3A Notebook: 1, 2, 3A to the 4
Belfry Stomps Ashland for First Semifinal Bid since 2016
One of the premier games in the commonwealth on Friday night was over almost as quickly as it began. Two Belfry touchdowns in the first quarter and another two in the second put the Pirates comfortably ahead on their way to a 41-7 victory over Ashland and a state semifinal berth for the first time since the current seniors were freshmen. For Belfry coach Philip Haywood, the victory showed the Pirates were capable of putting it all together.
"We haven't been able to really put it together all season long, and I felt like it was time" Haywood told the Williamson Daily News. "It had to be tonight or it wasn't going to happen. I felt like that tonight we came close to the way we have been capable of playing all year. Our injury situation is much better. I'm just really proud of the way our kids played tonight." (Belfry blasts Ashland 41-7, advances back to state semifinals for first time since 216 | Special Sections | williamsondailynews.com)
Belfry opened the ball game with a 1-yard touchdown run by Peyton Hensley. Later, a 76-yard touchdown pass from Brett Coleman to Isaac Dixon gave the Pirates a 14-0 lead. Hensley would score his second and third touchdowns of the evening, both on short runs, to give Belfry a commanding halftime lead. Dixon would score on the ground in the third quarter and Belfry would complete their scoring with a 47-yard interception return by Isaiah Birchfield, his second of the season, which initiated a running clock. Ashland would finally crack the scoreboard on a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Jake Gregg to J.T. Garrett.
For Ashland, the loss halted the efforts of one of the state's winningest programs to make it back to the state semifinals, a place they've not been since winning the state championship in 1990. For Belfry, the Pirates get back to a round that was once a birthright, having played in the semifinals in thirteen of fourteen years between 2003 and 2016.
DeSales Continues to Roll Sevens on Way to Semifinals
For a third consecutive week the DeSales defense has allowed merely seven points in a game. Because of the that, for the first time in four seasons the Colts will play in the state semifinals.
DeSales rolled Bardstown, 41-7, in a game many expected to be closer. In fact, Bardstown opened the game impressively, taking a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Brady Clark to Gray Clark. From that point forward, however, it was all Colts. DeMarcus Avery passed for two scores and ran for two more in the victory. James Johnson also got in on the act for DeSales, carrying for 142 yards and two touchdowns on his own.
The story, though, is the dominant defense. Bardstown, who entered the game averaging 363 yards total offense per game, was held to 113 by DeSales and negative-14 on the ground. That follows a theme, though, as DeSales has allowed only 469 rushing yards all season.
Goodin Plenty as Taylor Returns to State Semifinals
Postseason football is still something of a novelty for Taylor County but thanks to Tre Goodin the Cardinals are advancing to the state semifinals for a second consecutive season. Entering last season, Taylor County had won only four playoff games in school history (three of which came in their first state semifinal run in 1999), but after making it to the Class 4A state semifinals in 2018, the Cardinals dropped classes but are still having the same success.
Much of that success came on the back of Tre Goodin, who completed a 25-yard pass on a fake punt on the opening drive then ran for 228 yards and three touchdowns as Taylor knocked off Paducah Tilghman, 38-28.
The game started slowly with both sides hampered by penalties and turnovers. Wes Oliver put Taylor on the board first with a 9-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. Tilghman would respond with a 32-yard Jonathan George touchdown run to tie the game in the second quarter. A controversial Tre Goodin touchdown run just before halftime, in which the referees debated for an extended period before signaling a score, sent Taylor into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
A slow first half led to a wild third quarter as the two teams combined to score 35 points in the third frame, including a pick-six from Tilghman's Turner Humphrey and long touchdown runs from Goodin and Tilghman's Damien Ford. The final score was set in the fourth quarter and Goodin again used a fake point to his advantage, scoring from 34 yards out. Daniel Vasquez's 38-yard field goal with just over two minutes to play sealed the Cardinals victory.
"They're a heckuva football team," Paducah Tilghman coach Jonathan Smith told the Paducah Sun. "Coach Marple's done a great job. They're extremely well coached. Had a great game plan. They outmatched us doing what we do to us. That's honestly the best way to say it. They lined up, and it was no secret that they were going to run the ball downhill." (Taylor topples Tilghman in region title tilt | Local Sports | paducahsun.com)
Unheralded Bell Just Keeps Ringing Opponents
With just three seconds remaining the first half of play, Bell County led Fleming County by 12 points but was far from out of the woods. However, a 23-yard touchdown pass from London Stephney to Jason Jones just before the halftime buzzer sounded proved to be the decisive blow in a 48-12 Bell County victory.
