2012 Kentucky High School Football Class 4A Playoff Preview
Warren East was within a few minutes of going to the state championship game in 2007, giving up a touchdown and field goal in the final three minutes of a 38-35 loss to upstart Lone Oak.
The Raiders are trying to follow in Lone Oak's footsteps this season, silencing the critics of a soft schedule with a long playoff run.
No one questions that Warren East has played a less-than-challenging slate. Its most impressive win was way back on Aug. 31, when a pick-six provided the pivotal moment in a 26-18 win over a Monroe County team that's ranked in the top 10 in Class 3A.
Many of their other opponents have, in the words of one critic, "lacked much more than a pulse."
Like Lone Oak in 2007, the unbeaten Raiders will get a chance to win the region in friendly confines, with home-field advantage for the first three rounds. They could also face the toughest road to the regional finals, with Calloway County, Lone Oak and Owensboro looming as likely opponents.
Warren East certainly isn't bereft of talent. Linebacker Eli Brown, a sophomore transfer from Warren Central, heads a defense that's held seven of their 10 opponents to a touchdown or less. Quarterback Jimmy Burns (1,832 yards, 22 touchdowns and three interceptions) has put together a solid year and is, in the words, of one opposing coach, "a great game manager."
Owensboro, Lone Oak and Madiosnville all hail from the other district and have played much tougher schedules. Owensboro owns wins over Lone Oak and Lafayette, a ranked team in 6A. Lone Oak, hurt by some key injuries in an opening-night loss to Paducah Tilghman (ranked in 3A) was beaten on a last-second field goal by Christian County.
The Red Devils won the three-way tiebreaker for the district title and could also end up hosting three rounds of playoff games, if Lone Oak can knock off Warren East in the second round.
Owensboro's speedy defense has been solid all season and was very opportunistic in its regular-season win over Lone Oak, which has had a revolving door on both sides of the ball because of injuries. Quarterback Cole Ousley missed much of the season because of a separated shoulder but is back in action with his replacement, freshman Zyaire Hughes, now starting at receiver and in the secondary.
Lone Oak's defense has been a work in progress, but injuries have made it quicker and faster, even if it's also much younger and more inexperienced. Late in the season, the Purple Flash was starting two seniors on defense.
It's also the last season for Lone Oak, which consolidates into McCracken County next year. And in their five-year run that has included a pair of state runner-up finishes, Lone Oak has never won a playoff game on the road. That has to change this year for it to make one final splash.
Projected regional final: Lone Oak 27, Owensboro 16
Collins puts up points with almost anyone, but the Titans can give them up in bunches, too.
Quarterback Lawson Page has thrown for 27 touchdowns and his two favorite targets, DeAndre Farris and Nathan Sames, each has double-figure TD totals. Page and Farris are the team's leading rushers, both over 500 yards for a supremely balanced attack. Sames and Farris are also standout defensive backs.
And the Titans have proven they can beat quality opponents, owning wins over Meade County and archrival Shelby County, the latter a 5A district champion.
Their top challenger figures to come from a field of Western, Spencer County and North Oldham. Collins barely beat Spencer during the regular season, and Western has been viewed as somewhat of a disappointment despite taking some lumps against a tough non-district schedule.
Spencer does it the old-fashioned way, on the ground. The Bears have four backs with between 500-800 yards and have only completed 14 passes all season.
Western is still a dangerous club with its speed and athleticism, and can't be counted out because it's been competitive with most of the top teams on its schedule — the Warriors have lost to five ranked teams this year.
Projected regional final: Collins 27, Western 19
The eastern half of the 4A bracket has been by far the tougher of the two this season, with Highlands and Covington Catholic occupying the top two spots in the BGP state rankings and eight of the top 10 teams hailing from the east.
Highlands is Highlands, the biggest and baddest kid on the block seeking its sixth consecutive state title. It posted convincing early-season wins over Boyle and Scott County and a 35-21 win over CovCath for the district title. The Bluebirds, whose only loss is to Cincinnati Elder, also have home-field advantage in the regional playoffs.
CovCath has one of the state's best quarterbacks in Blake Bir.
Rivals Ashland and Johnson Central are good enough to win some regions, in both 4A and 5A, but the bar is set much higher here. The Tomcats have a potent offense that is dealing with a late-season injury to tailback Quentin Baker, while Johnson Central keeps finding ways to get it done despite a season-ending loss to Belfry, albeit one that came the week after the emotional overtime win over Ashland that produced a district title.
Projected regional final: Highlands 31, Covington Catholic 16
This might be the most compelling regional race in all six classes with four teams ranked in the top 10 virtually all season.
Russell County has one of the state's best running backs and all-around athletes in Nick Britt, who has 1,621 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Knox Central has a fine two-way player in Jeffery Canady (1,683 yards, 24 TDs) and a defensive star in his younger brother, linebacker Hayden Canady. Knox, beaten 35-19 by Russell a few weeks ago, showed its offensive explosiveness with a 30-point fourth quarter in a wild 44-36 comeback win at Madison Central.
LexCath had one of the state's top quarterbacks in three-year starter Kyle Bolin, but he was felled by a midseason knee injury. Boyle County is 6-4 against one of the state's tougher schedules but appears to have made significant improvement throughout the fall.
It makes for a free-for-all. Play this region out four times and you might have four different winners.
Projected regional final: Knox Central 29, Russell County 24
Projected semifinals: Collins 27, Lone Oak 23; Highlands 38, Knox Central 16
Projected championship: Highlands 47, Collins 20
Last edited by JV; Sep 15, 13 at 12:04 AM.
Reason: removed formatting