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Russell's Seth Harvey rips Dustin May's helmet off during a tackle Friday night in Belfry.

By now, it's obvious that Russell plans to remain state champion for another year.

The Red Devils’ impressive 19-0 drubbing of Belfry on Friday sends them rocketing back to the Class 2A title game at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville.

“You do it once and you’re all relaxed,” said head coach Ivan McGlone, whose 2005 team beat Owensboro Catholic in the finals. “The next season, you start to feel if you don’t get back there you’re not legitimate.”

The Red Devils had legitimate written all over them in Friday’s road gem. Belfry entered with a 24-4 home playoff record since 1995, but Russell ruled the night at 2-year-old CAM Stadium thanks to a smothering defense and potent passing attack.

“I don't know what to say about that (shutout),” said Russell’s Tyler Jones, who played a major role on both sides of the ball. “It was incredible to beat them. But to shut Belfry out on their own field, I don't think many people have done that. They are a great ball club.”

Russell defenders crowded the line of scrimmage and overwhelmed Belfry’s usually powerful rushing attack. The Pirates managed only 33 yards on the ground and fumbled the ball away twice.

“It's always great beating Belfry,” said Russell senior Ethan Gullett, a two-way starter up front. “We played them the last three years and won two.”

Now, Russell has a chance to duplicate Belfry’s feat of back-to-back state championships in 2003 and ’04. Unbeaten Mercer County awaits the Red Devils at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Mercer County throttled Owensboro Catholic in the other semifinal.

Belfry coach Phillip Haywood declined to offer an opinion as to how the championship game might turn out.

“It would be hard for me to compare the two teams since I haven’t seen Mercer County,” Haywood said. “But Russell is a team that can control the clock and plays very good defense.”

Russell players gave credit to defensive coordinator Garry Morris for the shutout.

“We practiced for Belfry all week and coach Morris did a great job preparing us,” Gullett said. “It took a lot of hard work and determination, and that’s what we gave.”

Jones helped spearhead the defensive effort from his position and also provided the offensive spark with standout running back Kasey Clark less than full strength because of a leg injury.

The junior quarterback fired three touchdown passes as the Red Devils defeated Belfry in the semifinals for the second consecutive year.

The last TD pass, an 18-yarder to Marcus Frazier midway through the fourth quarter, came after Jones bounced off two pass rushers while looking for a receiver.

“Tyler's amazing,” Gullett said. “He makes plays when you don’t think they can be made.”

Offensive guard/linebacker Josh Wills shook his head when asked about Jones’ offensive performance.

“He's almost like a Houdini on the field,” Wills said. “Tyler reminds me of Doug Flutie the way he can improvise back there. He’s got some major ability.”

Jones, who threw for 147 yards, has five TD passes in the past two weeks. The Red Devils are excelling with play-action passes to exploit run-minded defenses.

“We can throw,” said Frazier, who also caught a 33-yard scoring pass against Belfry. “A lot of people don’t think we can, but we’re proving them wrong.”

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.

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