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Now we are getting down to it. There were a couple interesting games in round 2 but most of the favored teams took care of business as expected. In this week's notebook we will wrap up round 2 and look at how the final 8 teams are set up for their most challenging playoff games in round 3.

Region 1

Russellville was the overwhelming favorite to win region 1 as we entered the playoffs, and nothing has happened so far that changes that. The Panthers defeated Caverna 62-6 in round 1 and Campbellsville 57-7 last week.

The Panthers' opponent in the regional title game is Bethlehem, but their path to the game was very different. After a round 1 bye, Bethlehem needed a miracle come from behind finish to defeat Crittenden County 43-36 in round 2. Trailing 36-14 entering the fourth quarter, Bethlehem used 4 turnovers by Crittenden County to fuel a 29 point fourth quarter onslaught and get the victory.

Bethlehem's "reward" for that victory is a regional championship game versus Russellville. We are hearing that Bethlehem has lost a couple key players to injury. Even at full strength, it would have taken a perfect game for Bethlehem to have a chance versus Russellville. This regional championship game is at Bethlehem but that is not going to help. In our playoff preview, we called for a 42-14 victory for Russellville. Looking at it now after two rounds of the playoffs, we are not sure it will be that close.

Prediction: Russellville 49 Bethlehem 7

Region 2

Beechwood was not as clear a favorite as Russellville, but the Tigers were heavily favored in region 2. After blasting Eminence 56-6 in round 1, Beechwood faced battle tested and very big Louisville Holy Cross in round 2. The focal point on this one was in the trenches where the Cougars had a huge (literally, 3 players over 300 pounds) size advantage. Despite the size disadvantage, the Tigers line controlled the trenches with their athleticism and execution. The outstanding Beechwood defense completely dominated the Holy Cross offense, limiting them to 4 first downs in the game on the way to a 44-0 convincing victory.

Ky. Country Day (10-2) is having one of their best seasons ever. After a slow start versus Dayton in round 1, KCD blew out the Green Devils in the second half to win 42-6. In round 2, KCD posted a win just as impressive as Beechwood's round 2 victory as they completely dominated Frankfort 56-6, a team they only beat 33-24 in their district game 3 weeks earlier. That was an eye opening and surprisingly easy win for Ky. Country Day.

That sets up an interesting regional championship game. Beechwood and Ky. Country Day are both playing their best football of the year. Both teams have versatile high scoring offensive attacks. Beechwood's passing attack should give them an offensive edge. The Beechwood defense will face it's toughest test in weeks against the multiple offensive weapons Ky. Country Day presents. This game is going to be a closer contest than it looked entering the playoffs, but Beechwood's defense is too strong and fast on their home turf.

Prediction: Beechwood 45 Kentucky Country Day 21

Region 3

This may be the most competitive region in the entire playoffs - including all classes. Paintsville ended the season ranked #1 in 1A and they have continued to impress during the playoffs. Round 1 they destroyed a solid Paris Greyhound team 58-7 then followed that with a 49-14 blowout of Fairview.

Raceland is facing one of the most challenging playoff schedules in the state. Round 1 was no gimme as they faced the co-district winning Bishop Brossart Mustangs. The Rams got the win convincingly, 47-21. In round 2, Raceland was against one of those teams tied with Brossart in their district, Nicholas County. This was an even tougher test and Nicholas County showed their fantastic regular season was no fluke. However, the Rams fought their way to another clear victory, 48-26.

Now we have the much anticipated rematch of Paintsville versus Raceland. Their regular season game was a classic as Paintsville barely edged the Rams in overtime. It will be difficult for this game to top that one. Both teams have played tough schedules and have powerful offenses. There is more balance to the Rams offense led by QB Nathaniel Davidson, WR John Cherry (over 1,000 yards, #1 in 1A) and RB Bailey Walker, but the Tigers counter with one of the top RB's in 1A, Kent Phelps. Both defenses are among the leaders in 1A in fewest points allowed. Paintsville has home field in this one. Raceland needs to stay focused and disciplined to win this one. Flip a coin. We called for the upset in the playoff preview and will stick with it, but with less conviction than we had prior to the playoffs.

Prediction: Raceland 28 Paintsville 27

Region 4

Pikeville is the defending champion and they are probably feeling a little slighted. Since their loss to Paintsville in the third game of the year, there has not been much focus on Pikeville even though they are the defending champions. They are surely chomping the bit at the possibility of a rematch with Paintsville in the state semi finals. But they have business to take of first. Their 2 playoff games have been no contest - 55-3 over Lynn Camp and 49-6 over Pineville. Next up will be a much, much more difficult opponent.

Hazard has the leading rusher in 1A, Corey Smith. After a 55-24 round 1 win over Harlan. Hazard faced a team some people thought could upset the Bulldogs. Corey Smith made sure that didn't happen as he rushed for over 400 yards against Williamsburg and went over the 2,000 yard mark on the season in style. That rushing effort pushed Hazard past Williamsburg by a surprisingly easy margin, 56-31.

The Hazard Bulldogs have the rematch they have been looking forward to. Pikeville defeated the Bulldogs 29-21 in the regular season and the Bulldogs have been pointing toward this game ever since. Hazard looks to be playing very well and perhaps has improved more than Pikeville since their first game. Is it enough to close the gap and get the Bulldogs an upset win? It would not be a surprise if that happens. However, we will stick with our playoff preview pick of Pikeville to get another close win.

Prediction: Pikeville 35 Hazard 27