[Ed. Note: To preview our Game of the Week, we’re bringing in a Mountain football expert: Darrell McCoy. Darrell is one of our favorite KSR callers and kindly agreed to share his unique take on the Pikeville vs. Belfry rivalry. You can see more of his work on David & Darryl Sports.]
This week KSR & Kroger’s have a special matchup for you guys for the KSR “Game of the Week,” they got the Class 3A State Champion Belfry Pirates versus the Class A State Champion Pikeville Panthers.
This game is way more than just an ordinary game to the folks in Pike County. If you win this outing you get bragging rights for the next 365 days. These two schools are separated by 25 miles of rough Mountain terrain (well it’s four lane now but it used to be rough) and the majority of fans work together while the athletes are often close friends. With that being said, these two communities couldn’t be more different in their makeup.
“Pond Creek” raises “Redneck” holler boys that go four-wheelin and hunting on their spare time while the “highfalutin” city slickers of Pikeville spend their spare time at Country Clubs and private beaches (well that’s the way “Pond Creek Nation” looks at them). My grandfather described the rivalry best in my opinion, he always said that Belfry boys will spit beech nut in your eye just before handing you a good ole’ fashion butt whoopin’ while Pikeville fans will take you to court and sue the socks off you.
For the game itself, both programs have had their time in the spotlight. The rivalry started on Sept. 9, 1928. Right now Belfry leads the series 38-32-2. Although Belfry has controlled things over the last couple decades with a 16-3 record since the year 2000, Pikeville has clear bragging rights going into “Friday Night.”
The Panthers haven’t lost a game since 2018. They won the first meeting in 1928 by a score of 12-7, they also won last year’s meeting (on the road) by a score of 22-21. Pikeville also owns the rights to the biggest blowout between the two teams. On November 1, 1929, Pikeville demolished the Pirates 79-0.
The rivalry took a hiatus for 11 years and the two teams did not play from 1966-1977. From that point on, Belfry has won more often than not (especially in the Phillip Haywood era). Belfry’s first win came in 1934 when the Pirates knocked off the Panthers by a final score of 8-0. The two teams have combined for 12 State titles throughout history and Belfry owns 7 of them. Both squads are favorites in their respective classifications to repeat as State Champions this season.
On “Friday Night” the Pirates and Panthers hit the field with two of the best in the coaching profession. Both men hold the upmost respect in their communities. Belfry’s Phillip Haywood, AKA the “Goat,” is Kentucky’s all-time winningest coach with 450 wins and he also has a National Coach of the Year award on his resume. Coach McNamee is the reigning “COY” in the Bluegrass.
Both teams have outstanding quarterbacks, Belfry’s “Bad News” Brett Colman earned a scholarship to Miami of Ohio for his hard-hitting style of play at the safety position. Pikeville’s Isaac McNamee comes from a rich football bloodline and holds multiple Division-1 offers at this time. Pikeville has never lost a game with the “Mac-Attack” under center. Quarterback advantage goes to Pikeville.
Belfry’s Isaac Dixon ran a 4.48 forty at the University of Kentucky football camp last summer. He is known as the “King of the 200” here in the Coalfields. Nobody beats Isaac Dixon in a 200-meter race! Dixon was named “MVP” of the 2019 State Championship game and is one of the front-runners to win the 2020 “Mr. Football” award. Pikeville was led in rushing last week by “sophomore sensation” Blake Birchfield and Madison Central transfer Alex Rogers but it’s not clear if stud running-back Carson Wright will return to the backfield this week or not.
Whether Wright returns or not, the backfield advantage goes to Belfry. Isaac Dixon is a once in a decade type back and most Pirate fans think if Dixon would have played last season that Pikeville wouldn’t have stole that win.
Well Pikeville goes into this game with the advantage at wide receiver. Zac Lockhart is a stud but Belfry very rarely looks to the air so Pikeville wins the position battle by default.
Pikeville’s offensive line is fairly young but they got 4-5 players that will play collegiate football some day and a few at the Division-1 level. Belfry lost some key pieces including the top center in the State (Ethan Wolford) last season so Pikeville gets the clear advantage here.
This is a tough one, Pikeville’s D-Line is peppered with a lot of youth but Belfry lost a key piece to the puzzle when Jacob Baisden graduated, so I tend to lean Pikeville there. Now Pikeville linebacker Carson Wright is a future “Hall of Famer” and the Panthers have some playmakers in the secondary but they’re all “young in the tooth.” We give Belfry the clear advantage in these two areas, even with the “Pond Creek Punisher” Seth Mounts sidelined with a dislocated elbow. The Belfry DBs are long an athletic. Tyler Chaffin and Zayne Hatfield are great cover corners and Isaac Dixon is a freak of nature. The biggest advantage Belfry will have will be at linebacker. They have the baddest linebacking crew in the business. Brad Lowe and Rudy Blackwell will help make up for the absence of D1 prospect Seth Mounts.
Pikeville has former coaching legend Hilliard Howard and players like Jonathan Chapman, Heath Robinson, Brent Coleman, Greg Hackney, Timmy Honaker, Chuck Huffman, Matt Branham, Bobby Deramus, JP Blair, JP Huffman, Deanthony Honaker, Bob Shurtleff and Chris McNamee. Belfry has current University of Kentucky offensive lineman Austin Dotson and University of Louisville starting center Cole Bentley playing for the states two premier college football programs right now. Belfry has an impressive roster of former stars like Joey Ramey, Russell Carter, Mikey Scott, Irv Dotson, Micah Caudill, Jonah Caudill, Doug Howard, Matt Maynard, Corey Chapman, Thomas Varney, Raquan Horton and former University of Kentucky standout David Jones. Both programs also have prominent Eastern KY media members as well, Pikeville has the “Hail Pikeville” Podcast hosted by Heath Robinson & JR Robinson while Belfry has D&D Sports Network owners Darrell McCoy & David Jones. I may be a bit biased but I say advantage Belfry in the alumni category!
After breaking down these two storied Mountain programs, this game will basically be a flip of the coin, Belfry may be a slight favorite especially considering Pikeville won’t get to benefit from a true home field advantage with the number of onlookers being restricted by Covid. These two communities have hard-working, God-fearing super fans who are loyal to their programs. You won’t find two better fan bases in the entire state than these two groups of people. I always found it odd that when these two schools squares off, for 364 days a year these folks love and have the upmost respect for each other, but on this one night, there is a ton of tension and hate in the air.
Despite the outcome on Friday night, the next day both teams will root for one another to bring state titles back to Pike County. That’s what makes this game so special. It’s a love/hate relationship between Pikeville & Belfry. It’s going to be one “hellluva” slobber knocker so if you can’t make it, we suggest you tune in to Mountain Top Media and order the Pay-Per View. I guarantee you will get your moneys worth!!