By Les Dixon for the Times-Tribune
Two teams that have never participated in the Class A State Championship will get a chance to do just that as Raceland and Williamsburg battle things out with a spot in the state title game on the line.
Both teams captured their respective program's first-ever region championship last week, and will now meet up against one another in a Class A Semi-State match-up.
So who's the favorite?
It's about as even as it can get.
The Rams will enter today's contest riding a seven-game win streak while bringing in an impressive 11-2 record while the Yellow Jackets are winners of eight straight while compiling a 10-2 mark along the the way.
Both teams have used solid defensive efforts to get where they are.
Raceland is only allowing 15.8 points per game and eight points per game during their current win streak while Williamsburg has outscored its opponents, 221-7, during the past five games, and 121-7 during each of its playoff wins.
“We're ready to go, and I'm sure Raceland is too,” Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron said. “We're both in uncharted territory right now. The key for us is to refocus and go back to work.
“This is a huge game for us,” he added. “We realize what's at stake, and I'm sure Raceland does, too. This should be a good one for everyone that comes and watches.”
The Rams' two losses this season were against Ashland Blazer (35-34) and Lawrence County (38-35) while the Yellow Jackets have dropped games to both North Laurel (31-14) and Wayne County (41-16).
“I believe we're both pretty evenly matched,” Herron said. “They are very big. They have a lot of senior and juniors on this team, and have numbers like a Class 2A team.”
Raceland is led by quarterback Adam Elkins, who has completed 109-of-181 pass attempts for 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions while also running for 400 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Tailback Daylin Beach leads the way with 1,450 rushing yards on 174 carries. He has 10 rushing touchdowns and 20 receptions for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
“They're going to line up and spread you out and run the ball,” Herron said. “They have some very good tailbacks, so we're going to have to be ready to play.”
Another concern for Herron is Raceland's defense. They've limited opposing teams to 247 total yards on offense per game, including only 77 passing yards per game.
Williamsburg will enter today's contest averaging 40.9 points per game and 355 yards of total offense per game with 217 yards coming through the air.
“They've got a lot of talent,” Herron said. “Our schedule will help us. We have played some tough teams. We've got to stay focused on their defense because they really come at you.”
Raceland will have to find a way to slow down the Yellow Jackets, too.
Quarterback Dalton Sizemore has completed 146-253 pass attempts for 2,556 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions. He's also ran for 414 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Jefferson Patrick leads Williamsburg with 660 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns while Sizemore's main receiving threats are Corey Shelton and Skyler Griffith.
Shelton has 44 catches for 990 yards and 13 touchdowns while Griffith also has 44 catches for 848 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I really believe it's going to come down to which defense can stop the other team's offense,” Herron said. “We've got to play physical on defense and attack the football. If we can do that, I believe we can be successful. We've got to take what they give us on offense. We've got to execute and not turn the ball over. We didn't turn the ball over last week, and Hazard has four turnovers, and we won. Not turning the ball over is going to be key.”
With that said, Herron believes his team is ready to play.
“The kids realize what's at stake,” he said. “We're one game away from the state championship game. You've got two teams that have never been in this position before, and for either team to win, they're going to have to stay away from turning the ball over.
“We changed history last week by defeating Hazard,” Herron added. “Hopefully, we can continue to change history by winning in the state semi's. Who is going to blink first? That's the key.”