It’s time for the KHSAA State Championships. With Western Kentucky playing in the C-USA Title Game, the schedule for all six championships has shifted. The 1A Championship Game will be on Thursday night and will feature Beechwood and Pikeville. I’ll have live tweets and occasional periscopes from the games, if you’re into that kind of thing. For this interested in the live stream of the game, click here for the KHSAA stream.
Best Win: Newport Central Catholic 31-14
The Tigers will fight for their 12th state title this Thursday. Beechwood has rolled to this point behind the second best offense in 1A. Despite playing without running back Ethan Stringer, Beechwood’s offense has still be on point the last three games without him. Kyle Fieger has thrown ten touchdown in the postseason and over 100 in his career. His top target has been Brett Slusher. In a 34-25 semifinal win over Russellville, Slusher ran for 119 yards and three touchdowns while also reeling in three catches for 50 yards. Slusher has been the team’s big play threat all season, including against NewCath when he caught nine passes for 180 yards. Slusher also plays defense for that allows an average of 14 points per game. This season has been impressive for Beechwood after losing 18 starters from last year’s team. Fieger has been excellent in his second season as the starting QB.
Best Win: Paintsville 42-23
While Beechwood is second in points scored, Pikeville is first. The Panthers average of nearly 48 points a game largely in part to their run attack. Daric Pugh is the top scoring player in 1A, and he is special to watch. Pugh is a power back who can hit the open field with a good amount of speed. In our first Game of the Week, Pugh ran for 303 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. Pikeville totaled 408 rushing yards in that game against Prestonsburg. Pugh is lined up with Blake Charles and A.J. Vanderbeck in the backfield. Pikeville opened up their playbook a lot more in the postseason. Wyatt Battaile was 11/12 for 121 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Paintsville. Pugh added 251 rushing yards in the 42-23 win.
How the Game will Go
Each team has their respective issues. Beechwood struggled to stop the run last week against Russellville. The Tigers allowed nearly 300 rushing yards in the win. Pikeville’s run attack will be the toughest Beechwood has faced all season. Pugh is a different kind of beast. Beechwood will need to contain Pugh to an extent and force the Panthers to throw more than they are comfortable with, especially on third down. While Beechwood has played several tough games this season, Pikeville’s best opponent was Paintsville. The Panthers lost when Kash Daniel played for Paintsville, but got revenge when the senior QB/LB was out with an MCL sprain. Pikeville’s lack of difficult games will haunt them against Beechwood. The Tigers would be highly favored if Stringer was healthy, but he will not play in the title game. It’s tough to replace a guy who ran for over 1,500 yards in a shortened season, but Slusher can fill that role. Fieger will also need to step up and make big throws like he did against NewCath and throughout the postseason. It’s pretty cut and dry what Pikeville needs. The legend of Daric Pugh will need to grow in a big way. If Charles and Vanderbeck can make the most of their runs and take some pressure off Pugh, that will go a long way in the Panthers winning the title.
Trey’s Pick- The Beechwood Tigers have not won a title since 2008. The streak ends this year. I’ll take Beechwood 34-16.
Nick’s Pick- I like Pikeville’s high-scoring offense to win, but I gotta cheer for Jared Lorenzen’s family to pull out a Beechwood 38-35 victory.