Bell had scored three times and converted three two-point conversions in the first half but a first quarter Jonathan Maher touchdown pass to Buddy Morgan and a second quarter Maher run kept Fleming in the game. The Jones touchdown just before halftime send Bell into the break with a 20 point lead that would be stretch further in the third quarter with another Stephney touchdown pass, this time to Cameron Burnett, and a 50-yard interception return by Jonathan Lankford.
The loss ends a terrific career for Fleming quarterback Jonathan Maher, who passed for 208 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another 87 yards and a score. On the season, Maher accounted for 3,579 yards of total offense and was responsible for 42 touchdowns.
For Bell County, the win maintains their status as the only undefeated team in Class 3A, and they'll now host Taylor County in the state semifinals. The semifinal berth is the first for the Bobcats since falling to Boyle County in 2010.
Class 3A State Semifinals Preview
Belfry (9-3) at DeSales (10-3)
What to Know...
This marks the first ever meeting between the two powerhouse programs. However, there are still connections, most significantly that of Belfry head coach Philip Haywood and DeSales assistant coach Ty Scroggins. Scroggins was the long-time head coach at Louisville Central and his Yellowjackets faced Belfry six times in Class 3A state championship games, winning four and losing two. Scroggins' son Jayden splits time at quarterback and has passed for twelve touchdowns on the season.
DeSales Wins If...
The Colts can continue to dominate the line of scrimmage. DeSales is at their best when running the football. James Johnson has rushed for 1,361 yards and eighteen touchdowns on the season and as a team the Colts are just shy of 3,000 rushing yards. Of course, Belfry likes to run the ball as well. If DeSales can establish the run on their side and prevent Belfry's trio of rushers to get untracked, the Colts will play for their first state championship in five years.
Belfry Wins If...
Stop me if you've heard this, but if Belfry can control the line of scrimmage, they'll win the ballgame. Belfry has rarely played a game this season in which all key contributors were healthy, but that has changed in the postseason. Peyton Hensley leads the team in rushing with over 1,000 yards and thirteen scores, but Youngstown State-commit Ben Bentley is right behind him with 929 yards and another thirteen touchdowns. Isaac Dixon serves as the Pirates' best home run threat, having scored touchdowns rushing and receiving, as well as a punt return and kickoff return. If Belfry can get ahead early and control the clock with their run game, the Pirates will have a chance to play for their seventh state crown.
3A Notebook Pick...
DeSales 24 Belfry 23
Taylor County (11-2) at Bell County (13-0)
What to Know...
Two programs with vastly different histories. Bell County is making their eleventh state semifinals appearance, but are only 2-8 in final four games. Taylor County is in this round for the third time in school history but has never advanced to the finals. Bell County head coach Dudley Hilton was head coach at Taylor County in 2014 and 2015, while Taylor County coach Sam Marple came to Taylor after serving as an assistant at Bell from 2016-18.
Bell County Wins If...
They continue to make stops defensively. Bell County is allowing only 10.2 points per game but will be seeing a multi-faceted offense with several weapons for the first time all season. Bell has proven capable of running and passing the ball with success. Can they match the athleticism of Taylor County? And how will they respond if they fall behind?
Taylor County Wins If...
They continue to get big plays from Tre Goodin and Wes Oliver and continue to hit hard on defense. The 3A Notebook has seen Taylor in person twice this season and has been extremely impressed with how hard they tackle, especially considering they aren't a physically dominant team in appearance. If Taylor can mount drives on the ground behind Oliver (2,093 yards/27 touchdowns) and Goodin (1,196 yards/14 touchdowns) and hold Bell's explosive offense in check, they can get to their first ever state final. Bell County kicker Jason Jones is just 10-for-19 on extra points and Bell often chooses to go for two, while Taylor kicker Daniel Vasquez is 29-of-35 on extra points and has made three field goals. That could be significant.
3A Notebook Pick...
Taylor County 23 Bell County 20