The Bulldogs have had an up and down season so far during this 2018 campaign, going 5-3 with losses to Somerset, Pikeville, and Paintsville. They have been poised to win some big games, only to come up just short in two of their three losses. They have, for the most part, handled their business during the regular season and have shown signs of improvement as the season has progressed. The Bulldogs will try to finish this last game of the regular season with a win against their third 5A opponent on the year, the Whitley County Colonels.CLICK HERE FOR HAZARD vs LESLIE HIGHLIGHTS
Whitley County enters the contest with a record of 3-6. They are led by head coach Jason Chappell who is in his 5th year leading this Colonel squad. The Colonels have been a serious contender for the class 5A District 8 title for the last four years with at least two of those years having to be decided by a tie break. The Bulldog’s and Colonel’s staff are not only familiar on the field but also away from the gridiron. For 3 years in 2003-2005 Coach Chappell and Coach Dixon squared off while Chappell was starting his coaching career at Perry Central and Dixon was starting his at Hazard. Chappell won those head to head match-ups 2-1. They have only played 1 other time and that was last year when Hazard defeated the Colonels 24-20 in a game that was up in the air until the horn blew and brought the two coaches to 2-2 against each other. Away from the field these staffs know each other very well also. Coach Chappell and Coach Dixon, along with Hazard offensive coordinator Chuck Fugate and defensive line coach JJ Baker, were also high school teammates under Coach Bill Dixon at M.C. Napier, so this game always means a little more for bragging rights when everyone gets together after the season.
Whitley lost 18 seniors from a 2017 team that went 7-5 and was beaten in the second round of the KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl by Southwestern. Losses on the year have been to Corbin (36-7), Rockastle County (28-13), Bell County (45-7), East Jessamine (35-28), Perry Central (21-6), and Letcher County Central (21-20). Their wins have came by way of Leslie (40-7), North Laurel (7-0), and 5A District 8 Winner Harlan County (7-6). A lot of Coach Chappell teams, going all the way back to when UPike head coach Allan Holland Jr. played for him, have thrown the ball all over the field using tunnel screens as well as stretching defenses down field. This 2018 Colonel team seems to be a more run heavy offense. They have gained 1309 yards on the ground this season against 808 yards through the air. Colonel players to watch for are #1 Kyle Graham (QB), #31 Zach Saylor (RB), and #3 Hunter Hollingsworth (WR). On the season Graham is 43/96 for 686 yards through the air with 5 TDs against only 2 INTs. Saylor has shouldered most of the carries for Whitley this year rushing 132 times for 803 yards. Grahams favorite target has been Hollingsworth who has 27 receptions for 550 yards.
Hazard is coming into the game after beating the Leslie County Eagles last week 41-7 on the shoulders of Bailey Blair who went 11/15 with 201 yards and a couple of TDs through the air. Keeping the defense honest was Reece Fletcher and Trajon Campbell who had almost 120 yards combined on the ground with freshman Keaton Napier adding 60 more in the closing minutes of the game. Blair also tallied 50 more yards on the ground to bring the Bulldogs rushing total to more than 230 on the night in a game that saw Hazard’s regular running back Skylar Pelfrey in street clothes on the sideline. Fletcher also lit up the receiving yards, leading other Bulldog pass catchers with 61. Nipping at his heals was Isaiah Stupart who added 55 yards with 1 receiving touchdown. Hazard finished with 474 yards of total offense. Look for the Bulldogs to continue to try and soften up defenses with a steady dose of runs against what Hazard O.C. Coach Fugate describes as “a very good defensive line.” That’s quite a compliment when comparing Whitley’s defensive big men against other strong defensive lines the Bulldog offense has seen this year like Paintsville, Pikeville, and Somerset. Blair will try to test the Colonel DBs with down field threat Isaiah Stupart and Kyle Johnson, also. Opening holes and protecting Blair again this week will be Goins, Beverly, K. Caudill, Couch, and Strong in the offensive trenches.
The Hazard defense flexed against the Eagles last week giving up only 215 yards of offense with the Eagles being grounded, so to speak, only gaining 5 yards through the air. Every time a ball was in the air Hazard DBs were either contesting the catches or picking off the throws. The Bulldogs finished with 3 interceptions on the night with Stupart grabbing two of those and Campbell hauling in the other. The Bulldogs middle linebackers Fletcher and Mason Collins cleaned up most of the tackles Friday night recording 12 and 10, respectively. Stupart, Cameron Caudill, and Ben Adams also made it a hard night on Eagle running backs. Freshman Ryan Dean had a breakout game as well. He didn’t shine on the stat sheet but impressed his coaches with his hard nose, downhill approach that made Leslie’s lead blockers jobs hard and allowed his teammates to clean up runners who were forced to run around his physical play. Hazard will have to bring that same physical game against the Colonels. Whitley will run a lot of inside zone and option as well as trap and trey plays that will have to be handled in the box with Fletcher, Collins, Adams, Jacob Brashear, and Parker Holbrook with DBs cleaning up. This all has to be done while also being aware of the screen game and various switch routes the eagle receivers will run trying to confuse the defensive secondary. This should be a good game for Hazard to see a variety of different offensive attacks to prepare them for the post season.
Anytime you go against a running team, like the Colonels, you must always match their strength and physicality with line play. If Hazard can control the line of scrimmage they should be able to hold Whitley at bay. If Whitley dominates up front then it will be a long night for the Bulldogs. Remember that this is going to be a Thursday night game and kick off is scheduled for 7:30pm at Hazard’s Daniel Field. Also, check out highlights from last weeks Hazard v. Leslie game courtesy of Hudl.com link below. If you enjoy hearing and seeing your Bulldogs on Bluegrasssportsnation.com be sure to visit our sponsors or tell them thank you for bringing you Hazard Football Coverage.