24 teams in the state of Kentucky earned the right to practice on Thanksgiving day, an experience that cannot be adequately described, with a chance to play in Houchens Industries—L. T. Smith Stadium in next weekend’s state championships on the line. Anyone that played football in high school knows that feeling you get the night before a game but when only one game stands in the way of a state championship those feelings are magnified immensely.
With that in mind lets take a look at some of the best games of the week…
Painstville (13-0) vs. Hazard (11-1)
Painstville returns to the state semi-finals a year after they were eliminated by the eventual 1A state champion Pikeville while Hazard is making its first appearance to the state semis since 2011. Both teams are led by their star running backs, Kent Phelps for Painstville and Cory Smith for Hazard, Phelps has rushed for 1,758 and 30 touchdowns on 145 carries while Smith leads class 1A in rushing with 2,282 yards and 31 touchdowns on 226 attempts. This will be a chest match as both teams are playing their best football of the season at the perfect time.
Eli’s Pick – Cory Smith is an impressive runner and should be recognized as so but I can’t see Paintsville letting this opportunity slip for the second year in a row. I’ll take Kent Phelps and Paintsville in a game that will go down to the wire 28-24.
Belfry (12-1) vs. Corbin (12-1)
This is a rematch of last year’s semi-final game in which Belfry came out victorious on the way to their third straight state championship. As the Belfry seniors look to clinch their 4th straight state title appearance, Corbin hopes to use its home field advantage to propel the Redhounds to what would be one of the more surprising upsets in recent history. Austin Dotson, Cole Bentley, and Ray Horton lead the Pirates by example giving 100% effort on each and every snap displaying a winning attitude that spreads across the entire program.
Eli’s Pick – Of all the teams in class 3A Corbin matches up with Belfry the best on paper and the Redhounds did have some success slowing the Pirates down last season but it’s hard for me to see this Belfry senior class ending its tenure with anything other than a 4-peat. I’ll take Belfry 28-10.
South Oldham (12-1) vs. Pulaski County (11-2)
Pulaski County’s only two losses of the season came against 6A semi-state finalist Scott County and Southwestern, the team they eliminated last week, the Maroons are led by the states all-time leader in yardage and receptions Jake Johnson who has been impressive on both sides of the ball this season. The senior has seven interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and 16 offensive touchdowns this season. Containing Johnson will play a huge part in South Oldham’s success as he plays a huge role for Pulaski. Drew Zaubi must continue making plays for the Dragons as he has done all season throwing for 2,074 yards and 28 touchdowns in 13 games.
Eli’s Pick – South Oldham trails only Bowling Green in scoring differential this season as they’ve outscored opponents 546-271 this season. This is a toss up to me as neither team has a signature win on their resume, I’ll take Jake Johnson and Pulaski County 38-31 as the Maroons have played in the state title game the last 3 seasons.