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PAINTSVILLE, Ky. — The Belfry Pirates couldn’t overcome three costly turnovers against Class 4A No. 1 Johnson Central in their regular season finale on Friday night as the home team pulled away in the second half for the 35-14 win at Eagle Field.

The Pirates (5-3) started the game off on defense as JCHS began their first possession following the opening kickoff at their own 37 yard line.

The Golden Eagles (7-0) mounted a long, clock-chewing drive against the “Big Red” defense as they worked their way deep into Pirate territory behind a punishing ground game.

On the 12th play of the drive, QB Grant Rice found the end zone from five yards out and Austin Ratliff’s PAT was good as JC took the 7-0 lead with 5:33 left in the opening period.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles kicked it to Belfry playmaker Isaac Dixon and he looked to make something happen on the return but coughed the ball up and JCHS recovered it on the Belfry 48 yard line.

On the ensuing play, Johnson Central running back Dillon Preston broke free from a winded Belfry defense and sprinted to the end zone for the 48 yard score. Ratliff’s PAT was true and the Eagles led 14-0 with 5:14 left in the first.

The Pirates did what good teams do and answered on their next possession as they mounted a 12-play drive of their own, capped off by a 18-yard run by Dixon in which he broke multiple tackles. Gideon Ireson’s PAT was good and BHS trimmed the lead to 14-7 with 11:09 left in the half.

The Belfry defense made a big stand on the next Johnson Central possession as they forced a turnover on downs on the 14th play of the drive. The Pirate offense couldn’t make anything happen before the break however, as JC held onto the seven-point lead.

BHS got the ball first to start the second half with a chance to tie the game up but a fumble by sophomore Neal Copley on the first play of the drive gave the ball to the Eagles at the BHS 36 yard line.

Eight plays later, Johnson Central made the Pirates pay for the turnover as Preston found the end zone for the second time of the game on a 12 yard scamper. Ratliff’s PAT was good and JC pushed the lead to 21-7 with 7:50 left in the third quarter.

Belfry once again had an answer following a turnover as Dixon took the handoff on their first play from scrimmage and sprinted 64 yards down the sideline for the score. Ireson’s PAT was money and the lead was cut back to seven at 21-14 with 7:38 left in the third.

That was as close as the Pirates would come however as Rice broke free for a long run of his own on the first play of the next JC possession and rumbled 56 yards all the way to the BHS two yard line.

Rice finished the job on the next play for his second rushing score of the game, and Ratliff’s PAT made it 28-14 with 6:45 in the third.

After each team forced the other to punt, Belfry had the ball early in the fourth qurter needing a touchdown to trim the lead to a one score game but committed their third turnover after a fumble on a pitch to Kyle Webb with 10:57 to play.

The Golden Eagles capitalized once again on the Pirate turnover as Preston scored his third TD of the game on a seven yard run with 4:23 play to reach the final score of 35-14.

JC outgained Belfry in total yards on the night as they totaled 317 yards, all on the ground, while BHS totaled only 149 yards, also coming on the ground.

Dixon was the lone bright spot offensively for the ‘Bucs as he topped the century mark finishing with 112 yards rushing and two scores on 12 carries.

The senior finished the eight game regular season with 1,289 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns on only 93 carries. He averages right at 14 yards per carry and has also added two touchdown receptions and a kickoff return for a score in 2020.

QB Brett Coleman ran the ball 14 times for the Pirates but was only able to muster 43 yards. Freshman Dre Young had one carry for our yards to round out the offense for BHS.

Preston had a dominating performance out of the backfield for the Eagles as he carried the ball 28 times for 188 yards and the three scores. Rice also ran for 67 yards to go along with his two scores.

With the loss the Pirates fell to 5-3 to close out the regular season slate as JCHS finished with a perfect record of 7-0. The Eagles trimmed the record all-time in the series to 29-8 in favor of Belfry, but JCHS has won 8 of 14 games since the series resumed in 2007.

Belfry now turns their attention to the postseason, but they will have one week off before the playoffs begin in Kentucky on Nov. 13. The Pirates will rest up and get as healthy as possible before making a run to keep the Class 3A crown in Pond Creek.

Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.