, Corbin, KY

December 12, 2013

What a Run

Williamsburg's run toward state final was impressive, Corbin, KY

CORBIN — By Les Dixon For the Times-Tribune

Jerry Herron's Williamsburg Yellow Jackets might not have accomplished their final goal for the 2013 season, but what an impressive season they had.

After dropping a 7-0 decision to Hazard in 2012's Class A, Region 3 championship game, Herron's squad began work the next day to erase the feeling after the loss to Hazard on that cold November night.

For an entire year, the Yellow Jacket players worked in the weight room and on the gridiron to get a chance to get back to the regional title game.

The hard work paid off, and then some.

Not only did Williamsburg get payback in fine fashion, defeating the Bulldogs in this year's Class A, Region 3 championship game by a final score of 21-7, but they continued to win, and found themselves playing for a state championship just two weeks later against Class A power Mayfield.

The outcome wasn't what the Williamsburg faithful had hopes for against the Cardinals, a 42-0 loss, but the 2013 version of the Yellow Jackets will go down in history as the first football team from Williamsburg High School to win a region title, a Semi-State game while garnering a first-ever appearance in the state championship game.

“I am so proud of these kids,” Herron said. “They worked hard to get where they got, and we just came up short. Mayfield played a great game, and they are where every program in Class A wants to be. But now we've got the experience and know what it takes once you reach the state championship game.

“They just jumped on us early, but after the first quarter, we were able to hold our own, and played good,” he added. “They just managed to get ahead of us early.”

Coming into the season, Herron knew his team needed to be challenged more if they wanted the experience once they got into big games against teams such as Hazard once the Class A playoffs began.

“We knew we needed to toughen things up a bit,” Herron admitted. “We knew it would only make us better once the post-season began.”

So what did Herron do?

He added both Wayne County and North Laurel to his team's 2013 slate.

Williamsburg ended up losing to both teams, but in the end, the experience made the Yellow Jackets better.

“Those games did make us better,” Herron said. “Yes, they were losses, but we were able to see what we needed to continue to work on. We had positives in both games, but weren't able to win. One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to go undefeated, and we didn't do it, but we were getting better.”

Many were already writing off the Yellow Jackets as a Class A contender after getting off to a 2-2 start after losses to both North Laurel and Wayne County.

But what those skeptics didn't know was the Yellow Jackets were getting ready to put together a nine-game win streak, which included going 3-0 in district play while giving Williamsburg its fourth straight district championship and sixth in seven years during the process.

“We have been very fortunate in winning the district championship for four years straight and six out of the last seven years,” Herron said. “We started getting people healthy and eligible, and began playing really well.”

Another positive that came during the last two months of the season was a much-improved defense.

Players such as Jefferson Patrick, Chris Helton, Ethan Wilson, Michael-Rose Creekmore, Skyler Griffith, Chase Lowrie and Corey Shelton along with many others helped make the Yellow Jacket defense one of the best in Class A.

Williamsburg recorded five shutouts during the nine-game win streak, while outscoring its opponents, 408-27 during the process.

“We played really well on defense,” Herron said. “That was really big for us.”

Of course the Yellow Jackets offense was on cue for the entire season as well, averaging close to 40 points a game thanks to the arm and legs of quarterback Dalton Sizemore, tailbacks Patrick and Lowrie and receivers Shelton and Griffith.

The Yellow Jackets opened the Class A playoffs with an easy 58-0 win over Jenkins and followed with another big win, a 42-0 decision over Pineville.

The victory over the Mountain Lions set up another match-up against Hazard in the Class A, Region 3 title game.

This time around, Williamsburg answered the bell, and pulled out a 21-7 win over the defending region champs, while limiting star tailback Brandon Jones to under 100 yards rushing.

After getting past the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets set their sites on Raceland in the Class A State-semifinals, and cruised past the outmatched Rams, 34-7, before losing to Mayfield in the finals.

“We had a good run,” Herron said. “Now we need to continue to work to get better and hopefully get a chance at playing Mayfield again next season in the state championship.”

The chances are good Williamsburg will be able to make another run. Herron will return 20 of 22 starters from this year's team (Sizemore and Tyler Taylor will graduate).

The big question will be, who will be the quarterback?

“Skyler Griffith will definitely be one of the options we look at,” Herron said. “We've also got some younger kids moving up.

“The big thing for us is we can't enter next season satisfied,” he added. “It will change a lot next year. We will have the bull's eye on our back. Now Hazard will be spending a year of their life getting better to try and beat us. We have to continue to improve. We had a lot of good times this year, and hope to have even more next year.”