The football rivalry between Belfry and Louisville Central was forged in championship competition: For the fifth time in eight years, the Pirates and Yellow Jackets will clash in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 3A finals Friday in Bowling Green.
No wonder Belfry Coach Philip Haywood and Central Coach Ty Scroggins have such mutual admiration.
"I respect him and his program so much," Scroggins said of Haywood, whose 388 victories are the most in state history. "Not only have I been able to get to know him, I've probably got 40 Belfry friends on Facebook who say they can't wait to see us again."
Central is 4-0 against Belfry in title games, so Haywood knows what his Pirates are up against Friday.
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"Coach Scroggins does a great job, and they do what they do so well," Haywood said. "They've gotten us four times, but hopefully, the card will flip over for us this year."
Haywood has Belfry in the finals for the fifth year in a row, and 10th time overall. The Pirates have won three titles — 2003, 2004 and last year, when they clipped Wayne County 3-0.
Belfry plays physical, ground-hugging football. Leading the attack is Austin Hatfield (1,360 yards, 25 touchdowns). "A real workhorse," Haywood said. "He's kind of held us together."
Keaton Taylor (940 yards, nine TDs) and Xondre Willis (641 yards, 10 TDs) complement him in the backfield.
Scroggins didn't have to scramble to put together a scouting report on Belfry.
"I dusted off the game plans from our last four meetings," he said. "They run the exact same offense since we first played them in 2007. Nothing's changed except the players. They do a great job running their system."
Haywood already knows Central's philosophy, too.
"Central is Central," he said. "They have that fast style on defense where they run to the ball extremely well and play extremely hard.
"Offensively, they do whatever it takes to get the ball in the end zone, throwing it or running it. And they've got speed at every position."
Stevon Beason is one of those speed guys. He's rushed for 1,278 yards and 11 TDs, and has 21 catches for 231 yards and two TDs.
Myron Norfleet has thrown for 1,097 yards and nine TDs. Kambrin Brown has 38 catches for 510 yards and six TDs.
Central pulled out close victories over Belfry the last two times they played.
In 2011, the Yellow Jackets won 15-14 on a TD pass with two minutes left. In 2012, Central won 12-6 in overtime.
Haywood said the last one hurt the most.
"That was an extremely tough loss, but that's sports. You've got to pick yourself up because you know you've got another challenge ahead."
For Belfry, the challenge ahead is Central, once again.