The Boys of Fall

James Collier

For The Beacon




   Ashland found itself trailing by a pair of scores in the regular season meeting with Russell before rolling off 21 unanswered for the win.

   Friday night at Putnam Stadium in the Class 3A, District 7 championship, Ashland elected to try a different approach by leading wire-to-wire in a 33-14 win.

   The Tomcats opened with a 20-0 lead while racking up over 300 yards rushing on the top defense in 3A. Blake Hester led the surge with 158 yards on 22 carries. Keontae Pittman added 149 on 11 totes. Both added a pair of touchdowns. 

   It took Ashland only 11 seconds to snag a 6-0 lead after Pittman raced 57 yards to the house on a misdirection play that caught Russell off guard. Hester made it 13-0 on a 3-yard run to close out the frame. 

   Ashland’s passing game made it 20-0 after a 49-yard toss from Jake Gregg to Andy Layne midway through the second quarter. Russell would find the endzone with 41 seconds before the break on a 3-yard Charlie Jackimczuk throw to Josh Griffith to trim Ashland’s lead to 20-7. However, the powerful Red Devils rushing attack had been held to minus-2 yards in the half. 

   Russell made things interesting to start the second half after Nathan Conley’s 1-yard run made it 20-14 followed by a successful onside kick put the Devils in position to possibly take the lead. Ashland’s defense, however, had seen enough as a quick three-and-out gave the ball back to the Tomcats and another Pittman score. 

   Pittman’s second 50+ yard score of the night gave Ashland a 26-14 lead late in the third. 

   Hester’s final score of 11 yards at the 2:07 mark in the game capped off the stellar night by the Ashland backfield. 

   Ashland outrushed Russell 315 to 59 while forcing the Devils to an aerial attack in a comeback effort. Jachimczuk finished 18 of 31 for 185 yards with a touchdown. 

   Ashland travels to Belfry Friday night in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. 



   It was tabbed the rematch after Paintsville won by a tail in the regular season matchup with Raceland on October 25. 

   Friday night at Memorial Field, the Tigers’ bite was too strong as Paintsville forced six Raceland turnovers in a 32-18 win for the Class A, District 6 championship. It was their first win over the Rams in the postseason since 2016 and it was anything but easy at first. 

   John Walker Phelps fumbled the opening kickoff that set up the Rams with a short field on their opening drive and three plays later, Jake Heighton’s 1-yard plunge gave Raceland a 6-0 lead. 

   What was to follow was a night the Rams would want to forget. 

   Paintsville answered with a 10-play drive with Phelps’ 2-yard run giving the Tigers a 7-6 lead. But that was only the beginning. The next two drives would account for two of the Rams’ four fumbles on the night and 12 more points by the Tigers, all by Phelps. The senior added his second 2-yard score just inside of six minutes to play in the first. He followed with a 47-yard scoop and score for 19 unanswered points by the Tigers. 

   While the Rams defense came alive in the second quarter, the offense did not follow. Raceland held Paintsville to minus-2 yards of offense in the stanza but had two drives stall inside the 20 and had to settle for a pair of Caleb Rowsey field goals and a 19-12 deficit at the half. 

   Raceland’s defense stood tall in the third, holding Paintsville to minus-4 yards in the quarter. However, their offense managed only one first down as the teams traded punts. 

   The final quarter belonged to Paintsville as scoring runs by Jake Hyden and Phelps pushed the game out of reach. Heighton closed the scoring with a 15-yard pass to Jacob Wallace. 

   Paintsville welcomes Williamsburg Friday night in the quarter-finals round of the Class A playoffs.