On Friday, the Hazard Bulldog football team traveled to Pikeville to take on the Panthers in the region title game. The Panthers (10-2) came into the game full of confidence as they were the defending state champions in Class A, and held a 29-21 win over the Bulldogs (10-2) during the regular season. However, no one told Hazard that the odds were against them as they dominated the game, took the region trophy home, and advanced to the next round of the playoffs.
Pikeville was stymied on their first drive, but took possession of the ball almost immediately after an early Hazard turnover. The Panthers quickly took advantage of good field position, and jumped out to the 7-0 lead.
The rest of the first half would belong to Hazard. The Bulldogs tied the score just seconds into the second period, and tacked on two more touchdowns before the half (all on short runs by Cory Smith). At the half, Hazard was up 21-7.
Pikeville rolled the dice to start the second half with an on-side kick. The Panthers would roll into the end zone to bring the tally to 21-13.
Again, Hazard would recover from the score, and dominate the remainder of the half. Cory Smith would drop another pair of touchdown runs on the Panthers, boosting the Bulldog lead to 35-13.
Late in the fourth quarter, the two teams would trade touchdowns. Bailey Blair broke the goal line with a quarterback keeper, erasing the Pikeville effort. Hazard then ran out the clock, taking the region title by the final count of 42-19.
The Bulldogs will host the unbeaten Paintsville Tigers (13-0) on Friday. The winner of this game will play for the state title.
Hazard stats: Rushing: Bailey Blair 3 for 9 yards and 1 td, Mason Collins 1 for 2 yards, Reese Fletcher 5 for 17 yards, Matthew Francis 3 for 3 yards and Cory Smith 37 for 279 yards and 5 tds. Passing: Bailey Blair 2 of 3 for 21 yards. Receiving: Jason Johnson 2 for 21 yards. Interceptions: Braxton Whitaker 1. Fumble Recoveries: Skylar Pelfrey 1. Tackles: Andy Baker 3, Jacob Brashear 2, Ethan Caldwell 3, Austin Combs 4, Robbie Davidson 6, Reese Fletcher 3, Jordan Hill 5, Kade Holland 6, Cheikh Ndiaye 4, Skylar Pelfrey 5, Austin Smith 4, Cory Smith 2 and Braxton Whitaker 6.
Tony McGuire can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org