The Bracken County football team came away with arguably the biggest win in program history last Friday.
The Polar Bears topped Fairview, 36-6, claiming their first-ever playoff win.
Friday following the game was a time for celebration, but the Bracken County coaching staff got right to work on Saturday planning for their Class 1A, second round game against Paintsville – the number one team in the final Class 1A Kentucky Associated Press high school football polls.
“It was just like every other week getting right to work. The coaches, on Saturday, went right to work on Paintsville,” said Bracken County coach David Brausch. “We felt like we had to catch up. They had an extra day. We didn’t want to make excuses, so we went right to work and did what we normally do.
“It’s going to be a tough one. We’re going to get there and see what happens. We’re going to have to play our best game to beat these guys,” added Brausch. “There’s a reason they’re ranked number one or two, depending what poll you’re looking at.”
The Tigers come in at 10-1, after beating Nicholas County, 41-21, in a first round game last Thursday. They claimed the top spot in the final AP poll, while Bracken County closed out the regular season as the No. 10 team, but that’s not something Paintsville is concerned with.
“Those polls are for the fans. They really are not a bearing on what we’re trying to do,” said Paintsville coach Joe Chirico. “We don’t worry about polls and things like that. We worry about trying to get a win.”
Last week, the Polar Bears were able to end the first quarter with a 16-0 lead. Brausch believes getting an early lead is necessary to help avoid turning the ball over - something Paintsville has forced opponents to do all season.
“The number one stat in football is giveaway-takeaway. If you win that stat, you usually win the ballgame. If you lose, it you usually lose the ballgame,” said Brausch. “I think of all the stats we keep in the ballgame, it’s the most important.”
Paintsville has intercepted 12 passes and recovered 12 fumbles this season to help set up an offense that averages nearly 35 points per game.
“It helps when your defense can score some and hold and flip the field against opponents. We’ve been decent at that this year,” said Chirico. “It’s a big challenge Friday night because Bracken can run the ball so well. They run the ball as well as anybody we’ve played against.”
In 11 games, the Polar Bears have run for 3,109 yards, led by Tad Fisher’s 1,523 yards and 19 touchdowns on 184 carries. Griffin Appleman led the attack in last week’s victory, scoring on a 93-yard run and a 47-yard run and finishing with 238 yards on nine carries.
“You can’t go into any ballgame saying you’re definitely going to do this with this ballgame. You don’t know what the other team is going to do on defense. Last week they tried to take Tad away and Grif was the recipient of that. This week, who knows what they’ll try to do? They might try to take him away. They might try to take the fullback away. You just don’t know,” said Brausch.
Chirico enters with a similar mindset and plans to take what the Bracken County defense, which has held the last three opponents to only six combined points, gives him.
Paintsville has thrown for 1,272 yards and run for 2,358 yards this season. Quarterback Jake Hyden has completed 65-of-128 passes for 1,181 yards and 11 touchdowns. They’ve had 10 different receivers catch passes, and five – Chris Allen, James Allen, Kanyon Castle, Tanner Smith and Silas Stambaugh – have at least 175 yards receiving.
On the ground, the Tigers are led by West Virginia commit Tyrese Allen’s 724 yards and 14 touchdowns on 90 carries.
Bracken County held Fairview under 200 yards of total offense, and they believe controlling the line of scrimmage will be key to winning both phases of the game on Friday.
“They’re good. They’ve got several guys that run the ball, several guys that catch the ball and the line is big and physical,” said Brausch.” We have to try and control it some.”
The winner will stay alive and advance to take on the winner of Friday’s game between Paris and Raceland.
Kickoff at Paintsville is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.