Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to the Williamson Daily News.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

PIKEVILLE, KY — One of the most highly anticipated games in high school football in Eastern Kentucky will take place this Friday night as the Belfry Pirates will make the short trek along U.S. 119 to play cross county rival Pikeville.

Both the Pirates and the Panthers are entering the contest off the heels of a State Championship in 2019 and with a 1-0 record after picking up week one wins to start the 2020 campaign.

Belfry defeated Class 5A Pulaski County 33-13 at home while Pikeville went on the road to Class A Raceland and beat the Rams for the first time ever by a final of 28-7.

The two perennial football powerhouses have a storied history on the gridiron, having met 71 total times dating back to 1928. The Pirates lead the overall series 38-31-2 and have won 17 of the last 19 contests.

The Panthers however got the last laugh in the series as they came to Pond Creek and stunned the Pirates 22-21 with a comeback win in 2019 on their way to a perfect 15-0 record.

The win for Pikeville and coach Chris McNamee in 2019 was the first win at Belfry since 1999.

The Pirates played the contest a year ago without star running back Isaac Dixon who was out with an ankle injury. The play maker will be on the field on Friday night seeking to feast on maroon defenders for the second straight week.

Dixon ran for 194 total yards and two touchdowns in their opening week win over the Pulaski County Maroons as he showed why he is considered one of the best running backs in Eastern Kentucky.

Pikeville junior quarterback Isaac McNamee had a good showing against Belfry a year ago as he completed 14-23 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including a late score to give PHS the win.

In the Panthers opening win against Raceland, McNamee was a bit rusty as he finished only 10-21 for 139 yards passing, one TD, and two interceptions.

Sophomore running back Blake Birchfield had a monster game in week one as he ran 12 times for 150 yards and two scores in his first start as the lead back.

The Pirates will be without starting middle linebacker and defensive captain Seth Mounts after he injured his elbow late in the win against Pulaski County.

Who ever coach Haywood plugs in for Mounts in the middle of the “Big Red” defense will have their work cut out for them helping stop the Panther run game on Friday.

The Panthers enter the contest with a 16-game win streak dating back to last season while Belfry is riding a 6-game win streak of their own, which also dates back to last season.

Kickoff for the highly anticipated matchup is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the W.C. Hambley Athletic Complex in Pikeville.

Meanwhile across the Tug River in Mingo County, the Tug Valley Panthers and Mingo Central Miners had their week three games canceled due to the states COVID-19 color code guidelines set forth by the WV DHHR, WVDE, and Gov. Jum Justice.

The Panthers and Miners have now lost games two weeks in a row due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the county.

Mingo Central was scheduled to play Man on Friday while Tug Valley was set to play rival Tolsia.

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