Kroger’s KSR Game of the Week for Week 2 of high school football around Kentucky has us going east to Pike County where one of the nastiest and longest-running rivalries in the state will play its annual game for the 73rd time. I’m talking about Pikeville and Belfry, two storied programs with only 22 miles down US-119 between them, smashing helmets under the lights at Pikeville High School.
Here are 20 things you should know.
1. Pike County is Kentucky’s easternmost county.
Drive too far and you’re in West Virginia, or Virginia, depending on your route.
2. Pike County is also Kentucky’s largest county in area.
If you keep your attention on the map provided, you’ll see Pike County is the biggest county in land area, not just on the image from Wikipedia but in real life too.
In terms of population, it ranks just outside the top 10 counties with about 65,000 proud residents at last headcount.
3. You can’t talk about Pike County without talking about Hillbilly Days.
Hillbilly Days is one of Kentucky’s largest festivals that, until 2020, consumed the streets of Pikeville for one spring weekend a year as a celebration of life in the mountains and to raise money for the Shriners Hospital. It attracts as many as 100,000 people for good food, music, dancing, shopping, rides and more.
This has nothing to do with football but Hillbilly Days is a good time.
4. Pikeville High School is the city school.
Pikeville High with grades 7-12 is part of Pikeville Independent Schools, serving only the city of Pikeville and not the surrounding area in the county.
5. Belfry High is the largest of five high schools in the Pike County public school district.
Located a mile south of Williamson, West Virginia, Belfry High School is considered a county school, along with familiar names like Pike County, East Ridge, Phelps and Shelby Valley.
6. UK offensive lineman Austin Dotson is a former Belfry Pirate.
Dotson, a junior, played in nine games last season and will be a key reserve this upcoming season on the Big Blue Wall.
Former UK corner David Jones is another Belfry star who wore the blue and white on Saturdays in Lexington. You may remember him taking a kickoff 99 yards to the house in the Liberty Bowl in 2009.
7. Pikeville calls themselves the Panthers, Belfry the Pirates.
There’s your mascot update.
8. Pikeville is a defending state champion.
Last year, Pikeville went a perfect 14-0 and won the 1A state championship game over Paintsville, 43-0, in Kroger Field. It was the school’s fifth state title and the first in four years.
Pikeville reached the title game the year before in 2018 but couldn’t get it done.
9. Belfry is a defending state champion too.
As Pikeville took the state’s 1A title, Belfry raised its own state trophy in Class 3A.
After dropping back-to-back games around this time last year, Belfry recovered to finish the regular season with only one more loss, then went on to run the table in the playoffs and defeat Bell County in the championship game, 30-20.
10. Pikeville won last year’s regular season meeting between the two schools.
They both won the grand prize in the end, but it was Pikeville that earned the victory in the rivalry game earlier in the regular season. The Panthers edged out the Pirates, 22-21, thanks to a two-point conversion earlier in the game to make the difference.
It was Pikeville’s first win over Belfry since 2014.
11. Highlights from last year’s game (that I found on YouTube):
12. This will be the 73rd time the game has been played.
Going all the way back to 1928, Pikeville and Belfry have lined up on the field and it’s mostly been Belfry on top in the recent history of the rivalry. Last year’s upset at Belfry marked only the second time Pikeville had beaten Belfry in the last 19 years.
13. “We hate each other.”
That’s how KSR caller Darryl, a Belfry alum, described the way the two schools feel about each other. He referred to Pikeville as the big city with a lot of highfalutin people (although not all of them).
“We’re the ol’ holler boys. We’ll spit Beechnut in your eye and whip your butt but Pikeville, they do things a different way there.”
14. Pikeville is coached by Chris McNamee.
McNamee racked up Coach of the Year honors last year after leading Pikeville to its fifth state title, McNamee’s second at the school.
15. Pikeville’s QB is Isaac McNamee.
Yep, that’s the coach’s son under center. Last season he threw for 2,464 yards and 32 touchdowns as a sophomore, and as we’ve mentioned, didn’t lose a single game.
Isaac McNamee is one of only six returning starters from last year’s undefeated team though.
16. Belfry is coached by Philip Haywood, a Kentucky legend.
Coach Haywood is the state’s winningest coach with 450 wins in almost five decades between his time at Prestonsburg, his hometown; and then Belfry, where he took over in 1984.
Haywood has been to 12 state title games and won half of them.
17. Beflry’s QB is going to the MAC for college.
A two-way player, Belfry senior quarterback Brett Coleman is committed to Miami of Ohio as a safety and he is one of 10 returners back for Belfry this season as they seek revenge on the Panthers.
Coleman will be helped out by senior running back Isaac Dixon, the MVP in last year’s state championship game with 228 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
18. Hillard Howard Field is ready for football.
A fresh paint job for Hillard Howard Field in advance of the 2020 Home Opener. It’s a battle of defending State Champions. Class A #1 vs. Class AAA #1. The Real Pike County Bowl. #BeatBelfry ? ? pic.twitter.com/d1pVxJaUIk
— PHS Panther Football (@PikevilleHSFB) September 16, 2020
Hillard Howard coached Pikeville to three straight titles in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
19. Both teams won last week to start 1-0.
Pikeville went into Raceland and earned a road victory, 28-7, to extend its streak of wins to 15 games since dropping the 2018 state title game.
Road Warriors pic.twitter.com/rydYYIhxo4
— PHS Panther Football (@PikevilleHSFB) September 12, 2020
Belfry hosted Pulaski County and won that one, 33-13, to give Coach Haywood his 450th victory.
Isaac Dixon rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
20. The game will be streamed on Pay-Per-View only.
Mountain Top Sports has exclusive rights to the live stream and it’ll cost you $15 plus tax to tune in. Or you can check KSR this weekend to see our photos and stories from the game. Friday’s KSR radio show will be broadcast live from Pikeville too.