Bluegrasspreps.com Class 3A Football Playoff Preview
Special to BGP
The biggest story in western Kentucky was which team didn’t make it to the postseason party. Paducah Tilghman, which was beaten in the state semifinals a year ago on a last-second field goal by eventual state champion Central, was ranked third in the preseason but finished 2-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1984.
Under first-year coach Randy Wyatt, the Tornado actually won three games on the field, but had to forfeit a 55-6 district win at Webster County for the use of an ineligible player and fell out of the playoff picture with a shocking late-season loss at Muhlenberg South.
The favorite in their stead is Russellville, A Class A-size school which plays up two classes and quietly put together another solid year under coach John Myers.
The Panthers have their usual collection of skill-position athletes led by quarterback D.J. Quarles, who began the year as a running back but was moved under center early this season with former starter Zach Smith switching to a wideout. Damien Elam has been a big-play running back and kick returner.
Union County and Butler County appear to pose the biggest challenges and could hook up in a second-round matchup. Union is led by sophomore tailback Devin Foster, who has rushed for more than 1,500 yards this season, and quarterback Jordan Robison, who eclipsed the 1,500-yard passing mark last week and has 15 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.
Butler County, which lost to Russellville 28-21 in triple overtime in the game that decided the district title, went 9-1 during the regular season, including a win over a Grayson County club that is a surprise #2 seed in the 5A playoffs.
The Bears are led by tailback Jason Byrd (1,924 yards, 19 touchdowns) and quarterback Jessie Stivers, who is just shy of the 1,500-yard mark and has a 17-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
McLean County was putting together a solid season before tailback Spencer Phillips went down with an injury.
Regional final: CLICK HERE to see who will win
Central’s 6-3 record, which includes a win by forfeit over city rival Western, doesn’t look that of an elite squad, but knowledgable football fans know that the Yellow Jackets play a brutally tough schedule. No team prepared for the postseason with tougher late-season matchups than Central, which met two top-ranked teams in St. Xavier and Highlands.
No team in 3A can match Central’s assortment of top-shelf talent, including high-Division I prospects Mister Cobble, Ridge Wilson and Tim Patterson, all of which starred for last year’s state championship squad.
Regional final: Can Anyone beat Central?
Breathitt County has been the regional favorite from the start and has held up its preseason top-five ranking, rolling to eight straight wins after losing to Johnson Central and Prestonsburg at the start of the season.
The Bobcats have a reputation as a pass-oriented program, but tailback Channing Fugate has been the star this season, running for just under 2,000 yards and couple of dozen touchdowns.
CLICK HERE to read the entire Class 3A preview
If it’s November, it’s another long playoff run for Belfry, which has made the long trip from Pond Creek to the carpet at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in three of the last five seasons. The Pirates are 10-0 and showed their mettle in the final game of the regular season, winning 21-13 at Johnson Central, a highly-ranked Class 5A team.
Regional final: Will Belfry make the state semifinals?
Semifinals: ??? 34, ???? 14;
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Championship: CLICK HERE to read the entire Class 3A Playoff preview