(Article by BSN Contributor JJ BAKER)
Hazard, KY – 8-30-18
Week 2 of the Kentucky high school football season starts Friday night and the Hazard Bulldogs will make the trip down Highway 15 South to take on the Letcher County Central Cougars. This will be the ninth time the two teams have faced off since 2007. Hazard leads the series 7-1. Hillard Howard’s 2009 squad was the last team to post a win against the Bulldogs.
That victory came at Hazard’s Daniel Field during a year that saw the Bulldogs make to the state semi-finals and be beaten by eventual Class A State Champion Lexington Christian. Letcher went on that year to fall in the Regional final to the Pulaski County Maroons. Throughout the series the games have been decided by an average of less than two touchdowns. Two out of the last three years the game has been decided by four or fewer points. When asked about the close games Coach Mark Dixon said, “We always get Letcher’s best effort whenever we play them. Regardless of the records it’s always going to be a battle against those guys.”
Letcher will come into the contest 0-2 on the season. Letcher’s two losses have come to stiff competition in a week one game against a stout Knox County Central team and then last week to an up and coming Bell County squad. Junior Matthews is in his third year as head coach of the Cougars and is looking for a break through win to give Letcher an early season boost. Taking the snaps for the Cougars will be senior signal caller Nick Sergent. Sergent has thrown the ball 11/28 times this season for 124 yards. Taylor Branham has led Letcher Central with 55 yards receiving on the season. A two headed rushing attack consists of Jonathan Sergent and Hunter Campbell who are helping lead the Cougars to a 158 yards rushing per game average. After a run heavy first game against Knox, the Cougars aired the ball out more against Bell County. A balanced attack will be needed on Friday to keep the Bulldogs guessing and the yard markers moving.
Hazard will come into the game with an offense that seems to be hitting on all cylinders and is capable of scoring on any play. Hazard showed off both the power run game as well as spreading the Harlan defense last Friday night. Bailey Blair’s night consisted of a 12/15 and 178 yard passing effort and 34 net yards rushing. Newcomer to the backfield Skylar Pelfrey continued his impressive run as he tallied 135 yards rushing along with Reece Fletcher’s efficient 78 yards on 3 carries and Trajon Campbell’s 52 yards on 3 carries. What was most impressive was Hazard’s willingness and ability to block down field by their receivers. After the big guys up front (Caudill, Goins, Couch, Beverly, and Strong) opened the holes, the receivers sprung several big runs by great open field blocking. Not only getting those impressive blocks, but also running up some impressive receiving yardage were Andy Baker (81yd), Kyle Johnson (63yd), Mason Collins (22yd), and Andrew Ford (9yd). Another impressive stat was 8 different Hazard players touched the ball Friday night. It’s always easier on a defense when the offense is putting up numbers like the Bulldogs did week 1. Hazard does need to settle in on defense this week as they gave up a few big plays last week. Looking to make an immediate impact and returning from an injury this week, will be senior safety Isaiah Stupart. Stupart was hurt in the Belfry scrimmage and missed week one. The Hazard defense will be anchored by the two middle linebackers Reece Fletcher and Mason Collins, and the defensive lineman Ben Adams, Jacob Brashear, Parker Holbrook, Nate Smith, Draven Goins, and Dalton Strong. Skylar Pelfrey, Bryson Sayers, and Zane Deaton will hold down the outside linebacker spots. The Cougar passing game will try to be controlled by safety’s Andy Baker, Ryan Davidson, and Isaiah Stupart along with corners Kyle Johnson, Trajon Campbell, Tyson Turner, and Campbell Davis.
In what has generally been a competitive game over the past several years, this years Hazard/Letcher Central game will be no different. Keys for a Bulldog victory this week will include keeping the offense running like a well oiled machine as it has displayed in the previous three weeks and the defense’s ability to keep the Cougars from hitting the big plays and getting off the field on third down. Game time will be 7:30pm on August 31st at Letcher County Central High School.