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Red Devil Defense Dominates Fleming County

For the sixth consecutive game, Russell held their opponent under double digits. Russell went to Fleming County on Friday night and slowed down the high flying Panthers, allowing only a late touchdown on a fumble recovery in a 30-7 victory. Fleming County (4-2) entered the game averaging 41.2 points per game, much of it from quarterback Josh Crump who had passed for 1,212 yards and 16 touchdowns before Friday night. Russell coach T.J. Maynard told the Ashland Daily Independent “We knew coming in the Crump kid is a good football player; he throws the ball really well. What we tried to do was take his quick game away from him, and then we wanted to get pressure in his face.” (Red Devils defense handcuffs Panthers | Sports | dailyindependent.com) Russell (5-1) did just that, allowing Crump to throw for a mere 57 yards and picking him off twice.

While the defense has been strong all season, it has taken a few weeks for the offense to get untracked. Breaking in a few new linemen early in the season was one reason why the Red Devils put up 7, 13, and 7 points in their first three games. Improved offensive production over the last few weeks has resulted in Russell averaging 31.7 points per game during their three game winning streak. Friday night's attack was once again balanced. Quarterback Austin Smith passed for 126 yards and a touchdown while running back Nick Conley ran for 80 yards and a score.

Russell has placed themselves in the lead for a District 5 crown, having already beat Fleming County and West Carter, considered by most to be the biggest threat to knock off the Devils. With four games remaining and a dominant defense improving, Russell is looking like a top five team in Class 3A.

Pirates Right Ship, Ease Past Cabell Midland

The only blemish on what was an otherwise banner season for Belfry football in 2015 was a 49-7 loss at Cabell Midland, one of West Virginia's premier football programs. After suffering a similar blemish last week against Knoxville Catholic, Belfry was looking to get back in the win column on Friday night, something they did by roaring to an early lead and coasting to a 35-21 victory. As usual for Belfry, the ground game was dominant, with the Pirates rushing for 394 yards as a team. Andrew Fletcher led the way on the ground for Belfry, piling up 139 yards.

One of the biggest concerns for this terrific Belfry (5-1) squad was, because they have beaten their Kentucky opponents with such ease, how would they respond to four quarters of pressure situations. If last week against Knoxville Catholic was an F, then this week against Cabell Midland is at least a B. It doesn't get easier going forward, as next week Belfry travels to district foe Lawrence County who seemingly always plays the Pirates tough. A season-ender at Johnson Central, #1 in Class 4A, looks like yet another challenge. With Philip Haywood at the helm and a strong ground-and-pound offense, Belfry should be just fine.

Estill Close to District Title

Several years ago, the KHSAA instituted a scheduling grid for district games. Most every team in Kentucky opens district play around the end of September and continues through the remainder of the schedule. Because of a quirk, however, Estill County played their first district game on August 26 and now sits at 3-0, on the verge of their first district title in school history.

Estill (5-2) beat longtime nemesis Breathitt County 28-22 on Friday night, giving the Bobcats their first district loss. Engineer boss Mike Jones has always produced explosive offenses and this year is no different, with Estill averaging 34.1 points per game. Jones' preferred running style has two runners on pace for 1,000 yard seasons, Dawson Bingham (785 yards through six games) and Logan Beckler (655), while the Engineers had only attempted four passes the entire season entering the Breathitt game! Where Estill has struggled thus far has been on the defensive side, where they allow 29.7 per game and have twice given up more than 49.

Around the Rankings

#2 Corbin (6-1) rebounded from a heartbreaking loss to Mayfield by routing Jackson County, 64-8. Corbin has this week off, followed by a game with Bell County, before traveling to Casey County on October 21 in a game that looks like it will decide the district crown.

#3 Caldwell County (4-3) ran its winning streak to four with a 49-20 win over Union County. Union (4-2) did put a scare in Caldwell, trailing only 21-20 at the half, before Caldwell scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half.

#6 Central (2-4) won their second straight district game, toppling Moore 28-0 on Thursday night. The Yellowjacket defense was once again smothering, shutting out a Mustang offense that was scoring over 26 points per game.

#7 Bardstown took another step toward what should be a monumental matchup with Central in two weeks by whipping Waggener, 40-17. Bardstown is 6-0 for the first time since 2012.

#10 Adair County (6-1) was the only ranked team to fall this weekend, losing at Edmonson County 27-19. Adair's 19 points scored was 26 below their season average. The Indians must prepare for a road game at Elizabethtown in two weeks and a loss there could mean a first round playoff game on the road.

Extra Points

Casey County ran its season opening win streak to six with a 53-14 dismantling of Bell County. As has been the case all year, quarterback Breece Hayes was terrific, throwing for 319 yards and three scores, helping the Rebels record their first victory over Bell County in school history.

Despite a slow start, Elizabethtown (4-3) looks like the best team in District 2 again this season. Coach Mark Brown's Panthers romped over Hart County 49-6 to move to 2-0 in district play. Four different E'town players scored on the night, including Chase Bridges who returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown.

Lewis County (1-5) won their first game of the year, beating Pendleton County 34-28.

Three to See
(Each week the 3A Notebook will preview the three best games featuring Class 3A teams for the coming week)

1. Garrard County at Boyle County. This week's only matchup in Class 3A between ranked teams sees #8 Garrard County travel to #5 Boyle County. Garrard (4-2) will look to establish itself on the ground, where the Golden Lions average 260 yards per game. Boyle (3-3) has a much more balanced attack, having ran for 1,001 yards on the season and thrown for another 1,080.

2. Fleming County at West Carter. Both teams lost by similar to scores to Russell, meaning the winner of this game is in line for a second place finish in the district. West Carter (3-3) won 43-0 last year, but Fleming had won the four previous meetings.

3. Fort Campbell at Union County. Quietly, Fort Campbell has won two straight after four losses (each to top five teams in their respective classes) to open the season. A win by either team places them in contention for a home playoff game, while the loser will almost assuredly have to make the long trip to one of the top two teams in District 2.

Just One More
(Tired of the same teams every week? Want to go off the beaten path for a 3A game this Friday night? Each week we'll look at an under-the-radar matchup to watch in Class 3A)

Lewis County at Bath County. The prize, if you can call it that, is likely a first round playoff game at Belfry. These two are longtime rivals, and the series has been fairly balanced, with Lewis having won 11 of the last 18 games.