Class 1A Playoff Preview
Mayfield lost the school's all-time leading rusher and all-time
leading receiver from the team that lost to Lexington Christian in last year's state championship game, but the Cardinals' offense has been as potent as ever this fall.
Led by quarterback Luke Guhy and a stable of solid running backs and receivers, Mayfield is scoring 47 points a game and was held to less than 38 points only once, in a 23-20 overtime win over defending 3A state champion Paducah Tilghman.
Guhy has posted some impressive numbers this season — a 68 percent completion rate, more than 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns with only one interception.
Backs Jonathan Jackson and Decole Noonan have combined
for 1,600-plus yards and 20 touchdowns, and receivers Javarius Richardson, William Higginson and Devin Jones have combined for 83 catches, 1,600-plus yards and 19 touchdowns.
Defensively, though, is where the Cardinals have shown enough improvement to possibly get over the hump in the pursuit of the program's eighth state championship. Jackson, a 5-11, 190-pound sophomore linebacker, has drawn rave reviews for his work, and Kingston at tackle and end LaBront Scott have been standouts up front.
Marc Wynstra handles all of the kicking chores and gives Mayfield a big advantage over most Class A opponents.
The Cardinals will watch the anticipated second-round contest between Louisville Holy Cross and Crittenden County with great interest, a game that could be one of the state's most interesting matchups that weekend.
Holy Cross was undefeated with wins over ranked 2A teams DeSales and Christian Academy of Louisville before getting trounced 31-7 by Paducah Tilghman in the regular-season finale.
That loss could have some lingering effects, since two of the
Cougars' best players — running back Justin Keen and receiver-defensve end Cody Couch — sustained injuries that held them out of the second half of that game and could affect their availability and effectiveness in the postseason. Until the pair went down, Holy Cross was competitive
with the Tornado, trailing 14-7 and missing a short field goal attempt just before the half.
Holy Cross operates behind a big offensive line, but Tilghman's speed exposed a lack of such in the Cougars' defense, something Mayfield hopes to exploit in their potential meeting.
Crittenden was competitive in season-ending losses to Mayfield and 2A power Murray but lost its best offensive lineman to a broken ankle against Murray. The Rockets will have to get by their opening-round matchup with Bethlehem, and Ballard Memorial — which has won first-round playoff games on the road the last two years — visits Kentucky Country Day in a battle of productive passing games.
Projected regional final — Mayfield 30, Louisville Holy Cross 14
Beechwood's season ended with a whimper last year, a 38-0 rout at Mayfield in last year's state semifinals. As usual, though, the Tigers weathered a tough non-district schedule (their three losses are to top-10 teams in 5A) and opened some eyes with a 40-39 double-overtime win over Newport Central Catholic (ranked #1 in 2A) in the last game of
the regular season.
Cameron Vocke has emerged as a tough runner for the Tigers — he's been piling up yardage and touchdowns all year, then rushed for 127 yards and two scores against NewCath. Vocke also threw a halfback pass for a touchdown in the second overtime and caught the subsequent two-point conversion pass for the win.
The rest of the traditionally-tough northern Kentucky district has been a little weaker than usual this season, so expect Frankfort (7-3, with two losses to state-ranked teams, Sheldon Clark and Danville) to get through the first two rounds and earn a date in the regional finals with Beechwood.
Still, the Panthers don't have the easiest road to the regional
finals, with matchups against Bishop Brossart and Walton-Verona on the horizon. Both of those programs have made significant strides in their infant years of varsity football.
Projected regional final — Beechwood 34, Frankfort 14
The state championship trophy is at Lexington Christian, but many of the key players and the head coach that won it are no longer on campus.
So while the Eagles aren't the buzzsaw they were a year ago, they are still a strong threat to reach the final four.
Quarterback Scout McCamy has been the centerpiece of the Eagles' offense, putting up well over 2,000 yards passing and running against a tough schedule that includes wins over four ranked teams — Christian Academy of Louisville, Breathitt County and district rivals Fairview and Raceland.
Fairview and Raceland could easily be on the Eagles' docket, with Fairview looming ahead in the regional finals if it can survive a long road trip to pass-oriented Williamsburg. The Eagles routed Raceland to earn the #2 seed in the district race and has a deep stable of backs led by sophomore Chris Brewer.
Raceland hopes to get another shot at LCA but has to make a trip halfway across the state to Campbellsville for a first-round game against a foe that has been tested by a tough non-district schedule.
Projected regional final — Lexington Christian 34, Fairview 20
Is this the year that Hazard finally knocks down the door to the Class A throne room? The Bulldogs have the best collection of skill-position players and speed in the small-school mountain ranks, led by quarterback Jon Combs, who is completing 75 percent of his passes for more than 2,500 yards with an impressive 34 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Hazard reached the state championship game in 2008, playing Beechwood tougher than expected in a 14-7 loss, then nearly pulled off the upset against eventual state champion Lexington Christian in last year's semifinals.
And this year's squad is battle-tested with wins over mountain powers Breathitt County and Corbin (both are top-10 teams in the BGP rankings), and the offense has racked up points against bigger schools such as Letcher County Central and Clay County.
If Hazard faces a legitimate challenge within the region, it will
have to come from Pikeville, which went 6-4 with losses to four ranked clubs, although the Panthers weren't necessarily very competitive in those contests.
Projected regional final — Hazard 48, Pikeville 20
Projected semifinals — Mayfield 26, Beechwood 14;
Hazard 42, Lexington Christian 23
Projected championship — Mayfield 31, Hazard 23