Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

November 22, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Both have fire, but which has power?

RACELAND — Losing to Pikeville in the second round last season had a lasting effect on this Raceland group.

It instilled in them the need to put complete focus on only one opposing team in a given week.

Falling to Fairview in last year’s regional final made an impact on Pikeville.

Senior Panthers Chase Hall, Gage Morrison and Austin Black immediately dedicated themselves to working diligently in the offseason to return to this juncture.

Now, both have arrived to this point: Rams Stadium, the site of tonight’s Class A, Region 4 final at 7:30.

“We’re just ready to forget all the worrying and whatever throughout the week and just play,” said Pikeville coach Chris McNamee.

It’ll be decided on the field, as the cliche says, but it’s an eye-popper on paper. These teams are even Steven.

For example, check this out: Raceland has outgained others 4,934 yards to 2,986; Pikeville 4,808-3,467. Raceland has rushed for 3,211 yards; Pikeville 3,212.

Rams coach T.J. Maynard said, “Pikeville is the best offensive team we will have seen all year. They’re the most dangerous and most balanced.”

McNamee pointed to Raceland’s size as a concern. “The obvious difference is Raceland's size compared to ours,” he said. “They’re huge up front, both offensively and defensively.

Several questions will be answered tonight, but one is out of the teams’ control: Will it rain?

According to weather.com, a resounding “yes” is the reply. There’s an 80-percent chance.

That’s why my score is a little lower than some may predict ...

Let’s break down the matchup.

Quarterbacks

Pikeville: Austin Charles (75 of 115 passing for 1,571 yards, 21 TDs, 3 INTs; 648 rushing yards, 6 TDs).

Raceland: Adam Elkins (102 of 169 passing for 1,408 yards, 18 TDs, 7 INTs; 369 rushing yards, 5 TDs).

Elkins is a right-handed senior, Charles a lefty junior.

Both have been solid, and both can run and pass. McNamee has been pleased with Charles’ improvement from his sophomore to junior year.

“Last year he was wanting to get rid of the ball regardless,” said Pikeville’s coach. “He’s more intelligent in his decisions.”

Running backs

Pikeville: Chase Hall (1,529 yards, 27 TDs); Austin Black (257 yards, 7 TDs); Ben Maynard (238 yards, 5 TDs).

Raceland: Daylin Beach (1,181 yards, 14 TDs); Kane Snyder (709 yards, 8 TDs); Carson Christian (320 yards, 2 TDs).

T.J. Maynard called each team’s premiere back — Hall and Beach — “special.”

McNamee said Hall is right around 4,400 yards for his career, calling him a “tremendous worker” who “doesn’t say a whole lot, but does what he needs to do.”

Wide receivers

Pikeville: Cody Estep (39 catches, 1,016 yards, 15 TDs).

Raceland: Connor Messer (32 catches, 706 yards, 10 TDs); Rodney Vance (33 catches, 309 yards, 7 TDs).

Maynard said he notices several similarities in Estep and Messer, both teams’ all-purpose master. One of the few differences is the height differential, with Estep being about 5-foot-9 and Messer 6-3.

Added Maynard about Estep: “He can take it to the house any time.”

Offensive line

Pikeville: Gage Morrison, Caleb Campoy, Logan Coleman, Isaac Lucas, Larry David Keene.

Raceland: Nevan Johnson, Mac Boggs, Alec Risner, Lucas Bradley, Austin Manis.

McNamee is happy with his line’s progression but he knows they’ll be undersized compared to the Rams’ front line.

“Those guys will tower over some of our guys,” he said.

Morrison and Keene offer the most size for Pikeville. Keene missed most of last season with a fractured ankle.

Defensive line

Pikeville: Quinton Little, Gage Morrison, Caleb Campoy, Larry David Keene.

Raceland: Mac Boggs, Alec Risner, Isaac Wallace, Austin Manis.

Coleman, for Pikeville, and Johnson, for Raceland, will rotate in frequently.

“What makes (Raceland) go is that front five or front four,” McNamee said.

Linebackers

Pikeville: Austin Black, Ben Maynard, Blake Charles, Austin Salyer.

Raceland: Timmy McComas, Kane Snyder, Seth Holbrook.

Black has dealt with two separate knee injuries this season. His status is questionable for tonight’s game.

McComas’ 83 regular-season tackles put him in second place on the team, behind Alec Risner’s 108.

Secondary

Pikeville: Cody Estep, Cody Stephens, Cody Charles.

Raceland: Josh Young, Connor Messer, Brady Harris, Maverick Dixon.

Dixon leads the Rams with seven picks, while Messer has three.

Estep has tallied 12 takeaways (seven fumble recoveries, five interceptions).

“There have been several times on film that I’ve seen (Estep) just rip the ball out of someone’s hands as they’re trying to score,” Maynard said. “Defensively, he’s just as valuable as he is offensively, like Connor to us.”

Special Teams

Pikeville: Cody Estep, punter; L.J. Allara, placekicker; Estep and Ben Maynard, kick returners; Estep and Chase Hall, punt returners.

Raceland: Connor Messer, punter; David Pennington, placekicker; Kane Snyder and Daylin Beach, kick returners; Messer, punt returner.

Messer has one return for a touchdown this season.

Drumroll please...

Snyder says: Raceland 23, Pikeville 21. The rain plays a role and Raceland’s front line presents too much power in the trenches. A key turnover or gamebreaking defensive play will account for the difference.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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