Hail Pikeville: Playoff edition…first up, Pinneville Lions

As Associated Press weekly top-10 voters, we have voted Pikeville the number one team in Class 1A football in Kentucky the majority of the year. However, football is a playoff sport and it is now time for the Pikeville Panthers to prove that we are, in fact, the prophet-forecasters we fancy ourselves being. Last week, in yet another astounding example of how statistical analysis can lead one to pick the winner of a contest pretty close to the exact margin, KPGFootball did it once more. Just so you will remember, in the Tolsia game, we predicted… PHS 47 – Tolsia (WV) 0. Pikeville ended up winning the game, 48-8! This almost on the money prediction came just one week after we picked Pikeville to beat the Grundy Golden Wave, 47-6, when the actual scored ended up being 47-8.   The week before that, we predicted Pikeville would beat Phelps, 44-7, and the actual margin ended up being 47-0. You get the point: we’ve been hot all season. That is exactly why Panther fans should be jazzed that we have continued to maintain Pikeville is headed to a State Championship, in 2018. All championship runs have to be undertaken one game at a time and the Panthers, entering the playoff run 7-2, entertain a 4-6 Pinneville Lion team in the first round.  Let’s stay on our proven formula and break down this match-up by looking both backwards and forward and, at the end, we will give you our call as to how we see this resolving.

A look back…

The Bull

Well it wasn’t quite the gap between the Rebels of Tolsia High School (WV) and the Pikeville Panthers as we thought. We believed Pikeville to be 47 points better and the Panthers ended up being 40 points better but the chasm between the two programs was sufficiently vast. Freshman Isaac McNamee got some needed game time and he responded with an excellent effort, completing 5 of his 6 passing attempts for 108 yards through the air and a TD pass. Starter Connor Roberts as 3 for 5 for 78 yards passing and a TD. Of course, Roberts being a dual-threat guy, makes him as likely to break down an opposing defense with his feet as with his arm. Friday night was a perfect example of the other threat. Roberts rushed the ball 5 times from scrimmage, gaining 135 yards and scoring 2 rushing TDs. All in all, Bradyn the Bull Hunter and his mates must have blocked exceedingly well as the Panthers gained 288 yards rushing on the night in 24 carries, scoring 5 rushing TDs.

Photo: Brendon Miller Photography

On the receiving end of a very efficient and surgical aerial attack was Jackson Hensley who caught 3 passes for 78 yards with one resulting in six points. A statistic which gets overlook often, but which generally  becomes more important the further down the playoff road one travels, Tanner Hamilton was 6 for 6 on PATs. That might not figure into the outcome of the Pinneville game, but is likely to make a huge difference as the Panthers progress. I can almost hear the faithful asking what about Christian Billiter? How many receptions did he have? Well, Billiter and Connor Roberts both caught passes but they were thrown by the Tolsia QB while the pair were playing defense. With apologies to the late English poet and Shakespeare contemporary, Robert Herrick, sometimes football players, particularly two-way stars like Billiter and Roberts, have to gather ye rosebuds while ye may! 

Jon Collum continued his excellent play, recovering a fumble forced by LB, Connor Wright. Collum led the team with 11 tackles. Jesse Sparks contributed 2 tackles for loss, while Christian Billiter, Braden Pruitt, and Josh Taylor each chipped in one a piece. Overall, the Panthers completely dominated the Rebels with both a complete and efficient effort in every facet of the football game. Coach MacNamee really has the Panthers playing very well at exactly the right time of year.

A look ahead…

Next up for the Panthers is a 4-6 Pinneville team which hasn’t shared an opponent with the Panthers during the regular season. While it may take some extrapolation, one can look at the two teams’ regular season efforts and make some determination about the relative abilities of each team. For instance, Pinneville lost 40-6 to a 4-6 Harlan team. Harlan, in turn, lost to Paintsville, 46-8. Pikeville did play Paintsville, a team it had little trouble in beating early in the year, 36-13. So what does that tell KPGFootball? Well, it tells us Pikeville has the ability to play at a much higher level than does Pinneville provided the Panthers turn in the same type effort it has been turning in down the stretch of the regular season.

Now consulting the MaxPreps.com national computer algorithm, and the CalPreps Kentucky computer algorithm, which we used successfully last week to hit the number nearly on the nose, Pinneville is the 183rd best team in Kentucky and ranked 12,334th nationally. Once again, we find some useful comparative analysis with the Phelps Hornets, whom Pikeville beat 47-0. Phelps is slotted just 8 slots higher than Pinneville (175) in the Kentucky rankings and just 467 slots higher than Pinneville nationally (11,867). Making this simple, Pikeville was 47 points better than a Phelps team which two separate algorithms believe to be better than Pinneville.

Senior Matt Golden is by far the Lions’ most complete and potent football player in the lineup. Golden, a 5-7, 160 pound senior running back, runs the 40 yard dash in 4.63 seconds and has a 32 inch vertical. Golden leads the team, in 2018, with 1,507 yards rushing on 182 rushing attempts with 16 rushing TDs. The Lions aren’t a real threat to beat you through the air as its leading passer is senior, Garland Ellis, who completes around 3.5 out of 7.3 attempts, for an average of 58.6 yards passing a game. Ellis has thrown 7 TD passes but has been picked off 6 times on the year. With only 73 attempts in 2018, he is picked off very 12 or so times he puts the ball in the air.

Lee Cox

Defensively, especially against the run, the Lions have been, well…porous is an adjective which comes readily to mind. I am not sure about the team’s KHSAA registered tackle numbers, as the statistician doesn’t register a single assisted tackle made by a Lion defender on the year; however, it does say something (not altogether pleasant) about a defense whose leading tackler plays in the defensive back-four. Lee Cox is a defensive back, and leads the team with 110 tackles. The Lions are allowing opponents to rush for 231 yards a game, and they haven’t played a team this year anywhere near as good as this Panther squad. The two best teams Pinneville has played, in 2018, are Lynn Camp (113 in KY; 8,058 in the nation) and Williamsburg (75 in KY; 5,469 in the nation). While neither of these teams are in Pikeville’s league; they were way too much, if the score bears any significance, for Pinneville. Lynn Camp smoked the Lions 65-28 (37 point margin) and Williamsburg beat them 48-12 (34 point margin). Freshman, Landon King has forced three fumbles on the year for the Lion defense and Lee Cox, the Lions’ leading tackler, has recovered 2 of them. Sophomore, Braiden Lingar, owns 3 of the teams’ 8 interceptions.

Our call…

Taking all the above indicators into account, this will be a very hard game to predict a final outcome. Should we hit this one on the nose as we have done for three consecutive weeks, then we will have really done something. You see, Pikeville will beat Pinneville as badly as Pikeville wants. They could hang 60 plus points on them, like Lynn Camp, or they could take it easy on them and still score in the mid-forties to fifty or so points. Pikeville is 60 points better than Pinneville and I don’t see Pinneville scoring in this game. I don’t expect Coach MacNamee to try to embarrass Pinneville unless there is history here about which KPGFootball is ignorant. All of that being said, we are predicting the following result…

KPGFootball’s Prediction… PHS 54 – Pinneville 0

Join us next week as we look back at this game and preview the next match-up and give us a follow on Twitter @KPGFootball and subscribe to the on-line magazine by going to www.kentuckyprepgridiron.com and follow the prompts. Until next week, Panthers, this is Fletcher Long, reporting for KPGFootball, reminding all of the ballers out there to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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