If you are a high school football fan in the Tug Valley area, then this Friday night could arguably be the best Friday night of the year for you.
All three of the local high schools, Mingo Central, Belfry and Tug Valley, will compete in playoff games this weekend, with the Miners and Panthers opening up the postseason in West Virginia, while the Pirates enter week two of the postseason in Kentucky.
Belfry (7-3) is set to host Pike Central (8-3) at CAM Stadium, while No. 10 Mingo Central (8-2) will travel to No. 7 Shady Spring (9-1) in the Class AA playoffs, and No. 12 Tug Valley (6-3) will play at No. 5 Williamstown (8-2) in the Class A bracket. All games are set for a 7:30 p.m. kick on Friday night.
Belfry enters the District Championship round of the UK Orthopaedics/KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl on Friday night coming off the heels of a 46-7 thrashing of Floyd Central in the first round.
Belfry has had a balanced three-headed running attack all season long as they have three running backs with over 700 rushing yards on the season.
Senior fullback Peyton Hensley leads the Pirates in rushing this season running 128 times for 989 yards, and 12 scores while senior tailback Ben Bentley is right behind him with 852 yards on 88 carries and 11 rushing touchdowns.
Dynamic junior Isaac Dixon follows with 713 yards on 61 carries and eight rushing scores despite missing three games with an ankle injury. Dixon also has a kick and punt return for a touchdown while Bentley also has a punt return for a score.
Junior quarterback Brett Coleman has added 219 yards rushing and six rushing scores while senior Isaiah Birchfield has ran for 236 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively the “Big Red” defense is led by senior linebacker John Ashurst as he leads the team in several defensive categories. He has 69 tackles and three sacks on the season, both of which lead the team, and is tied for the team lead in tackled for loss with four.
Senior defensive lineman Jonathan Stepp is second with 57 tackles while junior linebacker Seth Mounts has 51 tackles, including four behind the line of scrimmage.
Air Force commit Grayson Cook has 44 tackles and is 30-36 on extra points while Birchfield has 43 tackles,4 tackles for loss, and leads the team with two interceptions.
The Pirates and coach Philip Haywood have dominated the Hawks historically going 28-0 against their district foe all-time, including a 55-14 win at the Hawks Nest on Oct. 25.
PCHS enters the game with an 8-3 record and coming off of a 39-23 win over Lawrence County in week one of the playoffs. The winner of this contest is set to face the victor between Ashland and Russell in the quarterfinals.
Mingo Central comes into the WVSSAC Class AA Playoffs coming off of their most impressive win of the season with a 55-20 thrashing of playoff team Winfield that saw them amass 700 total yards of offense.
They average 42.1 points per game on the season and are led by dual threat quarterback Daylin “Day Day” Goad and star wide receiver Drew Hatfield.
Entering the postseason, Goad has competed 181-259 passes for a state leading 3,047 yards, 29 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. He is also the Miners leading rusher adding 790 yards on 104 rushes and 19 more scores, giving him 3,837 total yards and 47 total touchdowns for the season.
Goad’s favorite target has been Hatfield, as the speedster has had a record breaking season in 2019. He has caught 115 catches for 1,795 yards, both records for a 10-game regular season, and has hauled in 20 touchdown passes.
Hatfield’s younger brother, Devin, has caught 26 passes for 520 yards and six scores and junior Isa Scales has added 20 catches for 434 yards and four scores while also running two kickoffs back for touchdowns.
Senior Tanner Cisco is the Miners top running back as he has 510 yards rushing on 72 carries and four scores. He has also caught 11 passes for 161 yards for coach Josh Sammons’ club.
Defensively Mingo Central is led by senior linebacker Ryan DeBoard in nearly every category as he has 31.5 tackles on the season, 7-5 tackles for loss, and three sacks. Senior Preston Dingess has 28 tackles, 5 TFL and two sacks, while junior Chase Smith has 26.5 tackles and 5.5 TFL.
The Miners have never faced Shady Spring in their nine year history. The Raleigh County club enters the postseason with a 9-1 record and are riding an eight game winning streak since a week two loss to playoff team Nicholas County.
The Tigers are coached by Vince Culicerto and have been to the Class AA postseason for the second consecutive season. The winner of this contest will advance to the quarterfinal round with a match up at No. 2 Bridgeport, barring an upset of the Indians by No. 15 Lewis County.
Tug Valley qualified for the WVSSAC Class A Playoffs again in 2019 under first year coach Hady Ford after missing it a season ago for the first time in five years. They had a bye week in the final week of the regular season but picked up a huge 20-12 win over Class AA playoff squad Man in week nine to secure their spot in the final 16.
The Panthers have been led by senior QB Ethan Varney who has stepped into the starting role this season after the returning starter transferred in the off season.
Varney has competed 131-240 passes for 2,169 yards and a state leading 30 touchdowns in only nine games. He has also ran the ball 155 times for 689 yards and eight more scores finishing as the Panthers leading rusher.
Varney’s top target has junior Caleb May who led Class A in receiving in every category, hauling in 74 passes for 1,222 yards and 16 scores on the season.
Sophomore slot receiver Tanner “Boo Boo” Kirk has caught 33 passes for 446 yards and six scores while tight ends Ethan Colegrove and Easton Davis has each hauled in four touchdown passes.
Having only 18-19 healthy players on the roster all season long, coach Ford has had to play his top players on both sides of the ball.
Sophomore running back Sack Savage has ran 86 times for 429 yards and five scores as the Panthers lead back but also leads on defense with 82 tackles on the season, including 13 tackles for loss.
Senior lineman Grayson Spaulding has been a menace in the middle checking in with 50 tackles and a team leading 14 tackles for loss. Aaron White has added 42 tackles while May checks in with 45 and also has four interceptions, second on the team to only Varney’s six.
Williamstown enters the postseason at 8-2 but is coming off of a 20-7 loss to No. 1 Doddridge County in week 10. They were riding an eight game win streak prior to that loss and sitting at No. 3 but the defeat dropped them down to No 5 in the ratings and set up the meeting with the Panthers.
The Panthers and the Yellowjackets have met one time before, coming in the semifinals of the 2014 postseason. Williamstown won that game 42-28 on their way to winning the Class A State Title.
The winner of this first round contest will advance to the quarterfinals and play the winner of No. 4 Greenbrier West and No. 13 Tygarts Valley.
Pick up next Wednesday’s Williamson Daily News or check in at williamsondailynews.com for playoff updates on all area teams.
Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.