September 29, 2018 – Pikeville, Kentucky – CASEY ALLEN – Bluegrass Sports Nation
Coming in to last night’s game Pikeville had dropped two consecutive games. Although most teams would be scrambling to find what the problem is, the Pikeville Panthers understood that the competition they were playing is elite. They played right with Class 3A powerhouse Belfry and traveled across state lines to take on a West Virginia monster in Point Pleasant. Pikeville stayed in both of those games through all four quarters. In fact, they had a chance to take the lead on Point Pleasant with 20 seconds remaining.
Hazard on the other hand came in to last night having handled their business in all of their contests except one. The Coach Dixon Bulldogs were on the hunt for a little revenge after losing to Pikeville in the playoffs last year. These two teams played each other twice last year and split the two meetings. Hazard took Pikeville to the woodshed in the regular season, but it was Pikeville who ended the Bulldogs’ season when they met in the quarterfinals.
This game was billed as Game of the Week in the mountains. It lived up to the hype from the opening kick. These two teams were mirror images of each other. Both have a great running back, both have a dual threat quarterback, both have weapons all over the field, both have hard hitting defenses, and both have elite coaching staffs.
The game was filled with big plays. None bigger than the first one, which came early in the first quarter as Pikeville’s Christian Billiter intercepted a Bulldog pass and returned it for the pick six. The extra point was no good. Pikeville lands the first punch, 6-0.
Defense would be the story early on as both teams were playing sideline to sideline. Hazard broke through the Pikeville defense on a 25 yard touchdown pass from Bailey Blair to Reece Fletcher. The point after try was good, and Hazard takes the lead 7-6.
The next score would come with 1:22 left in the first half. Pikeville’s dual threat quarterback Connor Roberts broke free down the sideline for a 20 plus yard touchdown run. Pikeville elected to go for the two-point conversion. They again fail short on the attempt making the score 12-7 in favor of the Panthers.
With just 1:22 seconds left in the half and the game being a defensive battle, both coaching staffs seemed to be content going in to the half. NO SO FAST MY FRIEND!!!! Hazard got the ball rolling and drove deep into Panther territory. With 4.6 seconds left in the half, Coach Dixon called upon Jonah Helm to boot a 31 yard field goal through the up rights. The first half ends with Pikeville holding a narrow lead 12-10.
The second half would be a lot different than the first. Both teams began moving the ball with ease what was once a defensive battle, became a shootout. Hazard’s Skylar Pelfrey would find pay dirt diving into the end-zone on a 4th and goal situation.
Pikeville answered quickly scoring just one minute later when Zack Roberts moved the pile across the goal line. The score entering the 4th quarter was all knotted up at 27-27. The game would come down to who could make the big play.
That’s exactly what Pikeville did, as Connor Roberts would connect with Christian Billiter for a 64 yard touchdown strike on a huge third down. Pikeville took the lead 33-27. Hazard had 5 minutes left in the game to make something happen. They began driving on the Panthers as they had done the entire second half. Bailey Blair on a 3rd and 8 would throw a ball that many professional quarterbacks couldn’t make. He put the ball where only Andy Baker, his intended receiver could make a play on the ball. Baker did his best to get a toe down as he fell out of bounds. The referee saw Baker bobble the ball and called it incomplete. If challenges were allowed in high school, that one could have went either way as it looked like Baker secured the ball right before falling out of bounds. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs they were unable to convert on the ensuing fourth down.
The Pikeville Panthers defense came up big when they had to by forcing a turnover on downs with two minutes remaining in the game. The Panther offense would seal the victory with a first down and the Pikeville Panthers secured homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with the win. The Hazard Bulldogs will have to travel back to Pikeville in the playoffs on their road to the state finals.
Hazard’s offense was on fire in the second half. For the game Bailey Blair completed 6 of 13 passes for 110 yards and 1 touchdown. Reece Fletcher was on the receiving end of that touchdown pass. Blair also added 35 yards rushing and a score on 11 attempts. Skylar Pelfrey had a huge night for the Bulldogs as he rushed for 213 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries.
Pikeville’s player of the game had to be Christian Billiter. Billiter scored twice on the night. Once on a 64-yard bomb, and the other on a pick six. Billiter played shut down defense at corner and was involved on several tackles. Connor Roberts is proving to be one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the region as he was able to put the ball in the end-zone through the air and on the ground.
One thing is for sure, these two teams will meet again. If the second meeting is anything like the first, we are all in for a treat. As a player you dream of playing in big games like this. As a Bluegrass Sports Nation Columnist, I am honored to cover such a game. When these teams meet again, BSN will be there, providing in game analysis, a full game recap, and a complete photo gallery of all the action. If you haven’t already, go give us a Like on out Facebook page, and visit our website daily at www.bluegrasssportsnation.com.
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