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Pikeville defeats Belfry in Thriller – “I was nervous because KSR was here”

Pikeville’s defense needed a spark.

Belfry had easily scored touchdowns on their first two drives and the Pirates’ defense had just held on 4th down. Belfry seemed to be in control, leading 14-6, having stopped the Panthers twice already, and blocked their first extra point.  It could be easy for doubt to creep in.

Yes, the Panthers did win last year but the Pirate’s start running back Isaac Dixon had missed that game due to injury.  Plus, Pikeville only returned five starters and they hadn’t beaten Belfry twice in a row since 2000. Tonight, Belfry had already put up two plays over 60 yards, including a completed 68-yard touchdown PASS tonight, and the Pirates never pass.  So, the Panthers defense desperately needed something, anything.

The spark came on the very next play after the turnover on downs, though, and his name is Blake Birchfield.  Junior Josh Taylor stripped Belfry running back Isaac Dixon and Birchfield, a sophomore, scooped it up and ran it in for a 21-yard Pikeville TD.  Junior Isaac Coleman ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14 with 5:15 remaining in the half.

“It was awesome, it just popped right into my arms,” Birchfield told KSR.

Belfry didn’t score again.

Birchfield saw to that.

He was just getting started.

Belfry won the toss and deferred. Pikeville moved the ball to midfield but had to punt.  Belfry junior RB Brayden Rash took a toss and scampered 61 yards up the left sideline to set up an 8-yard Dixon TD run with 6:19 left in the first quarter.

Pikeville responded with a TD drive of their own. Junior QB Isaac McNamee hooked up with sophomore Jeb Wilkerson for gains of 18 and 32 yards and Birchfield punched it in for a 2-yard TD run.  Belfry blocked the extra point to preserve their 7-6 lead.

Belfry responded with a 68-yard pass (yes, a pass) from Brett Coleman, a Miami (OH) DB commit, to a wide-open Dixon for a TD. The pass was a little underthrown, but Dixon hauled it in and made a man miss at the goal line for a 14-6 Pirate lead.

Pikeville drove to the Belfry 19 but failed to convert on a 4th-and-10 fade. The next play is when Taylor caused the fumbled and Birchfield scooped it up for the 21-yard defensive score. The Pikeville 2-point conversion tied it at 14.

Belfry drove to the Pikeville 28, but the Panther defense held thanks to some key defensive plays by junior Landon Hammock.  Pikeville took over and let the clock run down to go to the locker room tied at the half.

Belfry took the 2nd half kickoff and burned nearly 7 minutes of clock, but a holding penalty near the red zone led an incomplete pass on 4th and long.  This was one of several incomplete passes for the Pirates, a team that rarely goes to the air.

Pikeville took over on their own 26 and methodically marched to the red zone. McNamee had a key run up the middle to set up 1st and goal at the 5 and then hooked up with junior Zac Lockhart for a 5-yard score with 10:21 left. The extra point was no good. The drive took 7 minutes.  Lockhart took a big hit on the play but managed to hold on to the ball.  Belfry was called for a personal foul for the hit on Lockhart.

“That one kind of hurt.  I’m not going to lie.  I was just rolling out.  I knew Isaac was going to see me. He’s a great quarterback,” Lockhart told KSR.

“We called a boot.  It was designed for me to run but Zac was wide open.  I found him and he held on for a great catch and took a really big lick,” McNamee said.

Belfry drove down the field on their second (and last) drive of the half.  They got down near the red zone but Birchfield made a great shoestring tackle on Dixon’s 4th down run.

“Shew.  Dixon.  I didn’t expect it.  I missed one (tackle) earlier down the field.  So that one finally gave me a chance and I got it back,” Birchfield said.

Pikeville took over and salted the final 3:30 away with a couple of Birchfield first down runs to preserve the 20-14 victory.  Each team only had the ball twice the whole second half.  Belfry turned the ball over on downs on their final 3 possessions and fumbled on the drive before that.

“It’s just a pride thing.  We are about pride around here.  If you win this game, you get to wear it on your chest for the entire season.   Everybody loves this game.  It’s very competitive.  Belfry is always great,” Isaac McNamee said.

Birchfield gets my game MVP vote. The super sophomore ran for lots of yards, including a TD, and made the biggest defensive plays of the game.  Pikeville coach Chris McNamee had high price for Birchfield.

“He (Birchfield) is a special back.  Just a sophomore.  Didn’t get a lot of time last year with all the seniors we had, but he’s been in the weight room and worked extremely hard.  He’s just a heck of a football player.  Played offense and defense and never came out all night.  He did a great job for us,” said Chris McNamee.

“This means a ton.  Especially getting interviewed by KSR.  I wear my KSR shirt to school about every other day.  I was nervous because KSR was here,” Birchfield said.

“I was tired but Coach Sullivan, our defensive coordinator, tells me every practice ‘We need you’.  If you are not ready, go out, but if you are on the field give it all,” Birchfield said about playing on both sides of the ball all night.

The Panthers are the favorite to win their 2nd straight class A state title and 6th overall.  They only have five seniors, so the future is bright in Pikeville.

“I am really proud of our kids for the effort they gave tonight.  They just showed a lot of grit and I’m really proud of them,” said Chris McNamee.

The Pirates are also the favorite to repeat (they play in 3A) but will need to get some more help in the backfield for Dixon.  The senior averages 13.3 yards per carry for his career.  They are going for their 8th state title.  Senior Seth Mounts, Belfry’s leading tackler in Week 1, missed the contest with an injury.  His recovery will be crucial for the Pirates chances of repeating.

Check out @teeroyhowell on Twitter to see all the post-game interviews.

Article written by Troy Howell

Follow me on twitter @ teeroyhowell

1 Comment for Pikeville defeats Belfry in Thriller – “I was nervous because KSR was here”

  1. antiquefurnitureandmidgets
    2:38 am September 21, 2020 Permalink

    Of all the successes KSR has enjoyed, this should still be one of the more flattering moments. That’s funny.