Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Beechwood, Pikeville renew rivalry

Class A powers meet for 11th time in postseason

Enquirer contributor

        Ten years have passed since Pikeville won the last of three consecutive Class A state football championships. Since then, its most frequent stumbling block has been Beechwood, which has beaten Pikeville in the playoffs six times this decade.

        Chris McNamee remembers the great times, but he has only second-hand knowledge of the less-than-great. He was a senior on the 1987 Pikeville team that started that title tear, and as the first-year coach at his alma mater, he's hoping to spark a new streak. He's off to a good start. After a season-opening loss to Class AA power Boyle County, Kentucky's only remaining unbeaten team, the Panthers have reeled off 12 consecutive victories to set up a state semifinal matchup with Beechwood (10-2) at 7:30p.m. Friday in Fort Mitchell. It will be the teams' 11th postseason meeting.

        McNamee left his job as Pike County's coach to return to Pikeville when John Chapman resigned after just one year on the job. McNamee, a defensive back at Pikeville, has maintained the Panthers' makeover from a ground-oriented attack to a wide-open, multiple passing offense.

        “We want to throw the ball to set up the run,” McNamee said. “We go four wide receivers with a shotgun. With our personnel, it's the best thing to run. The kids enjoy playing it, and the fans enjoy watching it.”

        Beechwood coach Mike Yeagle, who was a Beechwood assistant in the 1980s, remembers when Pikeville dominated this series. Though Beechwood won the first meeting with Pikeville in the 1984 state semis, the Panthers knocked out the Tigers three straight times from '87-89.

        “They have a great football tradition,” Yeagle said. “We've had a great little rivalry with them.

        “Their style of football has changed. They've gone from using three backs and power to throwing on every down. Their offense reminds you of (Kentucky's).”

        The Panthers have piled up 616 points (47.4 a game) behind the passing of junior Matt Branham, who has thrown for 3,194 yards. Senior Jeremiah Akers is Pikeville's top receiver with close to 1,500 yards.

        Pikeville still is waiting for the return of sophomore running back Barrett Rogers, who has been out with a broken collarbone since the first week of the playoffs. Senior Chase Rogers, Barrett's brother, has taken over the primary rushing duties.

        The top defender is junior Isaac Ratliff, a 6-foot, 215-pound middle linebacker, but Pikeville depends heavily on two senior defensive linemen: 6-4, 270-pound Chris Shumate and 6-2, 280-pound Zaid Mullins.

        “We lost our strong safety,” McNamee said, referring to junior Lincoln Sowards' knee injury. “That's a big hit to us with the size of the school we have and number of players we have.”


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