Fairview ended Bracken County’s football season with a 34-22 win in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs a year ago.
The Polar Bears will look to return the favor and win their first ever playoff game on Friday when the Eagles come back to town.
“It’s the next step and what you’re trying to do building the program and the next step where you want to get to. Sometimes it takes baby steps. They first had a winning season a little ways back, finally got to host a playoff game and now hopefully we’re going to be able to win a playoff game,” said Bracken County coach David Brausch. “It’s the natural progression that takes place. You just hope it doesn’t take as long to get from a home playoff game to a home playoff win.”
Bracken County finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and a 10th-place ranking in the Kentucky Associated Press high school football polls. The Polar Bears were off last week, after claiming a 24-0 victory against Nicholas County to close out the regular season.
Fairview comes in with a 4-6 record. The Eagles lost their regular season finale to West Carter, 41-18, last week. Their last win came the week before at Lincoln County (WV), 30-14.
The Eagles have done most of their offensive damage on the ground this season, rushing for 2,719 yard and only throwing for 355. Shane Cook leads the team with 965 yards and eight touchdowns on 135 carries, while Mark Ekers has 760 yards and 11 touchdowns on 91 carries and Turner King has 539 yards and four touchdowns on 88 carries.
“This year in general it’s been a heavy run game. We’ve had decent success with it so far. We rely on it,” said Fairview coach Fred Ray. “The line up front is physical and the backs are making plays for us. The best we can do is go at it that way and be the best we can be.”
The Eagles have had six different players attempt passes this year. Brausch expects four to take snaps tomorrow, and knows his defense, which only allowed an average of 158 yards of total offense during the regular season, will need to be prepared for the run or the pass.
“You’ve just got to play good, disciplined football and do your job, which is kind of like the saying now, but it’s true,” said Brausch. “First you’ve got to put the fire out at your house then you put the fire out next door.”
The Polar Bears have been able to ground and pound as well, running for only 15 yards fewer than Fairview this year. Tad Fisher leads the charge with 1,396 yards and 17 touchdowns on 163 carries, while Griffin Appleman has gone for 580 yards and 11 touchdowns on 96 carries.
An aerial attack has added another dimension to Bracken County’s offense this season, however. In last year’s playoff loss, the Polar Bears completed 4-of-11 passes for 14 yards. This year, quarterback Trey Brausch has completed 73-of-115 passes for 1,234 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“It makes you plan more,” said Ray. “You can’t key on the ground game. It’s what they do very well, but they like to use play action or spread guys out and get the ball to them. It’s very important we stay fundamentally sound and limit them in that area.”
Brausch was not at last year’s first round game, as this is his first year at Bracken County, and this year is what he’s focused on, which is why he’s paying more attention to Fairview’s 2017 games than the playoff loss.
“I watched it a little bit, but not much,” said Brausch. “It’s two different teams. They had a lot of seniors last year. We had a lot of seniors last year. I don’t think it has much effect on the game.”
The rematch is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., in Brooksville.