Fairview coach Nathan McPeek must have a sense of deja vu.
For the third straight year, the Eagles will compete for the Class A Region 4 title when they travel to Pikeville tonight.
And while he feels the Eagles have grown from playing in these games, he knows his team needs to finally bring home a title.
“It’s great for your program to get to be in this game three years in a row,” McPeek said. “But at the same time we need to win one of these, too.”
This is only the second meeting between Pikeville and Fairview, with the first coming in last year’s region championship game. Pikeville won at Fairview 20-18.
And while the only thing that looked like it changed is the location, Pikeville coach Chris McNamee said his team’s preception of themselves also changed this year.
“Last year I thought we expected to be in the region championship,” McNamee said. “The way things went in the early part of the year it really didn’t look like we would get here.”
Pikeville started the season 1-5, including a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season, but hasn’t lost since.
The Panthers’ six-game winning streak, which featured an undefeated district season, has McPeek and Fairview wary.
Especially after Pikeville lost to Raceland 54-14 during the third week of the season, only to rebound and defeat them in second round of the playoffs last week 26-20.
“We’ll have our hands full,” McPeek said. “Anytime you erase a 40-point loss earlier in the year and win a playoff game, it’s always a credit to the staff and kids and how they improved.”
McNamee agrees that it’s been a weird season with both highs and lows.
“It’s been a real roller coaster ride for us,” McNamee said. “We got beat by some good football teams early and I thought it would be tough for our team to get through. Getting through the district without a loss and then winning in the playoffs was huge. I’m just so proud of my guys.”
Pikeville has been led by junior running back Chase Hall.
Hall has carried the ball 111 times this season for 1,089 yards and 16 touchdowns. The second-most total carries by a Pikeville player is just 30.
“Chase is the only guy we run the ball a lot with,” McNamee said. “And he’s accepted that role. Against those early teams he had a tough go at it. But he’s kept growing as running back for us.”
Other than Hall, who is more of a big, bruising type of back, the rest of Pikeville’s team is fast.
In fact one thing McPeek has tried to practice for is finding ways to combat the Panthers’ speed on the field.
“It’s going to come down to three things,” McPeek said. “It’s simple — blocking, tackling and turnovers. If we don’t turn the ball over and we tackle well and we block well, we’ll have a good chance.”
McNamee knows for his team to have a shot they have to somehow control Fairview’s three-headed backfield of Devon Turner, Chris Brewer and Elijah King.
Together the three running backs have combined for 3,417 yards rushing and 52 touchdowns on the ground.
“That’s what they do, spread you out and have the big bruiser Brewer come at you up the middle,” McNamee said. “Then you have King on one side and you have Turner on the other, and both have great speed and can make things happen in the open field.”
For Turner, Brewer and a few other seniors, last year they were close to winning Fairview’s first region championship, but fell by two points.
Tonight will be their last chance to bring the school that elusive title, and McPeek said it will all come down to a sense of urgency.
“There better be a sense of urgency because if there is not, I have to question why we’re out here doing this,” he said. “We talked about that at practice. We talked about having a sense of urgency and doing what we’re supposed to do. Hopefully we come out and execute.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.