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Pikeville senior Zach Rowe reacts after the Panthers fell to Hazard 21-12 last Friday night in the district championship round of the Class A playoffs. With the Panthers’ loss, there will be a new Class A champion crowned this season.

Hazard had Pikeville on the ropes and then Max Johnson jumped a route and came up with an interception.

Johnson scattered 60-yards to give the Bulldogs a 21-12 lead late in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs held onto the 21-12 win. The Bulldogs also knocked off defending Class A state champion Pikeville to capture the Class A District 7 championship.

“We knew this was the game,” Hazard coach Dan Howard said. “Six weeks ago, the score was 43-7 and that didn’t show what kind of team we had. With Garrett (Miller) being back and a couple of other guys being back, that was huge. He (Miller) was huge tonight. Our offensive and defensive line was huge tonight. We knew we had to play a good football team. That is a heck of a football team.”

“I’m proud of everyone of my teammates,” Johnson said. “Even though we started out the season 0-5, everyone came to work every day with the same mentality. This is what we looked forward to and I’m just glad we pulled it out.”

With the win, Hazard (4-5) advances to the Class A region championship round next week. The Bulldogs will visit Paintsville at 7:00 p.m. Friday night.

Pikeville finished the season with a 6-3 record.

The game looked similar to last year’s second round game between the two squads.

Pikeville held onto a close lead in the first half before blowing the game open in the second, but Friday night, the Bulldogs dominated the second half for the win.

“This is huge for our team, our whole town and the City of Hazard,” Johnson said. “It’s just huge for everybody.”

Pikeville opened the game with the ball and the Panthers marched down the field and junior Brayden Thomas capped the drive off with a 12-yard TD run with 9:49 left in the first quarter.

Johnson fumbled the ball on the Bulldogs’ first possession.

But he made up for it on the Panthers’ next possession as he intercepted an Isaac McNamee pass deep in Bulldog territory.

Hazard trailed Pikeville 6-0 at the end of the first quarter, but the Bulldogs opened the second quarter with a bang.

Bulldog quarterback Garrett Miller found Tyson Turner for a seven-yard TD pass with 11:54 left in the first half. After a Jonah Helm extra-point, the Bulldogs held a 7-6 lead.

Miller finished the game 11 for 14 passing for 143 yards and a TD.

Pikeville answered, though. The Panthers marched down the field and capped off a long drive with a four-yard TD run from Blake Birchfield with 4:26 left in the first half. The score put the Panthers up 12-7 after a failed two-point conversion.

The Bulldogs marched down field and were deep in Pikeville territory before the half ended. Penalties halted the Hazard drive and the Panthers took a 12-7 lead into halftime.

The Bulldogs opened the third quarter with the possession.

Miller found Andrew Ford on a couple of third down passes to keep the drive going before Johnson capped the drive off with a 10-yard TD run with 6:33 left in the third quarter.

“I told them at halftime that we’re not going to eat this and run out the clock, we’re going to come out and score,” Howard said. “We were going to be aggressive and we probably should’ve scored before the half, but we had some penalties and we knew we were getting the ball back after halftime. I said, ‘Let’s go out and score and put some pressure on them.’”

Johnson finished the game with 107 rushing yards and a TD on 23 carries. He also caught three passes for 54 yards. Ford led the Bulldog receivers with five catches for 62 yards. Turner also had three catches for 27 yards and a TD.

The teams traded possessions after that. Hazard put together the longer possessions though.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs held onto the 14-12 lead.

Pikeville was running out of time and tried to pick up the offensive pace late in the game. McNamee looked for Lockhart, but Johnson jumped the route and took the ball nearly 60 yards for a pick-six.

“I was loving it dude,” Johnson said. “It was crazy. I knew it was going to go to him (Zac Lockhart) because he’s the best player on their team in my opinion. He’s just a hell of a player. I was just lucky to get there.”

The extra-point from Helm pushed the Hazard lead to nine with just 2:33 left.

“We knew we had to hit an extra-point there to make it nine,” Howard said. “That was huge there. We probably should’ve just stayed in our defense, but we went prevent there and they drove it down on us and we had to go out and make a stand.”

Pikeville had another possession and drove down the field, but the Hazard defense forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs with just seconds left.

“We knew that we had to take No. 10 (Zac Lockhart) and 12 (Blake Birchfield) out of the game plan and limit their touches. We wanted anybody else to carry it or touch it.”

Hazard held onto the 21-12 win thanks to Johnson’s pick six.

The Bulldogs will travel to Paintsville at 7:00 p.m. in the Class A region championship round.

“We just got to take it wherever we go,” Howard said. “I have no idea. With the RPI, I’m guessing we’re at the bottom, so we’re going somewhere probably Paintsville.”

“We just have to have the same mentality, you know,” Johnson said. “It’s another game. We are just trying to take it week-by-week and get better and better every day.”

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