It’s championship weekend for the 2021 UK Orthopaedics State Football Finals. Here’s a look at Friday’s Class A state title game at Kroger Field.
Pikeville (13-2) vs. Russellville (12-1)
Kickoff: Noon Friday
RPI Ratings*: No. 2 Pikeville (.73197); No. 1 Russellville (.74616).
Cantrall Ratings*: No. 1 Pikeville (76.1); No. 3 Russellville (56.6).
Championship game history: Pikeville (5-4) — Five titles, the last in 2019; Russellville (3-3) — Three titles, the last in 1990.
▪ Yes, each team is nicknamed the Panthers. As the No. 1 seed, Russellville gets to wear its home black and gold. Pikeville’s Panthers are maroon and white.
▪ Pikeville defeated Russellville 28-6 in the 1987 Class A state championship. Pikeville Coach Chris McNamee was a standout senior on that team and a finalist for Mr. Football that year as a tight end/defensive back.
▪ Isaac McNamee, Pikeville’s 6-foot-3 senior quarterback and son of the coach, earned most valuable player honors as a sophomore in the Panthers’ 43-0 state championship win over Paintsville in 2019. He threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns in that game. He recently committed to Murray State, which lies even further west on the map than Russellville from his hometown.
▪ Speaking of which, it’s 296.7 miles from Russellville High School to Pikeville High School, according to Google Maps, and that’s the second-greatest distance between this weekend’s finalists. Belfry to Paducah Tilghman wins, they’re 418.1 miles apart.
▪ This is Mikie Benton’s fourth season as head coach of Russellville and the school’s deepest run in the playoffs under him. They were knocked out in the first round last year.
▪ McNamee is in his 12th season as Pikeville’s head coach. He’s won two titles in three trips to the state finals.
▪ Pikeville’s Blake Birchfield ranks as the No. 1 rusher in Class A, averaging 178 yards per game, that’s third-best in the state regardless of class. Russellville’s Jovari Gamble averages 108 yards per game, eighth-best in the class and tied for 50th statewide. They’ve each scored 23 touchdowns.
▪ Benton brought back every starter from his 5-4 2020 team with a little help from Senate Bill 128. Russellville has five fifth-year seniors and one underclassman do-over year made possible by the legislation that allowed students to repeat a grade because of the pandemic. Pikeville has one fifth-year senior and eight underclassmen who chose to repeat. Pikeville returned with a lot of experience as well, graduating only five seniors off last year’s squad, which went 6-3 and lost in the district finals.
▪ Russellville’s lone loss came to Class 3A semifinalist Glasgow, 49-35, in Week 2. Pikeville lost to Class 2A finalist Lexington Christian, 31-14, and Class 6A semifinalist Madison Central, 21-19.
▪ Pikeville wide receiver Zac Lockhart holds the state record for touchdown receptions in a game with seven. He scored them last season against Henry Clay in Lexington.
Pikeville standouts: Isaac McNamee, Sr. QB (1,739 yards/27 TDs passing, 152 yards/two TDs rushing); Blake Birchfield, Jr. RB (2,329 yards/23 TDs rushing); Zac Lockhart, Sr. WR/DB (776 yards/11 TDs receiving, 22 tackles, four interceptions); Wade Hensley, Jr. WR (496 yards/11 TDs receiving); Luke Ray, Jr. LB (121 tackles/five for a loss); Landon Hammock, Sr. DT (73 tackles/15 for a loss/two sacks).
Russellville standouts: Lennon Ries, Sr. QB/S (1,231 yards/18 TDs passing, 557 yards/three TDs rushing, 70 tackles/eight for a loss/two sacks); Jovari Gamble, Sr. RB (1,398 yards/23 TDs rushing, 118 yards/one TD receiving); Chevis Elliott, Sr. RB/DB (456 yards/four TDs rushing, 41 yards/two TDs receiving, 73 tackles/three for a loss, nine interceptions/one for a TD); Anthony Woodard, Sr. WR/DB (335 yards/three TDs receiving, 39 tackles/five for a loss/one sack, six interceptions/two for TDs); Braxton Baptiste, Sr. DE (63 tackles/23 for a loss/11 sacks).
@HLpreps pick: Pikeville 31, Russellville 14.
*End of regular-season ratings.
At Kroger Field in Lexington
Tickets: Available by advance sale digitally at KHSAAtickets.org. No walk-up paper tickets sold.
Class A: Pikeville (13-2) vs. Russellville (12-1), Noon
Class 2A: Beechwood (14-0) vs. Lexington Christian (14-0), 4 p.m.
Class 4A: Boyle County (13-1) vs. Johnson Central (12-2), 8 p.m.
Class 3A: Belfry (8-6) vs. Paducah Tilghman (8-6), Noon
Class 5A: Frederick Douglass (13-1) vs. South Warren (13-1), 4 p.m.
Class 6A: Male (13-0) vs. St. Xavier (13-1), 8 p.m.