PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Mountain football will be on full display in this weekend’s Kentucky High School Athletic Association championships at Kroger Field in Lexington.
Four eastern Kentucky schools, including two from Paintsville, are among the dozen teams vying for titles.
Paintsville High School in Class A and Johnson Central High School in Class 4A hope to make Paintsville “Title Town” by bringing home state championships.
Seth Carter, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Paintsville, will have a ringside seat for Friday afternoon’s Paintsville game against fellow eastern Kentucky rival Pikeville High School. He has been Paintsville’s chaplain the past three years, carrying on a long tradition with the school and the Kentucky Baptist church.
“Our church has always had a good relationship with the team,” Carter said. “We sit between the elementary school and high school.”
The young pastor delivered a short devotional to the team every Thursday night at the church, which hosts a dinner prepared by the Paintsville players’ parents. Relationships have grown from that time together, he said.
“I make myself available through the week,” he said. “Friday night home games our church feeds them at the school cafeteria, which is another chance to be around them.”
Carter has become good friends with Paintsville coach Joe Chirico, who he said often texts or calls asking for prayer over situations and even for personal counseling. Last Sunday, Chirico presented FBC Paintsville with the game ball from the Tigers’ semifinal win over Kentucky Country Day last Friday.
“We’re hoping to develop relationships with them that will last past high school,” Carter said. “We see them out in the community and we preach the gospel to them. You know there’s a seed planted. A lot of parents tell us you may not see the fruit of it now, but it could be there 20 years down the road. It’s definitely an investment. The previous pastor baptized three or four one season. The Lord has been gracious.”
David LeMaster, one of Carter’s deacons, is a former All-State three-sport standout at Paintsville who played in the 1978 championship game. The Tigers lost 15-13 to Fort Campbell. They returned to the finals in 1985 but fell to Crittenden County.
“I think it’s great that they’re going to be playing for a championship,” LeMaster said. “It’s a great experience for them. I hope both of them (Paintsville and Johnson Central) win it.”
Carter said the excitement that reaching the state finals has generated has engulfed the small town.
“Both teams are having lunch together today (Thursday),” he said. “Anytime we can bring more unity (to the town), that’s always good. We have great tradition here and two fantastic school systems.”
Carter will do a devotional before a dinner on Thursday night with Paintsville. He will be in the stands on Friday afternoon when Paintsville and Pikeville play for the title at 2 p.m.
The other two eastern Kentucky teams in championship games are Johnson Central in Class 4A, which plays Boyle County on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in a battle of two 14-0 teams, and Belfry in Class 3A, which takes on Bell County at 7 p.m. Friday. It’s the most teams from eastern Kentucky to ever play for championships in the same year.
Bell County (Class 3A) and Somerset (Class 2A) will also be representing southeastern Kentucky.
Here is the complete schedule for the weekend:
Class A - Paintsville (11-3) vs. Pikeville (13-0), 2 p.m.
Class 3A - Bell County (14-0) vs. Belfry (10-3), 7 p.m.
Class 2A - Mayfield (13-1) vs. Somerset (13-1), 1 p.m.
Class 4A - Boyle County (14-0) vs. Johnson Central (14-0), 4:30 p.m.
Class 5A - Covington Catholic (14-0) vs. Frederick Douglass (14-0), 8 p.m.
Class 6A - Trinity (12-2) vs. Male (14-0), 2 p.m.