GOODY, Ky – The time is now. Belfry will begin their quest for a fourth state championship title in a row on Friday night and the first obstacle will be Tates Creek in the 32nd annual Pike County Bowl.
Last year the Pirates won the contest 55-38. The Pirates went on to win the Class-AAA State Championship. This season they want to repeat that action but this game may be slightly different. Belfry will face a different team this year in the Commodores and here is why.
The Commodores lost a lot during the off season, they graduated 21 seniors. A big portion of those seniors were offensive and defensive linemen. They also lost QB Peyton Burke who finished the season going 326-201 for completions, 2,651 yards passing, 34 TD’s and seven interceptions. Also departing from the team was defensive back and leading tackler Sakima Opsal, who finished the season with 130 tackles. Basically Tates Creek lost a mountain of talent while the Pirates regained most of their key positions.
Belfry head coach Phillip Haywood had this to say about Tates Creek, “They lost some really big players but they are still a very potent offense. They can catch, they can absolutely fly, and they can score. They lost their QB but this new guy is a big kid and he gets the ball off quickly. They have primarily been a passing team but they run often enough and well enough to keep you honest. They scored 38 points against us last year because they had a great game plan, it was close at the half, they are very well coached. They look like they will play a basic 5-2 defense with a kind of four man front. They have great skill guys and a big nose guard who is tough.”
The Commodores have already played one game, which they lost to Scott County, 47-20. Tates Creek is back on track in the passing department with Cameron Warner who saw some action last year but is still new to the position. The Commodores did well passing under the direction of Warner but did horrible on the rushing side, thanks to Warner who had -48 yards rushing. Passing, Warner completed 9 of 21 passes for 485-yards and 3 TD’s.
Although Tates Creek returned Laron Warren, the team’s leading rusher from the 2015 season, the team only had 1,200 yards rushing to begin with. They are passing team who compiled 2,700 passing yards last season and 34 passing TD’s.
The problem the Pirates may have may not come from what the Commodores can or can’t do. The Pirates problem may come from within. Coach Haywood has repeatedly expressed his concern about his defenses progress during the pre-season. Minor injuries, loss of players and inexperience is something that coach Haywood does not see as a good sign.
Coach Haywood said, “Our defense is a big question mark at the moment. Our defense is nowhere near where it was at the beginning or end of last season. At the linebacker and defensive –end positions we just aren’t there. You have to have those guys, tough guys, to jam in there and plug holes. We have spent a lot of time mending some injuries and we have some fresh faces in there that haven’t proven themselves yet. We believe that down the road all of this will line itself out but our offense will just have to step in and pick up the slack until that time.” Coach Haywood continued by saying, “This is kind of a different situation we have here. Usually it’s the defense carrying the offense because a good offense takes time to develop a good continuity during the season but this year our offense may be carrying the defense until we can line out some of these wrinkles.”
The Pirates have been struggling to find replacements for star defensive players like Nate Sanger and T.J. Dotson who graduated last spring. However most of Pong Creek Nation believes in the notion that the Pirates don’t rebuild they reload and in a program as prestigious as Belfry it is easy to see how not good enough could excel at neighboring programs. The worry about the defense can be shared by all of Pond Creek Nation but the definitive will not be clear until Friday night.
The Pirates are scheduled face Tates Creek in the second game of the Pike County Bowl at CAM Stadium beginning at 8:05 p.m.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] on on twitter @sidplaster.)