Coach: Noel Rash (11th season)
Cantrall rating: 76.3
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AP ranking: No. 2
How the Tigers got here: Defeated Eminence (56-6), Louisville Holy Cross (44-0), Kentucky Country Day (42-7) and Russellville (35-0).
Total championship appearances: 17 (11-5 record entering Friday)
Stakes: Beechwood could win its 12th state championship, which would tie it with Mayfield and St. Xavier for second most in state history (neither of those teams reached the finals this season in their respective classes). It would be the Tigers’ first title since 2008.
Players to watch: Senior running back Aiden Justice has 1,074 yards and 17 TDs; junior James Davis isn’t far behind him with 827 yards and 12 TDs on 44 fewer carries. Brayden Burch, a junior quarterback coming off a near-perfect performance against Russellville in the semifinals (7-of-9 for 124 yards and two TDs with no picks), has thrown for 2,245 yards and 25 scores this season with only five interceptions. Elijah McKenney, also a junior, has seven interceptions and has returned one fumble for a TD.
Quick hits: Beechwood played in nine straight finals from 1991 to 1999, winning seven times. … Last season it reached the championship game for the first time since 2008, falling 42-28 to Pikeville. Who did the Tigers beat in 2008 for the crown? Hazard, which made its first finals trip that season.
Coach: Mark Dixon (14th season)
Cantrall rating: 62.5
AP ranking: No. 5
How the Bulldogs got here: Defeated Harlan (55-24), Williamsburg (56-31), Pikeville (42-19) and Paintsville (20-7).
Total championship appearances: 4 (1-2 record entering Friday)
Stakes: Hazard can win its second state title and first since 2011, when it defeated Mayfield, 24-6, before the Cardinals ripped off four straight titles in the years after. It would be the second straight Class A title won by a mountain team.
Players to watch: Cory Smith has rushed for 2,777 yards and 38 TDs, an average of 198 yards and nearly three scores per outing. Braxton Whitaker has 79 tackles and seven interceptions for the Bulldogs, who have picked off 21 passes as a team. Kade Holland, a junior, has a team-high 100 tackles. Sophomore quarterback Bailey Blair has thrown for 2,253 yards and 20 TDs, with senior Jason Johnson accounting for nearly half of that production on the receiving end (1,119 yards and seven scores). Whitaker has caught six TDs.
Quick hits: Before Pikeville’s title run last year, Hazard was the most recent mountain school to have won a Class A title. Before the Bulldogs did it in 2011, the most recent Eastern Kentucky small-school champion was Middlesboro in 1998. … An Eastern Kentucky school has played in seven straight finals (Hazard in 2010 and 2011, Fairview in 2012, Williamsburg in 2013 and 2014).
PREDICTION: Beechwood 35, Hazard 21.