PIKEVILLE, Ky. – Matewan High School’s Justin Bradford’s prediction of a West Virginia 47-0 victory over neighboring Kentucky might prove to be the motivation the boys from the Bluegrass needed coming into Saturday’s annual Hatfield-McCoy Bowl.
West Virginia has a 10-5 hold on the series and has won seven bowl games in a row but Belfry grad Cameron Tackett isn’t impressed.
“Don’t mean nothing,” he said. “Different year.”
"This game means a whole lot. I go to it every year and I always see West Virginia win so it’s time to change it around. It will be a close game, but of course Kentucky is going to take it."
Head Coach of the Kentucky gang, David Jones is the defensive back coach at the University of Pikeville and said this gives him a bit of an advantage over the Mountaineer state.
“I signed Justin Bradford, so I know what he can do,” Jones said. “I’m looking at Austin Vance as we speak. We are very interested in him and I know exactly what he can do. He is an athletic guy that can play at the next level. I’ve seen Grant Charles, a big kid, he’s got great hands. Anybody that can go and bring back a gold medal from Down Under and start over there as a lineman, hands down, you gotta respect the guy.”
“Our answer is, whoever wants it more, who’s got that chip on their shoulder and who is going to represent the hardest,” he continued. “And honestly, I’ve got a lot of faith in my boys.”
In the past few years, Kentucky hasn’t seemed to take the game very seriously but under Jones, it is a different story. The former Kentucky Wildcat football standout has reached out to the talent throughout Eastern Kentucky and the talent has responded.
“We brought in the caliber of guys that we want to represent the state of Kentucky and also will represent us as well,” said Jones. “We’ve got a lot of talent. We’ve got JK Hall from Johnson Central. He plays quarterback and defensive back. We’ve got Avery Ray from Sheldon Clark a running back and defensive back. Jeffree Pruitt from Belfry a RB and DB. Micah Mahon (Belfry) has got a motor on him. Cameron Tackett (Belfry) All-State offensive line and we have another OL from Clay County, Justin Foster.”
“We’ve got speed, we’ve got Pruitt, JK Hall and not to mention, we’ve got John Dudley Hilton from Bell County, a linebacker and an All-Stater too. Cody Parker from Johnson Central. We got a great group of guys.”
Putting the Pirates on the field with the Cardinals of Sheldon Clark or the Johnson Central Eagles could be a risky move but Jones said everything is going smooth.
“They are playing with a chip on their shoulder representing the state of Kentucky,” Jones said. “The rival teams like Belfry and Sheldon Clark, it is like they all played together all year. I was looking out at the field and thinking, ‘all this talent and all the great coaches that coached these guys’ it’s just making it easier for me.”
Jones has used the three days of practice thus far to teach the basics of the college coaches' expectations and “getting them prepared and getting their mind right for the game.”
Belfry All-Star Pruitt agrees with Jones.
“We all get along now that we are finally playing with each other and practice is going good,” he said. “We are all running a college-like style offense. It was kind of hard at first, but it is better. And our defense is looking really good.”
As for West Virginia looking to take its eighth victory in a row, Pruitt said, “not this year.”
“2011 is our year. We got it.”
Pruitt and Tackett are two of five Pirates representing Belfry High School one more time. Also wearing the red and white jersey is Micah Mahon, Morgan Bentley and Preston Young. Rounding out the Pike County boys are East Ridge High School’s Bryan Casey, Patrick Casey, Ricky Hill and Tyler Ratliff; from Phelps is the duo of David Mayhorn and Mac Paige; and Derrek Hiatt represents Shelby Valley.
“It’s just a good feeling to put that jersey on again and your old high school helmet,” said Tackett.