Lions look to upset Hazard

Published 11:57 am Thursday, November 2, 2017

Pinville’s rough regular season came to a heart-stopping end on Oct. 20 when the team lost in a close 35-28 defeat to Harlan. The loss locked the Mountain Lions into the fourth seed in the district and set them on a direct route to Hazard. Pineville will square off against the Bulldogs on Friday in a first round match-up.

While Pineville and Hazard isn’t recognized as a classic rivalry, the two teams have crossed paths several times over the past 11 years. Friday will mark the 13th time the Lions and Bulldogs have played each other since 2007 with four of the games being in the postseason.

From 2007 to 2014, the Lions and the Bulldogs played in the same district — making the clash a yearly ordeal. In 2015, Hazard and Pineville were placed in different districts but opened the season against each other. Since 2007, the Bulldogs hold a 12-0 record against Pineville.

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The closest meeting between the two teams was in 2012 when Hazard narrowly escaped Pineville with a 28-22 victory. In the 12 games leading up to Friday, the Bulldogs have defeated the Lions by an average of 34.6 points.

The 2015 season was the last time the two teams played each other. In the season opener, Hazard handed the Lions a 35-14 loss. They met again in the first round of the playoffs, where the Bulldogs eased to a 41-6 victory.

This year, Pineville is looking to upset Hazard and help coach Bart Elam pick up his first victory over the Bulldogs during his Pineville tenure.

Know the Bulldogs

Year in and year out, it always seems like Hazard is a legitimate threat to win the Class A state title. This year is no different with the Bulldog boasting an impressive roster and record.

Hazard finished the regular season 7-2, which was good enough for a No. 3 ranking by the Associated Press. Their only losses came against Somerset and No. 1 Paintsville. The Bulldogs hold impressive victories over some larger schools including a 17-6 win against Harlan County and a 24-20 victory over Whitley County.

Quarterback Bailey Blair makes everything move for the Bulldog offense. Through the air, the junior has completed 61 percent of his passes while tallying 1,407 yards and eight touchdowns. On the ground, he leads the team with 561 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Also a threat on the ground is Reese Fletcher. The sophomore running back averages 54 yards per game and has found the end zone four times this season. Cory Smith has five rushing touchdowns as well.

Two of Blair’s favorite targets in the passing game are Bryson Parks and Skylar Pelfrey. Parks leads the receiving corps with 29 catches for 436 yards and four touchdowns. Pelfry has hauled in 28 catches for 368 yards and one touchdown.

Braxton Whitaker is also a threat to make a play happen through the air. The senior has grabbed 23 catches for 309 yards and three touchdowns. In addition to that, he leads the defense in interceptions with six.

The Hazard defense has been stingy all year allowing only 112.6 rushing yards per game and 85.2 passing yards. Along with Whitaker, the secondary is made up of Isaiah Stupart and Trajon Campbell with both tallying three interceptions on the year. Campbell has returned one for a touchdown.

Fletcher leads the defense in tackles with 90 on the year. Robbie Davidson has 82 and Andy Baker has brought down 73 ball-carriers.

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN