The Pineville Mountain Lions weren’t able to pull out the win against Hazard Friday night, but they made it clear to the rest of the region that they’ll be a tough out come playoff time.
Pineville jumped out to a 14-0 lead and played right with the Bulldogs all game long before Hazard escaped with a hard-earned 28-22 victory.
“The kids came out and played their tails off. I’m so proud of them,” said Lion coach Bart Elam. “Good things started happening and we picked up confidence along the way. We were right there and it was nip and tuck the whole way.”
The Lions drove down the field in the first quarter and went on top as Jamie Roan hooked up with Jared Philpot on a 5-yard touchdown pass. Pineville’s defense continued to hold and the offense marched down the field again.
A 5-yard touchdown run from Andrew Douglas made it 14-0 early in the second.
Hazard rallied to tie the score by halftime and went on to the six-point win despite another Roan to Philpot touchdown — this time from seven yards out early in the fourth quarter.
Roan was 16-of-31 passing for 158 yards and those two touchdowns. Byron Asher led Pineville’s receivers with seven catches for 68 yards while Philpot had four grabs for 32 yards. Kyle Capps had a big 40-yard gain on a halfback pass from Tanner Mike.
Mike led the Mountain Lion rushers with 71 yards on 13 carries. Douglas finished with 48 yards on 12 runs and Connor Ford added 51 yards on nine carries.
Hazard (5-3, 3-0) is the top seed from District 6-A while Pineville (4-5, 1-2) will be the number three seed. It looks like the Lions will be heading to Campbellsville again for their first round playoff game. The Eagles beat Berea Friday to claim the number two seed from District 5. Hazard will host Berea for their first round game.
The other side of the bracket will see Williamsburg host Jenkins and Lynn Camp visit Harlan.
While Friday’s final score may be a head-turner to those looking in from the outside — it’s the first time the Lions have played Hazard closer than 35 points since the teams were put in the same district in 2007 — Elam said his team came in knowing they could compete.
“Our kids are confident. We heard a lot of people saying we had no chance to win this game but they have no clue what goes on with the program day-to-day. Our kids stayed strong and they believe we’re a good football team,” he said. “We’re getting better every week. We ran the ball well, we showed we can pass it and our defense played lights out. Take away three big plays and we pretty much shut them down.
“We just have to take care of ourselves, block out all of outside distractions and we should be alright.”
Next Friday Pineville hosts Leslie County at 7:30 p.m. for their regular season finale and Senior Night.