Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 16, 2012

AARON SNYDER: Panthers prove to be cold blooded

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — They had them right where they wanted them. Ahead 18-0. On their home field. A regional title firmly in their grips.

They also had them right where they wanted them.

Ahead 20-13. Less than two minutes remained. A regional championship game berth on the line.

In the past two postseasons, Pikeville has been the girl you asked to prom who turns you down and then goes with your best friend, the bride who leaves you at the altar, or as sports writer Rocky Stanley fittingly put it last November, “the big fish that got away.”

Bobby Boucher’s mama might call Pikeville the devil. Of course, she believes foosball (football) is the devil in general.

The Panthers haven’t bought any souls, but they’ve been soul-crushers for Fairview and Raceland the past two postseasons.

Fairview was well on its way to a state semifinal game last November before a remarkable come-from-behind 20-18 victory that left Westwood in shock.

Raceland, after squandering a 12-0 halftime lead, regained the advantage after a late touchdown and two-point conversion gave the Rams a 20-13 lead in Pikeville last Friday.

Both times, Pikeville somehow prevailed. Both times, losing coaches Nathan McPeek (Fairview) and T.J. Maynard (Raceland) openly took the blame.

McPeek and the Eagles have their chance at redemption tonight in Pikeville with, once again, a regional title at stake. It’s the third consecutive year Fairview has advanced to this stage — it lost at Lexington Christian after having a 12-0 lead in 2010.

The Eagles are in foreign territory as they’ve never been in Class A’s Final Four. They’ll be there next Friday if they can knock off the Pikeville Dreamdashers, I mean, Panthers, today.

They would host that game against either Hazard or Williamsburg.

Fairview isn’t hosting tonight’s game because both Fairview and Pikeville earned No. 1 seeds in their districts, and it’s District 8’s turn to host the regional final. If Raceland had beaten Pikeville, the game would be at Fairview because the Rams were the second seed.

So, who will win this one?

If you read Thursday’s edition of The Independent, you know that all five of our brilliant minds went with Fairview.

However, all of us went with Raceland last week, so maybe we’re underestimating the power of the Panthers.

They’re young, overall, but they’re hot. Pikeville has won six straight games. The Panthers are also 6-1 in their last seven playoff games dating back to 2010.

Fairview should rely on the big play. The Eagles are explosive enough to put this game away early.

There are several reasons why Fairview is one of eight remaining undefeated teams in the state, and the last one left in Class A. It has three 1,000-yard rushers (Devon Turner, Chris Brewer and Elijah King). It has a strong, experienced offensive line. It has an ever-improving defense full of good speed and energy. It also has a coach who is quite successful, but is looking to fill an elusive hole in his resume tonight.

Pikeville is well-coached, granted, and it has its own reasons for being where it is. Chase Hall is a reliable 1,000-yard rusher and Austin Charles is an ascending sophomore quarterback.

Not indicated by the final score (26-20), Raceland did move the ball well on the Panthers last week. I see Fairview doing the same, but I also see the Eagles finding the end zone a couple more times.

Fairview has practiced on Kentucky Christian University’s field turf all week to get accustomed to the feel of Pikeville’s field.

Skies will be clear with a low of 36 degrees, according to weather.com.

Fairview gets the girl this time around.

Fairview 36, Pikeville 14.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.

com or (606) 326-2664.