gchs_uk9's Avatar
Central Stomps Belfry, Marks End of an Era

From Week 3 to today Bluegrasspreps' rankings have shown the same five teams in the top five spots. It has been a foregone conclusion that the Class 3A champion would come from this handful of teams. However, with a playoff format that sends four teams to the state semifinals, it has long been known that one of the five would be left without a seat when the music quit playing. On Friday night, Belfry was the odd man out. And for a program that has won four straight championships, played in seven straight finals, and gone at least as far as the state semifinals in thirteen of the last fourteen years, that loss resonated across the entire commonwealth.

Belfry went to Central on Friday night to revive what has become one of the greatest rivalries in Kentucky. Pike County and Jefferson County had met six times previously, with Central having won the first four games and Belfry the last two. All six had been played in the state championship game. Due to the implementation of cross-bracketing this season the matchup would instead be played two rounds earlier in the regional final.

Central scored first on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Rico White to U'Kari Baker. On the next drive, Central's Luke Bowman picked up a mishandled exchange and ran the fumble 34 yards to make the score 14-0. Both teams traded licks for much the remaining second half before Central receiver Davon Hall caught a tipped ball and ran the remaining 47 yards to pay dirt to make the score 34-21 at the break. From that point on it was domination by Central, as the Yellowjackets hit the end zone three times in the third quarter on the way to a 60-21 victory in the Region III title game.

First year Central head coach Marvin Dantzler told the Courier-Journal, "They’ve got Corbin and E’town (ahead of us), and we’ve just been hanging around at No. 5. We’ve been waiting to get our hands on all of them that’s in front of us. Hopefully we got some people’s attention tonight." (Friday Night Rewind | White shows Central's passing game also solid)

Don't expect after having knocked off Belfry for the first time since 2012 that Central will rest on its laurels. Linebacker Luke Bowman, whose fumble recovery for a touchdown gave the Jackets a daunting early advantage, feels like there are two more wins waiting. In the same Courier-Journal article he said, "We know we’re going to get the state ring this year. It’s ours."

Region IV

Corbin scored five times in the first quarter, inducing a running clock, on the way to a 50-14 regional championship win over Powell County. Quarterback Cameron Sizemore was impressive for the Redhounds, completing 7-of-8 passes for 215 yards and four touchdowns, each to a different receiver. Sizemore was just as good on the ground, rushing for 59 yards on only three carries, while Chase Estep scored twice on the ground on the evening.

Corbin head coach Justin Haddix told the Corbin Times-Tribune, I thought we came ready to play. We were able to take care of business and get the win." (Corbin scores 36 points during first 12 minutes on its way to a 5-14 win over Powell County | Sports | thetimestribune.com)

Powell County, playing in only their second regional final in school history, never quit, pushing across a touchdown just before halftime and scoring again early in the third quarter. Both scores came through the air from quarterback John Brooks, who passed for 105 yards but also threw four interceptions. After losing four straight to open the season, the Pirates roared to eight consecutive victories before falling to Corbin. They'll return Brooks along with running back Nathan Skidmore (who ran for 2,031 yards and 24 touchdowns) and should be a heavy favorite again in District 7.

Now Corbin gets their shot at Central, on the road in Louisville on Thanksgiving Friday. The Rehounds beat Central last season in the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic, but their last playoff meeting was a 36-33 Central victory on a touchdown at the buzzer in 2014. Said Haddix: "We really don’t mind who we play, we just want to keep advancing."

Region II

If you want to stop a run of bad postseason games against an opponent, its best to go ahead and take care of business early. Boyle County did just that on Friday evening, scoring 36 straight points in one and a half quarters on their way to routing Lexington Catholic, 57-15. The win ended a streak of three consecutive regional final losses to Catholic (2011, 2012, and 2014). Boyle did much of their damage on the ground, rushing for 372 yards as a team and scoring seven touchdowns. Tanner Crawford led the way with 267 yards and four scores.

Coach Chuck Smith felt the Rebels were ready to go from the onset, telling the Danville Advocate-Messenger, "They were focused, they were locked in, and they had a game plan and they weren’t going to be denied that game plan. They’ve been practicing hard...They’re practicing like a championship team, and they’ve just got to continue to do that." (Boyle County breaks through the wall, tops Lexington Catholic 57-15 | The Advocate-Messenger)

Defensively, where the Rebels so often shine, the results were no different against Catholic. Boyle held the potent Catholic offense to 139 yards of total offense, with heavily recruited quarterback Beau Allen completing just 10-of-23 passes for 110 yards. They'll need an effort similar to that to stop Elizabethtown next week in the first ever meeting between the schools.

Region I

It only took about five minutes, but after those five minutes the game was already over. Elizabethtown scored first, then picked off a pass and returned it 14 yards to the end zone to take a 14-0 lead over Caldwell County and it was all over from there. E'town exploded to a 39-0 halftime lead and finished with a 52-6 victory over Caldwell. The Panthers will play host to Boyle County next Friday.

Defense was the key for Elizabethtown. E'town held Caldwell's prolific offensive unit to 136 yards of total offense. Coach Mark Brown told the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise: "I think our defense set the tone. We were getting pressure on the quarterback and sacking him. We get the interception early. But getting pressure on him disrupted what they wanted to do. We did a pretty good job." (PREP FOOTBALL: Panthers shut down Tigers (11/19) | Sports | thenewsenterprise.com)

The offensive stats weren't particularly gaudy for the Panthers, who were led by Jay Becherer's 123 rushing yards and a score, but it was more than enough to guarantee a third consecutive playoff victory over Caldwell County.

Now the challenge gets stiffer, with second-ranked Boyle County coming to Elizabethtown on Friday night. In fact, the challenge is daunting for all four semifinalists. With two chairs to be removed after next Friday's games, two worthy contenders will hear the music stop for them. Whoever wins the Class 3A state championship in 2017 will have absolutely earned it.