Fairview has poured it on Paintsville over the past few seasons.
Since 2009, the Eagles have outscored the Tigers by an average of 45.5 points per game.
Paintsville first-year coach Joe Chirico acknowledged that his team doesn’t stack up with Fairview and Raceland quite yet, but he is thrilled with the leaps the Tigers have made this season.
“When I took the job (in June), we talked about what it takes to be a championship team,” Chirico said. “We’ve gone about this as a family. It’s about hard work and being about the team instead of personal goals.”
Whatever Chirico has done, his kids have responded.
Without a winning season since 2005, Paintsville is 5-1 and it’s ranked No. 6 in Class A in the latest Associated Press poll.
The Tigers have just 26 players on their roster, while Fairview has 68, but there are reasons to believe the Tigers could potentially be competitive with the Eagles (AP No. 3) tonight in Westwood. Kickoff is at 7:30.
Fairview coach Nathan McPeek said his players took notice while watching film of the Pikeville-Paintsville game. The Tigers were tied with the Panthers 21-21 with 42 seconds remaining in the game before Pikeville’s Chase Hall broke off a long TD run.
“That’s opened up our kids eyes a little bit,” McPeek said. “The main thing I see (from Paintsville) is that the kids believe in what Coach Chirico and his staff are doing. Offensively, they have good skill people, and defensively, they’re sound.”
Senior quarterback Mark Fannin is completing 65 percent of his passes for 645 yards, throwing 10 for touchdowns. Lane Daniels (19 catches), Peyton Smith (12) and Luke Trimble (8) are his top targets.
Sophomore running back Kent Phelps has rushed for 729 yards and eight scores on 93 carries.
Chirico has been just as pleased, though, with the performance of his offensive line. The front five are Blake Williams, Prater Helton, Jonathan Lemaster, Dillon Howard and Jordan Cox.
Helton switched from fullback to the offensive line during the preseason, a move that spoke volumes to Chirico.
“Here’s a kid who’s been a running back his whole life, and we approach him about it and he signed off on it,” Chirico said. “It’s pretty exciting that we have a bunch of kids like that.”
One of Paintsville’s top playmakers, Kash Daniel, has been out with a fracture in his leg for the past three games. He is done for the season.
Fairview is dealing with the sidelining of one of its best players, too. Isaiah King (broken collarbone) will miss the rest of the regular season. He could return for the playoffs, according to McPeek.
McPeek has been pleased with the progress of the Eagles’ young defensive backs with King absent from the secondary. Kyle Stormes is starting in King’s spot. Jalen Thomas and Fred Hightower are seeing a lot of time in the secondary, too.
“It’s getting better. We don’t have a Mason Rutherford (who graduated last year) where we say, ‘Cover their best receiver and take him out of the game,’” McPeek said. “But that’s not to say they can’t be developed.”
Fairview (6-0) has allowed more passing yards (967) than rushing yards (833) this season.
The Eagles’ running backs, nestling in behind a big, strong offensive line, have put together some outstanding performances this season. Tanner Dolen, Kurtlen Brown and Armonde Yetts have each run for more than 550 yards. Yetts blew up for 290 yards and two scores in a 44-37 win over Pike County Central.
Beating Paintsville tonight would give Fairview its 28th consecutive regular season victory. The Eagles last lost a regular season contest at Lexington Christian on Oct. 22, 2010. They haven’t lost a regular season home game since LCA beat them on Oct. 23, 2009.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
Paintsville enjoying success so far
Fairview has poured it on Paintsville over the past few seasons.
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Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
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- Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp