By BRUCE W. SINGLETON, CJ Correspondent
The Somerset Briar Jumpers travel to Betsy Layne High School in Floyd County tonight for the first round of the Class 2A playoffs. This comes after last week’s disappointing tie breaker weekend which landed Somerset---which ended the season in a three-way tie for first place in the district---in a third seed position.
Although theoretically, the three seed spot predicts a team will meet up with stronger teams on its way to winning a state title, in reality, the worst thing about being a third seed is you have to travel. It is just inconvenient to have to drive 3 hours to the east to play a playoff game. If the Briar Jumpers win tonight, they will have to travel next week, and the next.
But all that talk about next week is far too extravagant at this point for the 5-4 Briar Jumpers. They are not guaranteed the privilege of playing next week until they beat a very good Betsy Layne team at their place.
Betsy Layne has won 9 games this year. They have scored 460 points: that’s a 46 point per game average. They have only come short of 50 points four times. Even in their sole loss to Prestonsburg, they scored 19 points.
But the Bobcats don’t just score points.
They shut down offenses. They have allowed their opponents only 84 points in 10 games. Nearly half of that came in their loss to Prestonsburg.
Most significantly, that defensive figure is the fewest points allowed by any team in their class.
Betsy Layne has won ball games this season thanks to the arm of Senior Quarterback, Dylan Hamilton. He has thrown the ball 215 times this year and has completed 140 of them. That is a 65 per cent completion rate with only 5 interceptions. Those passes have gone for 2598 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 260 points. Significantly, that figure amounts to 1 ½ MILES through the air. Maybe even more telling, that 260 points is 29 points more than the entire Somerset offense has been able to muster this year.
With stats like that, you have got to believe three things are going on.
First, the quarterback is very talented at throwing and even scrambling with the ball.
Second, the guys who are catching the ball and giving the quarterback credit for yards after the catch are cooperating in a big way, and
Third, the offensive line has got to be giving the man time to throw.
Seems like somebody would have figured out earlier this season that the way to beat this team is to make at least one of those three factors go away. Problem is, nobody but Prestonsburg has been able to do that yet this year.
If Kagen Skidmore, or Bailey McEnroe, or Bryson Jones can have the kind of defensive action they have been turning in over the last couple of games, at least one of those Bobcat winning factors might be either eliminated or at least subdued.
The Briar Jumpers will have to watch more than just a Quarterback, though. Junior Peyton Case, one of the aforementioned pass receivers, has taken it to the house 13 times this year and has a total of 133 points. Looks like he even kicks the PAT’s. The stats say he has 30 points in that column. Four more Bobcats have caught multiple touchdown passes as well, so the defensive backfield can’t just find one man and defend against him only.
The Bobcats can also run the ball. Senior Running back Houston Hall accounts for most of the rushing yardage with 604 and nearly a touchdown a game. It’s enough to keep the wary team honest and humble. Just as quick as you step back to defend against Case, Hall takes the ball on the run.
That makes for a team that is hard to beat.
That probably also explains why they are 9-1 and a 2 seed going into the playoffs.
Somerset Head Coach Robbie Lucas recognizes his Jumpers have their work cut out for them.
“Betsy Layne is a very solid football team,” he said. “Statistically their offense averages 46 points per game while giving up only 8.4 points per. They are 9-1 football team with the majority of their team being juniors and seniors.”
That experience on the field is important. Kind of like giving the seniors one more chance at having a senior night. Last time to play on their home field and stuff like that.
“They throw the ball around very well,” Lucas said, referring to the NINE Bobcats who have caught at least one pass this year. Five of them have caught at least 4 touchdowns.
“The running game is solid with tough runners behind an experienced o-line,” Lucas continued. “Qb Hamilton does a great job of running their spread offense. Defensively they are gap control with a mixture of some blitzing.”
Somerset hasn’t done all that well against the blitz this year. We can be sure that the Betsy Layne coaching staff have noticed that tendency, so expect to see it and find out how well the Briar Jumpers can adapt.
Lucas stressed the need to cut down on turnovers ---Somerset has given away 12 in the last 3 games, and take advantage of any miscues they might get.
“Coming out of an off week we have to start fast and play very physical in order to earn another 48 minutes,” he said.
The Briar Jumper faithful may see action from running back Will Lange tonight. This would only be the second game the talented senior has played this year. He played only a part of the Glasgow game before he went out to an injury.
Don’t expect to see Freshman Jordan Doan, who has had such an exciting year in the game tonight. Do expect to see Sophomore Quarterback Castle Hatcher and Senior running back Bryson Jones. All three players have spent at least part of the season on the sidelines with injuries.
And at this time of the season, healthy players are just hard to come by.
Opponent: Betsy Layne Bobcats (1st round playoff game)
Venue: Betsy Layne, Floyd County
Kickoff: 7:30 pm
Records: SHS 5-4, BLHS 9-1
AP Ranking: SHS #11, BLHS#10
Last Meeting: Nov. 4, 2011. Somerset won 47-6 in first round of playoffs.
Last Game: SHS won at home 35-19 over Middlesboro. BLHS won at Jenkins 56-0.
Media Coverage: Radio play-by-play action from Jon Burlew and Tim Washam on 102.3 FM. Updates from the game, as well as other games will be posted on the Commonwealth Journal’s Facebook page and on the Twitter handle @cjsportseditor.
Keys to Victory: Somerset must figure out how to handle Senior QB Dylan Hamilton, who has thrown the ball 1.48 MILES this year. That’s 2598 yards with a blistering 65% reception rate (140-215 with 5 interceptions.) Not only has he thrown for 32 touchdowns, he has run for 5. His favorite receiver, Junior Peyton Case, has taken the ball into the end zone 13 times through the air and once by land. Somerset must keep possession of the ball and thereby keep Hamilton from scoring. Somerset must win the battle of the turnovers. In the last two games, it has lost that battle even though it has won the game.