HHS, Belfry in similar scenarios
HUNTINGTON — When Huntington High and Belfry line up in the second game of the Pike County Bowl on Friday night, it will mark a tale of two teams facing similar scenarios.
Both the Highlanders and Pirates are looking to replace veteran skill players lost due to graduation and many pieces on defense.
However, there is one positive for both Huntington coach Billy Seals and Belfry coach Philip Haywood.
Out of 10 players who started on the offensive line between the teams in the 2017 meeting between the schools, there is a large number returning.
How large? Well, 10, to be exact.
“It’s a very similar make-up to us besides them having their Q_ (quarterback) back,” Seals said. “They had to replace most of their skill guys because all three running backs graduated, so it sounds very similar to us on offense.”
Seals said that bringing back the entire offensive front for a game against Belfry is critical because those players have experience going against a strong Belfry squad that is physical and fundamentally sound.
Last season, it took the Highlanders a while to get acclimated to that style as they fell behind the Pirates, 27-7. However, the team rallied for a 45-34 win that was Belfry’s only loss until falling in the Kentucky 3A semifinals.
Just as it happened last year, Seals expects a dogfight from Haywood’s Pirates on Friday night.
“They’re Belfry — big, physical, well-disciplined,” Seals said. “They are very, very good.”
To get some of his younger skill players and defensive players ready for what will be seen on Friday, Seals went through a bit of a gauntlet for the preseason.
“Anytime you scrimmage Johnson Central (Ky.), it’s a great barometer of where you are at with your program,” Seals said. “We played Capital in the grid, which is another very good football team that is physical with athletes. That allowed us to see where we are at and what we needed to work on.”
The Highlanders may bring back the entire offensive line, but the skill set will be new with running back Jadon Hayes, quarterback Luke Zban and wide receiver Mikal Dawson all gone due to graduation, which made those scrimmages that much more important.
Still, Seals feels very good about his skill guys for 2018 with Tajhan Blackwell taking over for Zban at quarterback and several players stepping in to fill the voids left by Hayes and Dawson, as well.
Some of the players who will step into the spotlight include running back Ty Wilcoxon and wide receiver Kris Brown.
Just as the Highlanders replace much of their offensive output in Hayes, Belfry must do the same with the loss of three running backs — Derek Wellman, Taveon Hunter and Devin Varney.
Quarterback Avery Browning returns to lead the group while Peyton Hensley takes over behind him as the primary fullback, replacing Wellman. Ben Bentley is expected to step into one running back spot while Isaac Dixon is going to be a do-it-all speed presence that looks to get the ball in space for the Pirates.
With both defenses featuring new starters on each side, it will be interesting to see how those units handle going up against veteran offensive fronts.
The game is the second of a doubleheader in the Pike County Bowl on Friday night and is expected to start at approximately 9 p.m.
At 6 p.m., Phelps and East Ridge — a pair of Kentucky teams — will kick off the 34th annual Pike County Bowl at Belfry High School. Huntington and Belfry will take the field immediately following that contest.
Pike County Bowl
BELFRY VS. HUNTINGTON
WHEN: Approximately 9 p.m.,
Friday, Aug. 24
WHERE: CAM Stadium
RADIO: ESPN 930-AM