GOODY, Ky. – The Belfry Pirates always have a goal to win a state championship. The program has been built to where it can compete every season.
Coach Philip Haywood and his staff have led their team to the Class 3A final, which will be played at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
Belfry has a rematch with Central High School of Louisville. Central edged by Belfry 15-14 last year in a heartbreaker for the diehard Pond Creek Nation and the Pirates team.
Belfry, like other teams, started back in late July to get to this point. This is where they wanted to be.
“It’s been a long haul,” Haywood said. “A lot of people early in the year made their predictions and said we had a shot at being back there again.”
“I think we’ve proven that to be true, but it wasn’t as easy as everyone made it sound,” Haywood added. “We graduated seven off of our starting offense last year. We had some guys with some experience and that had got to play some. But, that is a big difference than starting.”
“Still, you have to mesh your different personalities and learn to work hard,” Haywood said. “You have to get past those pre-season expectations. It doesn’t matter what the expectations are – you have to work. I think we finally got to that point somewhere late in the season.”
Of course a lot of people have asked the longtime Belfry mentor about his opponent in the championship game.
“From one year to the next they don’t change much,” Haywood said. “They may tweak some things on offense based on their personnel.”
“But defense is their trademark and they are going to put 11 good athletes out on the field,” he stressed. “They can really run. They play great defense and great special teams.”
“Offensively they are going to have four or five kids who can take it to the house. They are also going to have good athletes on offense,” Haywood said. “this year they have a great quarterback (Tae Shawn Gibbs) who can run. He is a good passer, but he can fly and can run the option.”
“They have a good strong tailback (Derius Jones) who is fast,” Haywood said of Central. “He is different than what they had last year. This kid played some against us last year. They mix it up and they control the ball.”
“But, their trademark is defense,” said Haywood. “Nobody has scored much on them. They have just great speed. You can block well, but they have guys that can run you down from the back side.”
The starting lineup for Belfry will likely be quarterback Sani Warren, Josh Robinson, Trinity Carr and Austin Hatfield in the backfield, Tony Messer at tight end and Eli Huddle at split end. Cameron Johnson will see time at split end, while Keaton Taylor and Davontae Dari could see action at running back.
The offensive line will see Mackey Francis at center, Zach Taylor and James May at guards and Derrick Jude and Antonio “Tuffy” Willis at the tackle positions. Zack Lester, Joey Duty and Michael Barnes could see action on the offensive line.
On defense, the strong side linebacker is Madison Ghormley, while the outside backer is Payton Mullins. Along the defensive line are Messer, Duty, Barnes, Hayden Hatfield and Nick Bunch. The secondary is Warren, Robinson, Johnson and Zack Thacker.
Keilan Carr is the place kicker, while Keaton Taylor handles the punting. Johnson is the long snapper, while Taylor and Robinson are the kickoff and punt return specialists.
Belfry won state titles in football in 2003, when the team finally triumphed at the Kentucky Class 2A State Championships. They repeated the feat in 2004.
Due to re-alignment, Belfry is now a 3A football school, and came in runner-up in the state championship in 2008, 2010 and 2011 to Central High School of Louisville.
Belfry was going to practice early today and then head out to Western Kentucky and spend the night. They will return Friday after the game.
The game is at Houchens Stadium in Bowling Green and will start at 3 p.m. Central Time, which will be 4 p.m. EST. Western Kentucky University. The game can be heard on East Kentucky Broadcasting radio stations.