October 25, 2018 – Hazard, Kentucky – JJ Baker – Bluegrass Sports Nation – Hazard Football Columnist
Coming into the game against the Hazard Bulldogs, the Whitley County Colonels seemed to be struggling. They were 3-6 on the season and had just lost a heart breaker to Letcher. They came into the game with only 686 yards passing on the season with the majority of their offensive yardage coming on the ground in the form of Zack Saylor who had racked up 803 yards rushing with 7 touchdowns. Then, Friday night they found their air attack and had the Bulldogs on their heels and scrambling to hold the Colonels at bay in the closing minutes of the game.
The Colonels struck first, putting together a drive that ate up clock and yards as they marched to the end zone to take the lead 7-0 with 6:23 left in the first quarter. Hazard answered with a touchdown of their own after a nice 27 yard throw and catch from Bailey Blair to Mason Collins that set the Bulldogs up for a Blair 9 yard run and a Trajon Campbell 1 yard touchdown dive. Jonah Helm evened things up at 7-7 with his 21st PAT kick of the year. Hazard was then able to pin Whitley County deep in their own territory with a Helm kick off and great coverage by the Bulldog special teams that made the Colonel offense start on it’s own 10 yard line. The Whitley offense was starting to drive the ball again when a holding penalty and a pick six by Isaiah Stupart, on back to back plays, put Hazard on top 14-7. Whitley again drove the ball down the field but were stopped this time on fourth down after a 72 yard drive sputtered. This would end up being the pivotal moment of the game. After the turnover on downs, the Bulldogs worked the ball down field with Blair finding several receivers along the way. Targets on the drive included Collins, Stupart, and Andrew “Smiley” Ford. Blair found Stupart on an absolute dart of a throw on fourth down that extended the series and eventually brought Jonah Helm within striking distance of his 5th field goal of the season, a 20 yard boot that absolutely split the uprights, and put the Bulldogs up 17-7 going into the doghouse at the break.
Whitley’s defense started the next half tough by forcing the Bulldogs to go three and out on their first series. Just like the first half, the Colonels ate up yards and time on a methodical drive that was stopped in the end zone by an interception by Trajon Campbell. The ensuing Bulldog drive saw Reece Fletcher take the ball on a 47 yard scamper down to the Colonel 2 yard line. Hazard was able to punch the ball in from 2 yards out with a Fletcher dive into the end zone and go up 24-7. In what could have very easily been the end of the game for the Colonels, Whitley county started to claw their way back from a 17 point deficit. Whitley started by orchestrating an 85 yard drive that would pull them within 10 at 24-14 with most of the 4th quarter to play. The Colonel defense again came up with a big 3 and out and forced a great 50 yard punt by Bulldog kicker Nick Combs. Whitley kept the Hazard defense on its heels, mixing in pass and runs on another march toward their end zone with one crucial 4th down conversion that saw the Colonel QB find a receiver for a 23 yard diving catch that kept their hopes alive. They followed that up with a 27 yard pitch and catch that brought the Colonels within 3, at 24-21 with only 5:03 to go in the game. Hazard then recovered the on-side kick and were able to gain 3 first downs to finish the game and take a knee.
On the night Blair finished 11/17 with 176 yards through the air. Leading the receiving corp was freshman Smiley Ford who pulled in 3 passes for 57 yards. Ford also made his presence known on defense filling in for the injured Andy Baker and pulling down 10 tackles. Other receivers with positive yards on the night was Mason Collins (47 yds), Isaiah Stupart (46 yds), and Kyle Johnson, who had a beautiful 1st half catch and run for 26 yards. Fletcher shouldered much of the running duties in Pelfrey’s absence, going 78 yards and 1 touchdown on 12 attempts. Trajon Campbell also added a touchdown and 13 rushing yards. Defensively the Bulldogs seemed to be on the field all night after several sustained drives by Whitley County. The Bulldogs were led on defense by middle linebacker Reece Fletcher who hauled in 11 tackles on the night with 2 Tackles for Loss. Also making their presence know was Mason Collins, who had 10 tackles, and Smiley Ford who had 10 tackles. For the second week in a row a freshman stepped up and filled in for a banged up Bulldog squad and helped the Bulldogs preserve a victory. This week it was Ford. Last weeks freshman of the week, Ryan Dean, also had another good night pulling down 7 tackles. Other Bulldogs with tackles on the night included Trajon Campbell (8, 1 INT), Parker Holbrook (7), Ben Adams (7), Bryson Sayers (6), Isaiah Stupart (5, 1 45 yard INT for a TD), Bailey Blair (4), Cameron Caudill (3), Jacob Brashear (3), Draven Goins (2, 1 Tackle for Loss), Tyson Turner (1), Ryan Davidson (1), Zane Deaton (1), Matt Couch (1, 1 Tackle for Loss), and Nate Smith (1).
With the 2018 regular season now a wrap, the Bulldogs will start this week with a new focus. It has finally turned cold and that means playoff football time in Happy Hollow. The Bulldogs will host Harlan on Friday, November 2 at 7:30pm at Daniel Field. Harlan finished their regular season 4-6 and placing 3rd in District 7 competition. Check in with Bluegrasssportsnation.com on Thursday for a preview of the Friday night game. Below is a hyperlink that will take you to highlights from the Bulldog win against the Whitley County Colonels.