By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
The Williamsburg Yellow Jacket players know the routine all too well — to get to the Class A state championship game, the road goes through Hazard.
It’s not a surprise to anyone since the Bulldogs have reached the Class A state championship game the past three years, including winning the state title last season over Mayfield.
“We know what’s at stake,” Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron said. “This is huge. These kids have spent all year wanting to get back to this situation after losing to them last year. We’ve made a lot of history this year and we hope to continue that trend.
“This is the first time in school history we’ve reached the region title game in consecutive years and we’ve accomplished a lot, but we want more and to do it, we’ve got to get over the hump,” he added. “Hazard is where we want to be. We’ve reminded our players that. Everyone wants their program in Class A to be where Hazard’s is. They’ve been to three straight state title games. We want to win the region and go the extra steps to get to the state title game.”
But to do so, it’s not going to be easy.
Hazard (10-2) defeated the Yellow Jackets in the region title game last season, 28-0, even though Williamsburg accumulated 281 yards in total offense.
“We’ve moved the ball on them last year, we just couldn’t finish,” Herron said. “Hopefully things will change this time around. I know our guys are ready and excited to play and I’m sure Hazard is, too.”
Both teams enter today’s game red-hot.
The Bulldogs are winners of seven straight and haven’t lost since dropping a 15-7 decision to Breathitt County.
Hazard is averaging 44 points per game during the stretch while outscoring their opponents 313-135 during the process.
“They are playing really good right now,” Herron said. “We know we’re going up against a very good team.”
Williamsburg is also riding a seven-game win streak and has outscored its opponents 313-45 while recording two shutouts during the stretch.
“We need to continue to play like we have been playing,” Herron said. “We’ve got to play good on defense and execute on offense.”
The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Evan Whitaker, who has completed 123-of-213 pass attempts for 2,113 yards and 16 touchdowns. His main target is Jordan Olinger, who leads the team with 49 receptions for 757 yards and six touchdowns.
Brandon Jones leads the way on the ground for Hazard with 542 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while Nathan Higgins has 498 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Herron said. “The Olinger kid is hard to tackle and a very good athlete. The Higgins kid is fast and the Jones kid makes the offense tick and the Whitaker kid is very good, too.
“For us to win, we’ve got to play solid defense,” he added. “They’re going to try to spread us out and we’ve got to take the long trip. We’ve got to be ready for the speed of the game and we’ll be playing on turf. This is also going to be the WYMT Game of the Week, so it’s going to be a big atmosphere.”
Hazard will have its hands full with Williamsburg’s offensive attack as well.
Quarterback Dalton Sizemore is the straw that stirs the drink for the yellow Jackets with 2,974 passing yards and 39 touchdowns. He also leads the team with 577 rushing yards and five touchdowns while Jefferson Patrick has 474 yards.
Sizemore’s main passing threats are Skylar Griffith and Corey Shelton. Griffith has 53 receptions for 1,084 yards and 13 touchdowns while Shelton leads the team with 60 receptions. He also has 1,051 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns.
“Like I’ve said, we’ve got to execute on offense,” Herron admitted. “We have to take what they give us.
“This game is huge for the program,” he added. “To get to where we want, we’ve got to win this game. We’re trying to change the perception and opinion of us (being an underdog) and the only way we can change it is if we win.”
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
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