Week 7: Pikeville takes on one of Class 6A’s best; Unbeaten Polar Bears visit Paris

Here’s a look at some of the best high school football games of Week 7. All games are on Friday and all times are local to the home team. Rankings are by Dave Cantrall.

Games of the Week

Madison Central (5-0) at No. 15 Pikeville (3-2), 7:30 p.m. While the Indians don’t crack the Cantrall Top 25 like Pikeville does, they get plenty of respect from Panthers Coach Chris McNamee and voters in The Associated Press poll, where they rank No. 5 in Class 6A.

“They’re just a good football team. They beat us when we went up there last year and they know a little bit about us already,” McNamee said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup for us.”

Pikeville shook off that 21-19 setback and went on to win the Class A state championship. In this rematch, the Panthers rank No. 1 in Class A, according to the AP and Cantrall, despite two losses to start the season. Pikeville took its lumps in close defeats to Class 4A No. 2 Corbin and Class 5A No. 3 Covington Catholic.

“The main thing is we had to get some varsity experience for some guys that hadn’t had much varsity action until this year. When you’re thrown into battles with Corbin and Covington Catholic, you learn to grow up pretty quick,” McNamee said.

The reason why Pikeville can play with some of the bigger boys of Kentucky high school football owes in part to their power players in the trenches led by the Sayers twins, Mason (6-1, 310 pounds) and Peyton (6-1, 305 pounds), who create holes for the Panthers’ no-doubt Mr. Football candidate, senior running back Blake Birchfield, last year’s state championship game MVP.

Birchfield popped for 350 yards and six touchdowns last week against Lexington Christian and is well on his way to a second straight 2,000-plus yard season.

“He’s not the biggest, he’s not the fastest, but for us, he can do it all,” McNamee said of Birchfield, who’s listed at 6-foot, 175 pounds. “He sees the hole so well. He just has a good feel when he gets up in there to find that crease and then he can turn it on when he gets an open field.”

Pikeville’s ridiculously difficult 2022 schedule owes in part to two teams falling out of its district over the last three years (Phelps and Jenkins), in addition to McNamee wanting the best competition available to prepare his team for the postseason. He acknowledges having his Class A team play a team five classes higher is a concern.

“Anytime you’re playing a 1A/6A, you always worry about depth. That kind of showed early in the Corbin game and Catholic. We got a little worn out there in the second half. A lot of our guys have to go both ways,” McNamee said.

Madison Central can still lay claim as the best Class 6A team outside of Louisville and has been cranking out wins without its breakout running back from 2021. Junior Brady Hensley has missed the last three games due to injury. Quarterback Hagan Harrison and running back Brock Eads have picked up the slack, and wide receiver Jayden West has established himself as a big-time threat with 401 yards and nine TDs receiving.

Bracken County (5-0) at Paris (4-1), 7:30 p.m. Bracken County leads Class A in scoring defense, allowing just 10.6 points per game. Paris leads Class A in scoring offense with 47 points per game. One of those will give this week. The Polar Bears are off to their best start ever led by Dylan Teegarden’s 685 yards and 12 TDs rushing. Bracken is just three seasons removed from the program’s sixth 0-10 season since its inception in 2003.

Williamsburg (3-1) at Sayre (3-2), 7:30 p.m. The Yellow Jackets rank eighth in the latest AP poll and have dual-threat QB Sydney Bowen at the helm (692 yards, five TDs passing; 440 yards, eight TDs rushing). The Spartans are coming off a tough loss at Harlan and counter with Luke Pennington’s 855 yards and 13 TDs passing.

No. 18 Southwestern (5-0) at North Laurel (4-1), 7:30 p.m. When people think of this district, they think of Pulaski County and Southwestern first. The Jaguars can begin to change that this week.

Running back Blake Birchfield (12) makes Pikeville’s offense go. Last week, the senior rushed fro 350 yards and scored six touchdowns against Lexington Christian.
Running back Blake Birchfield (12) makes Pikeville’s offense go. Last week, the senior rushed fro 350 yards and scored six touchdowns against Lexington Christian.

Rivalries of the Week

No. 4 South Warren (3-2) at No. 16 Bowling Green (5-1), 7 p.m. A win here probably means a district title and an easier path through the Class 5A playoffs. The Purples have won six Class 5A titles since 2011, the last in 2020. South Warren is the defending state champ and also won the class in 2018. Both have talented sophomore QBs. Bowling Green’s Deuce Bailey has thrown for 1,241 yards and 13 TDs in six games and run for 217 yards and three scores. South Warren’s Bryce Button has 902 yards and nine TDs passing in five games.

The Battle of the Birds — Great Crossing (5-0) at Scott County (4-1), 7:30 p.m. The Warhawks struggled in the red zone last season against the Cards and lost 21-19 in the playoffs and 14-6 in the regular season. Will the gap between the new school and the old close all the way this year?

Battle for Eagle Creek — Owen County (3-2) at Gallatin County (1-4), 7:30 p.m. This 16-year series between neighboring counties stands at 8-8 with Gallatin taking the last two — last year’s was a 29-28 overtime win.

Middlesboro (4-2) at Breathitt County (3-2), 7:30 p.m. This huge district battle was swept by the Yellow Jackets in the regular season and the playoffs a season ago. The new postseason structure this year means this game will probably determine the district champ.

Other Lexington games

Grant County (0-6) at No. 2 Frederick Douglass (6-0), 6:30 p.m. It’s homecoming for the Broncos, who have outscored Grant County 118-0 in their two prior meetings. Grant forfeited last season.

Bryan Station (2-3) at Henry Clay (2-3), 6:30 p.m. This is a pivotal city matchup in terms of each trying to turn the corner heading into district play next week.

Clark County (4-1) at Lafayette (0-6), 7:30 p.m. The Cardinals stumbled against Campbell County last week, but are still off to their best start in years thanks in part to dual-threat quarterback Tyleik Maxwell’s 856 yards of total offense and 12 TDs.

Washington County (3-3) at Lexington Christian (2-4), 7:30 p.m. The Eagles look to plant a foot in the ground and turn this terrible start on its head, ideally with a fully healthy Cutter Boley.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (2-4) at Tates Creek (1-5), 6:30 p.m. The Bulldogs’ quest for a third straight district title begins with the Commodores.

Bye week: No. 7 Lexington Catholic (5-1). Knights play No. 3 Boyle County (6-0) next week.

Should be a good one

No. 11 Woodford County (5-0) at West Jessamine (3-3), 7:30 p.m. Let’s hope the scoreboard operator is rested. These teams can put up tons of points. The Colts’ Jacob Jones leads the class in passing and rushing at 240 and 204 yards per game, respectively.

Dixie Heights (4-1) at No. 14 Beechwood (4-1), 7:30 p.m.

Elizabethtown (5-1) at Ashland Blazer (2-4), 5 p.m. Saturday

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