GOODY, K.y – The Belfry Pirates are set to host the Pikeville Panthers this Friday.
It was almost exactly a year ago last season when the Panthers rolled into Cam Stadium to face the Pirates. The Pirates were defending a state championship from the previous year and were already looking over the heads of the Panthers towards Sheldon Clark. The Pikeville defense delivered an uppercut that stunned the Pirate offense back into the present. Belfry lost the contest by a score of 20-29.
The Pirates went on to win the state championship for the second year in a row, however the punch that was landed by Pikeville left a nasty bruise on the schedule of Belfry in the shape of a big ‘L’. This season is eerily similar, the Pirates have won three in a row; same as last year, and are favored for another state championship appearance. Will history repeat itself?
This year Belfry is almost sure to not take this game lightly, they will be looking for revenge. As always the Pirates are in no shortage of offensive weapons. Belfry is ranked number one in the Associated Press high school football poll for the Kentucky Class 3A division. Through three games the Pirates have outscored their opponents 126 points to 48 points.
Belfry Head Coach Phillip Haywood said, “We will have a normal week of practice, nothing special. We are aware of how the game went last year and we will be ready for that. Pikeville had a good game plan last year and they executed it well, which that will be our strategy this year; we will work on our game plan and execute during the game.”
Pikeville has only lost one game this season and that was a one point loss to division powerhouse rival Paintsville. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 155 points to 47 points this season. With a record of 3-1 the Panthers will be rolling into Cam Stadium again ready to make a statement.
The main concern the Pirates will face against the Panthers is the run game. Daric Pugh has rushed for 647-yards on 65 total carries through Pikeville’s first four games. Pugh has scored 11 touchdowns for the Panthers and averages about 220-yards a game. Cody Dials controls the passing game for the Panthers and can utilize it if need be. Dials has completed 16 of his 26 pass attempts for 233-yards and two scores. The Panthers pass when they want to not when they have to.
“Pugh is a good player; he has good size and good speed. He will be a focal point for our defense but we can’t overlook anyone else. They have a lot of weapons they use in a lot of different ways, they throw the ball very effectively; not a lot but effectively,” said Haywood.
Defensively the Panthers are sneaky; they have six interceptions so far this year and have returned three of those for touchdowns. There are no defensive standouts for the Panthers, they play team ball and the work load is shared.
However, that might be a problem because the Pirates are not known as a passing team. Belfry has a long standing reputation of being a smash mouth running team. The Pirates have two running backs that they rely on heavily to move the chains up the field, Andrew Fletcher and Derek Wellman. Wellman and Fletcher have combined for 11 total touchdowns so far. Belfry will also have senior running back Xondre Willis returning to the line-up. Willis has missed a couple of games but will definitely be a welcomed back addition to the Pirates rushing attack. Noah Corbett will return for the Pirates as well.
Haywood said, “Xondre and Noah should fit back into our offense very well, they will bring a lot of experience back to our offense.”
If the Panthers expect to have any success running the ball they should stay away from the middle of the field, the outside isn’t too safe either, but Ray Horton and Cole Bentley control the defensive line for the Pirates. Running lanes may open up for the Panthers but they seldom last long against the Pirates.
Also it will be 50’s Football Alumni Night at Belfry. All former players and coaches from the 50’s era and before will be recognized at halftime of the game.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 this Friday night at CAM Stadium.
(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] or on twitter @sidplaster)