 (district final) region), defeated Logan County 54-16 (state semi-final)

How Johnson Central got here: beat Clay County 56-7 (district semi-final), beat Letcher Central 50-14 (district final), beat Corbin 34-13 (region final), beat Franklin County 42-24 (state semi-final)

For the second time in three years, the Rebels and Golden Eagles will play in a win-win scenario at Kroger Field. Johnson Central won the title match in 2019 with a 21-20 victory. These two teams have also met on two other occasions in the past 12 seasons. Boyle County won both of those contests, the first being a 49-7 rout in 2009, while the 2010 clash posted a much closer affair with a 36-29 triumph for the Rebels. Boyle County will seek their second straight state title and tenth overall. The Rebels outlived Franklin County in last season’s final with a 31-28 overtime win. The Golden Eagles are looking to win their third state title, having also won one in 2016.

Justin Haddix’s side have lost only once this season. The loss came at the hands of 2A State runner-up Lexington Christian, 35-28 in week two of the season. Otherwise, it has been another dominating season for the soccer powerhouse that resides in Danville. The Rebels have the highest margin of victory in the class and one of the highest in the state, as they beat their opponents with an average of around 31 PPG. Boyle County had no problem climbing the playoff ranks, knocking out opposition by at least 37 points in all four games. Quarterback Jagger Gillis threw for more than 2,400 yards and scored 28 touchdowns in the air. The senior leads the class in completion percentage, completing 69.2% of his passes and has recorded just five interceptions, which is the least of the QBs who have at least 200 attempted passes. Gillis threw for 173 yards and a touchdown in the win over Logan County. Avery Bodner leads the team on the ground as the runner-up compiled 1,107 rushing yards and 15 scores. Senior Cole Lanter is second in the class in receptions with 72 and has 19 TDs leading the class. The Rebels are averaging 43.3 PPG in the class, which ties them to Johnson Central for the most points per game in 4A. Boyle County allows just 12.4 PPG, the third under in the class.

It’s no secret that the Golden Eagles have faced a lot of adversity, but have used it as motivation and are just one step away from getting back to the top of the mountain. Johnson Central has been sensational since losing beloved Jim Matney, taking nine straight wins and taking those games by at least 18 points. The Golden Eagles made short work of their district counterparts but raised eyebrows with their resounding victory over one of the class members.

favorites among the Corbin Redhounds. They backed that win with redemption against Franklin County, a game the Golden Eagles fell to the Flyers last season. Johnson Central has been outstanding in the running game this season and they’ve proven that point once again against Franklin County, rushing for 428 yards. The unit was led by Zack McCoart as the rookie racked up 199 yards and three scores. Junior Chase Price also eclipsed the mark of the century with 105 yards to go and two touchdowns. The Golden Eagles had two takeaways against the Flyers. The Golden Eagles are allowing the eighth lowest points per game in the class at 15.8 PPG.

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