TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Les Dixon For the Times-Tribune
The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets (9-2) dominated the first 45 minutes of last year's Class A Region 3 title game against Hazard, but had nothing to show for it except a scoreless tie with the Bulldogs.
And it’s the final three minutes that has stuck with the Yellow Jacket players for more than a year.
Hazard's Jordan Olinger broke free and raced 80 yards with less than three minutes remaining, which turned out to be the game-winning touchdown, allowing the Bulldogs (11-1) to end Williamsburg's season in the region championship game for the second year in a row.
Jerry Herron's squad gets a chance to end the two-game losing skid today at home, as Mark Dixon's Hazard Bulldogs will face-off against Williamsburg for the third straight season in the region finals.
“We worked hard to get back to this point and we are here now,” Herron said. “It's not been easy. We've played a tough schedule that hopefully will have us prepared for this game.
“Right after our loss to Hazard last season, I told our guys that we're going to have to spend a year of our life to get back to the region title game, and we did that. It's been our rallying cry, and now we are wanting to get it done.”
To do so, Williamsburg must find a way to slow down a Bulldog team that has won 11 games in a row, including last week's 34-8 win over Campbellsville.
“They are a very good team,” Herron said. “Coach Dixon has done a fantastic job with them this season, and they are going to be tough to beat.”
Hazard has had the Yellow Jackets’ number the past two years, thanks mostly to Williamsburg's inability to score.
Hazard has outscored the Yellow Jackets 35-0 during its two regional title wins, including last season's 7-0 victory.
Williamsburg was limited to 151 yards of total offense during its 28-0 loss to the Bulldogs in 2011, and 181 yards during last year's loss. The Yellow Jackets turned the ball over three times during each loss and averaged only 35 yards rushing per game.
“We've got to figure out a way to execute once we get in the red zone,” Herron said. “That has been our problem. Once we get into the red zone, we have struggled against them. We have moved the ball well, but we have really struggled handling adversity when it's a short field. We've got to man up and execute.”
Hazard, on the other hand, has taken advantage of its offensive opportunities during the last two meetings.
The Bulldogs totaled 346 yards during 2011's 28-0 win and 278 yards last season.
Hazard looks to be tough to stop again, averaging 37 points per game and 470 yards of offense per game, which includes 278 on the ground.
The Bulldogs are led by tailback Brandon Jones, who has rushed for 2,010 yards and 23 touchdowns while teammate Kody Arnett is averaging more than 10 yards per carry (44 carries for 463 yards and seven touchdowns).
“The big key is that we've got to tackle,” Herron said. “We can't arm tackle. We've got to go hard and be relentless attacking the football.”
Another concern for Williamsburg is trying to figure out how to contain quarterback Tanner Morgan, who has completed 129-of-188 pass attempts for 25 touchdowns and 2,190 yards passing. His main targets are Christopher Hudson (47 receptions, 960 yards and 13 touchdowns), Trey Higgins (26, 408, three touchdowns) and Jason Johnson (18, 271 four touchdowns).
“They've got a lot of weapons and we've got to be ready,” Herron said.
Hazard might have a lot of weapons, but so does Williamsburg.
Quarterback Dalton Sizemore leads the way with 2,369 passing yards and 26 touchdowns while running for 381 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
His main targets are Skyler Griffith (42, 814, 11 touchdowns) and Corey Shelton (39, 865, 11 touchdowns), while Jefferson Patrick leads the Yellow Jacket ground game with 629 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns while averaging more than 10 yards per carry.
The Yellow Jackets also have momentum on their side. They have outscored their opponents 200-0 during their past four games, and have recorded five shutouts this season.
“We've talked about this game situation for the past three years now, and now it's time to man up and do it,” Herron said. "It's huge being able to play at home, and our kids understand the task at hand. They realize they need to execute to win, and they're ready to do that.”