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Coach Philip Haywood

LEXINGTON, Ky. — For many of the old school Belfry football faithful, the sting from the Pirates 29-14 loss to Paducah Tilghman in the 1985 Class 3A State Championship game is still present.

Pond Creek Nation and head coach Philip Haywood will finally get a chance to get revenge on the Blue Tornado for that loss 36 years later as the two teams are set to square off once again on the Bluegrass State’s biggest stage as they will play in the 2021 Class 3A State Championship game on Saturday at Kroger Field in Lexington.

The game at Cardinal Stadium back in 1985 was during coach Haywood’s second season at Belfry, which means it was his first state title game appearance. Since then, the legendary football coach has guided the Pirates to an astounding 14 state championship games in total and brought seven titles back to Pond Creek.

An 8th state championship victory would move Belfry into a tie for No. 9 all-time in the history of the state of Kentucky with powerhouses Louisville Male and Covington Catholic.

Paducah Tilghman is no stranger to bringing home the hardware themselves as they have won three state titles in total, with the most recent coming in 2009, and have five runner-up finishes.

They, just like Belfry, entered the postseason with a below .500 record of 4-6 but have begun playing their best football of the season at the right time and enter the championship round with an 8-6 mark.

The Blue Tornado got revenge on rival Union County for a regular season loss as they knocked them out in the district title game 31-28. They then advanced to play at No. 1 Christian Academy of Louisville in the quarterfinals and shocked the state, knocking out the top seed 41-34.

Tilghman then completed their run to the title game on Friday night in the state semifinals as they went on a road for the third straight week and knocked off No. 2 Glasgow 39-20 to advance to their first state title game in 12 years.

Paducah head coach Coach Sean Thompson and coach Haywood will bring two different styles of football to Kroger Field on Friday night as the Pirates boast the run heavy triple-option attack while the Blue Tornado feature a pass heavy offense led by freshman QB Jack James.

James has been one of the top passers in all of the state statistical wise this season as he enters the final week of the year having completed 188 of 357 passes for 2,663 yards and 32 touchdowns to go with only 13 interceptions.

For comparison’s sake, Belfry QB Caden Woolum has completed 5-13 pass attempts on the year for 237 yards. All five of his pass completions have went for touchdowns.

Paducah had four different wide receivers that boasts more than 25 catches on the season, led by Brian Thomas who has made 52 grabs for 955 yards and 12 scores. Camdon Marshall has added 502 yards and nine TD receptions, and LeBran McMullen has added 434 yards and four scores.

Tilghman boasts a balanced offensive attack as they have a 1,000 yard rusher in Malachi Rider. Rider has 1,170 yards rushing and 13 scores on the ground this season.

As a team, Belfry has ran for 3,639 yards in 13 games played, compared to 1,588 rushing yards for Paducah. The Pirates are of course led by senior runner Isaac Dixon who has ran for 1,600 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground this season.

Dixon lead Belfry to their 7th State Championship victory with a 30-20 win over Bell County at Kroger Field back in 2019 and was named the games Most Valuable Player when he ran for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

the two teams will kickoff the contest at noon on Saturday as Haywood, Dixon and company will look to bring the hardware back to Pond Creek for the 8th time overall and the sixth time in the past nine season.

HD Media reporter Jarrid McCormick covers sports in Mingo County.

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