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In this file photo, Hazard lineman Thomas Massey (57) blocks for quarterback Garrett Miller last season against Paintsville. Massey will be a senior leader on the line for the Bulldogs this season.

When you think of Hazard football, you think of hard-nosed physical play.

That all starts up front.

And this year, Hazard senior Thomas Massey will be one of the guys up front leading the way for the tough-nosed physical Bulldog offense.

Hazard finished 2019 with a 7-5 record.

The Bulldogs played district rival and defending Class A state champion Pikeville tough in the first half, but eventually fell 45-12 to the Panthers in the second round of the playoffs.

“Last year really gave us a lot of drive and a determination coming into this season,” Massey said. “We came out and played them close in the first half. That gave us some confidence. But give them credit, they did shut us down in the second half. Really all we want to do this season is get back, get better and beat them.”

Long time head coach Mark Dixon stepped away and is now coaching at Perry Central.

The Bulldogs will be under the direction of new coach Dan Howard.

“It’s the same kind of things, just with a new head coach,” Massey said. “I think we’re all going to try even harder for our staff this year.”

The Bulldogs will look to fill a couple of holes up front on the offensive line, but Hazard should still be very strong and physical up front.

“We’re still going to be good,” Massey said. “We lost a couple of good linemen, but we got some good guys coming up. A couple of guys who were in the eighth-grade last year. I’m just really excited to see what they do this year.”

Earlier this summer, Hazard dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak that spread throughout the team.

The Bulldogs had to halt practice for a couple of weeks, but then they came back ready to go.

Now, the season is just a little over a week from kickoff.

“It gives us a lot of hope and it’s exciting,” Massey said. “We’re just very excited about the upcoming season.”

Hazard will be one of the top teams in Class A again this season.

But the Bulldogs know that their biggest obstacle lies within their own district.

Pikeville is the team that the Bulldogs have their eyes on.

“Our biggest goal is probably beating Pikeville,” Massey said. “But getting into the playoffs will be really big.”

Hazard is scheduled to kickoff the season Saturday, September 12 at 8:00 p.m. against Floyd Central at Perry Central.

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