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Belfry, Bell County to Square Off for 3A Championship

Five seasons ago, I began writing the 3A Notebook. The style and tone were borrowed liberally from a number of sports writers I'd read since I was a kid. My goal was to highlight football in the commonwealth and especially the kids and teams from Class 3A. This will certainly be the last 3A Notebook of the 2019 season and it will likely be my last 3A Notebook ever as I hand over the reins to someone else to drive the ship for this class.

And while things will change in this column space going forward, the one thing that hasn't changed is that to win a championship in Class 3A, you've got to beat the mountain teams. And perhaps there's no better way to end the 2019 campaign than with two of the all-time greatest programs in the state, both from east of I-75, meeting at Kroger Field in Lexington for a right to wear the 3A crown.

Belfry punched their ticket to the finals by punching in a two-point conversion in the second overtime of their 15-14 victory at DeSales. Scoreless after four quarters, both sides scored on their initial set of downs to send it to a second extra frame. DeSales then scored on a 1-yard DeMarcus Avery touchdown run. The ensuing extra point gave the Colts a 14-7 advantage.

After DeSales took their lead, Belfry had four plays to score and potentially win the game or send it into a third overtime. A 1-yard Peyton Hensley run cut the deficit to 14-13 and that's where Philip Haywood, the winningest coach in Kentucky history, made the decision to win or lose with a two-point conversion.

"I asked our defensive coaches a question, I said ‘guys can we stop them?’ And they said, ‘coach we don’t know if we can or not.’ And I said, ‘well let’s go win it," Haywood told the Williamson Daily News of the decision to go for two. "The guys were already wanting to do it anyway. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do, if you’ve got a chance to win and you can’t stop somebody you better take that opportunity. We had the right play; we knew what to run. So, it was very fortuitous for us to go for two." (Belfry wins 15-14 double OT thriller over DeSales, secures 14th state title game appearance | Sports | williamsondailynews.com)

Isaac Dixon, Belfry's junior speedster, took an option pitch around the right side and sprinted to the corner to give the Pirates a 15-14 victory and a trip to their fourteenth state championship game in school history.


For DeSales, the lost ends a terrific season, the first in Class 3A for the Colts. DeSales spent a good portion of the year ranked first in Class 3A and ended the year with a 10-4 record. But they were again denied a chance at their third state championship and first since 2014.

"I think we played well," DeSales coach Harold Davis said to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "That’s a great football team. All of us know that. It hurts, especially for the seniors, this being their last game. And then you’re so close to getting to the state championship." (Kentucky high school football: DeSales loses to Belfry in 3A semis)

While Belfry and DeSales were staging an instant classic in the River City, near the Cumberland Gap in southeastern Kentucky, Bell County was systematically defeating Taylor County on their way to their fourteenth consecutive win against zero losses.

Bell County used a William Dean 33-yard touchdown run, a 43-yard London Stephney to Jason Jones touchdown pass, and a fumble recovery in the end zone to rush ahead of Taylor County on their way to a 46-28 state semifinal victory. From that point on it was simply a matter of deflecting every possible comeback attempt by Taylor County and their dynamic duo of backs, Tre Goodin and Wes Oliver.

Goodin and Oliver each scored two touchdowns but the Cardinals could never catch Bell. Oliver's second touchdown, a 39-yard run earlier in the third quarter, was almost immediately negated by a Dawson Woolum touchdown for Bell that made the scored 32-21. The game clincher then came from a London Stephney 53-yard pick six that gave Bell a seventeen point lead and a ticket to Lexington.



Aug. 24 - vs. Collins (W) 37-14
Aug. 30 - Knox Central (W) 22-8
Sept. 6 - at South Laurel (W) 80-40
Sept. 20 - at Whitley County (W) 42-21
Sept. 27 - at McCreary Central (W) 56-6
Oct. 4 - Rockcastle County (W) 39-6
Oct. 11 - Garrard County (W) 39-0
Oct. 18 - at Jackson County (W) 45-0
Oct. 25 - at Estill County (W) 55-12
Nov. 1 - Harlan County (W) 32-14
Nov. 8 - Garrard County (W) 44-0
Nov. 15 - Rockcastle County (W) 39-0
Nov. 22 - Fleming County (W) 48-12
Nov. 29 - Taylor County (W) 46-28

BELFRY (10-3)
Aug. 23 - at Southwestern (W) 31-7
Aug. 30 - Lexington Christian (W) 39-20
Sept. 13 - at Archbishop Alter (L) 0-14
Sept. 20 - Pikeville (L) 21-22
Sept. 27 - Magoffin County (W) 59-14
Oct. 4 - at Floyd Central (W) 41-6
Oct. 18 - Lawrence County (W) 48-0
Oct. 25 - at Pike County Central (W) 55-14
Nov. 1 - Johnson Central (L) 16-53
Nov. 7 - Floyd Central (W) 46-7
Nov. 15 - Pike County Central (W) 60-0
Nov. 22 - Ashland (W) 41-7
Nov. 29 - at DeSales (W) 15-14 (2OT)

Statistics (Friday night's games not included)
Leading Rusher
Bell County: Brandon Baker - 1,304 yards; 16 touchdowns
Belfry: Peyton Hensley - 1,228 yards; 16 touchdowns

Leading Passer
Bell County: London Stephney - 1,392 yards; 18 touchdowns; 3 interceptions
Belfry: Brett Coleman - 393 yards; 6 touchdowns; 1 interception

Leading Receiver
Bell County: Jason Jones - 831 yards; 12 touchdowns
Belfry: Isaac Dixon - 184 yards; 3 touchdowns


Two of the most iconic programs in the mountains of Kentucky (and among the 25 best programs in the entire state) will face off on Friday night at Kroger Field in Lexington. Belfry, winners of six state titles, most recently in 2016, will battle Bell County, twice champion but none since 2008. You'll see the two winningest coaches in the Bluegrass: Philip Haywood at Belfry with 448 wins and Dudley Hilton at Bell County with 393. You'll see two of the commonwealth's most exciting talents in London Stephney at Bell and Isaac Dixon at Belfry. But who will win?

With no common opponents, it is difficult to make a judgment based on what we've seen on the field. Belfry has played the much tougher schedule, with six opponents (Johnson Central, Pikeville, Archbishop Alter, DeSales, Lexington Christian, Ashland) rated higher per Calpreps than the best opponent on Bell's schedule (Harlan County). However, Belfry has at times been susceptible to teams with size and skill, something Bell County has. And we can't discount Bell just because of their schedule - they've hardly been challenged all season, which must mean they're pretty good.

However, I think experience will count. No, Belfry hasn't played in the finals since this year's seniors were freshmen. But they've been there. And there is an expectation of success at Belfry that is hard to deny. Bell County has always been good, but they've not always been at this point. Give the 3A Notebook the boys from Pond Creek and a seventh state title to Pike County.

Belfry 28 Bell County 6