LOG MOUNTAIN —Bell County plays host to Wayne County tonight in a match-up that should go a long way toward determining the top seed out of Class 3A’s fourth district.
Getting the top seed could be huge this year because the District 4 champion will play at home for as long as they win through the playoffs until the state championship game.
“I think the winner of this game definitely gets a leg up on taking first in the district and getting to host those first playoff games,” Bell coach Wayne Mills said. “It’s our biggest game of the year.”
The Cardinals come in at 5-0 with wins over Clinton County, Estill County, North Laurel, Madison Southern and Lincoln County. The Bobcats are 3-1, though they’ve gone up against a little better competition.
Bell is riding a 27-game winning streak against district opponents, including going 5-0 last year with two wins over Wayne County. The Cardinals gave the Bobcats trouble early in last year’s regular season game with a strong short passing game, but Bell pulled away in the second half for a 42-17 win. In the playoff game on Log Mountain it was all Bobcats 58-6.
The Cardinals return five seniors and a host of juniors from last year and could be primed to challenge Bell in the district.
“(Wayne County) still runs the same stuff they did last year, they mix the run and the pass well. They’re a balanced team and their quarterback does a nice job,” Mills added. “They’ve got most of their key play-makers back and they’re just a good, veteran team.”
Junior quarterback Tyler Guffey has completed 28-of-54 passes on the season for 520 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also run for 208 yards and two scores and leads the team with 43 carries. Senior back D’Vontae Dixon has run for 207 yards and four TDs with Junior Ruiz and Cody Rhule combining for nearly 300 yards and five scores. Senior tight end Dagan Shelton leads the team with 10 catches for 154 yards and three TDs while Logan Gardner and Jason Perkins are the top outside receivers.
“Defensively we’ve got to play with the same intensity we’ve shown and really light a fire under them from the start,” Mills said. “On offense, we’ve got to sustain some drives and move the football. We had a few three-and-outs against Whitley County and our kids are determined not to have any three-and-outs this week.”
Bell is led by the rushing tandem of seniors Ryan Collett and Jonathan Polly. Polly has 552 yards on 66 carries with two touchdowns while Collett has 10 touchdowns and 481 yards on 72 carries.
The Bobcats are trying to find a little more balance on offense with freshman quarterback Peyton Collett now taking over for the injured Corey Oslonian. In two starts Collett has completed 9-of-21 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Senior Tyler Green leads Bell receivers with 11 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown.
Mills said having an open date last week could be either an advantage or a disadvantage for his team.
“The first week we focused on ourselves a lot. We did prepare for Wayne County a couple of days, but we really worked on improving our young quarterback and worked on just getting our whole team to be better,” he said. “If you’re beat up a little bit then the open date can be a good thing and we’ve had a few little nagging injuries to deal with. So it’s good to get rested up a little, but you also worry about messing up your timing going into a big football game.”
Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.