Pineville will travel to Hazard on Friday in an attempt to defeat the 1A powerhouse on their home field. The Mountain Lions will be looking for an upset after the Bulldogs defeated them 42-6 last season.
This year’s Hazard team will look a little different as the Bulldogs lost nine starters on offense. The most notable absence is all-star running back Brandon Jones, who rushed for 1,763 yards last season. He ran for 273 yards and five touchdowns against the Mountain Lions.
Last year, the Bulldogs advanced to the third round of the playoffs before losing to eventual state runner-up Williamsburg.
Pineville head coach Bart Elam said Hazard always has a good football team. This year is no different.
“They’re really athletic,” said Elam. “They have a really sharp quarterback that throws it and runs it well.”
The coach said the Bulldogs have the same offense as Pineville and a similar defense. The two teams’ principles and philosophies are similar as well, according to Elam.
“We know that style,” said Elam. “We’ve got to do our job defensively.”
The major hurdle the team had to overcome last season was Hazard’s run game, which was led by Jones.
“They have another running back coming in from Perry Central that’s awful good,” said Elam.
With that said, the coach doesn’t expect Hazard to have the same game plan as last season. He said they are a rush by committee type of team now.
“We’ve got to be ready for a lot more bells and whistles,” said Elam. “They’re not going to just turn and hand it to one guy like they could the last couple of years, which makes them more dangerous really.”
Offensively, the team is focusing on execution. Elam said the team knows that they can score some points if they execute. He said Pineville wants to play the numbers game and take what their opponent gives them.
“If Hazard comes out and doesn’t pack the box and we have the numbers in there, then we will run it more than we will throw it,” said the coach. “We just take what the defense gives us. What we’re trying to do is get our guys focused on playing assignment football.”
When asked about the team’s confidence, Elam said he believes that it’s a natural progression.
“These kids have been through a lot of wars in their years,” said Elam. “These juniors and seniors have been in multiple battles with this Hazard group.”
Elam said the main thing for his team is to not be beat before the game starts. He said Hazard is a tough place to play.
“It’s always loud. They have a really good crowd,” said Elam. “It’s a great environment for high school football.”
The coach said it will be interesting to see how the kids react early on in that environment.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN