Bears face toughest test against Belfry

By John Henson - [email protected]

Belfry coach Phillip Haywood has led the Pirates to three straight 3A state titles and is the state’s all-time winningest coach.

With three straight state championships to their credit, along with the state’s all-time winningest coach on the sideline, the Belfry Pirates are accustomed to positive publicity.

They received some more last week in a Lexington Herald Leader story on four Belfry linemen being recruited by Division I schools.

“By now anyone who knows anything about high school football in Kentucky has heard about Cole Bentley (a 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive guard committed to Louisville), Austin Dotson (a 6-6, 305-pound offensive tackle committed to Kentucky) and Rayquan Horton (a 6-1, 308-pound defensive tackle with offers from Western Kentucky, Toledo, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee Tech). Oh yeah, there’s also all 6-2, 305 pounds of Jordan Scott, who holds an offer from Tennessee Tech,” according to the Herald Leader story written by Josh Moore.

Belfry started the current season much like the last three, rolling to a 48-12 win Friday over Tates Creek in the Pike County Bowl. The Pirates are the unanimous choice in the Associated Press poll as the state’s top 3A team.

Harlan County is the next opponent on Friday in Belfry. The Bears are 1-1 after coasting past Clay County 51-14 last week. The Bears opened the season with a hard-fought 26-14 loss at Pulaski County, the defending 5A state runner up.

“They are a much improved football team from last year,” Haywood said. “I know they have just about all their players back from last year, and they just look more mature. They are a senior-junior team.”

The Belfry coach was also impressed by the Bears’ versatility after watching them run for over 200 yards again Pulaski County, followed by a 308-yard passing effort by junior quarterback Jacob Branson against Clay County. Colby King and Tyrese Simmons each had two touchdown catches last week.

“The first game they ran it, and the second game they threw it primarily, so they have a pretty good mix,” Haywood said. “They do both very well. They have good running backs. They throw it well, and they have a good line. They are also very physical. We have to come prepared to play. They remind me of some Harlan County teams of years past where they have that physicality about them.”

The Bears will likely be facing the toughest opponent on a schedule that also includes Johnson Central, Pulaski County, Knox Central, North Laurel and Bell County.

“They are big. They are strong. They are fast, and they are athletic,” said Harlan County coach Eddie Creech. “They will present the same problems to us they would present to anyone else. Our mindset going into the game is there is no pressure on us. They will definitely be a handful, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Despite his team’s lofty ranking, Haywood says the Pirates are not yet where they need to be.

“We’re not as good as we were last year right now,” he said. “We lost some pretty good football players from last year’s team. A lot of people talk about these linemen we have coming back, and they are good players, but we lost players at key positions like end, linebacker and running back that we haven’t replaced yet. Until we find those, we have a ways to go. We’re searching, you might say. We’re at the developmental stage of developing a team right now. It will be a process. We’re a little younger overall. Last year, we were a senior-junior team. We have some seniors this year, but we started a freshman last week, along with a couple of sophomores.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Belfry coach Phillip Haywood has led the Pirates to three straight 3A state titles and is the state’s all-time winningest coach. coach Phillip Haywood has led the Pirates to three straight 3A state titles and is the state’s all-time winningest coach.

By John Henson

[email protected]

Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134

Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134

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