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Where did the time go?

Every year, during the off-season, we gather here at Bluegrass Preps and anxiously count down the days until the kickoff of Week 0. Those 37 weeks can feel like an eternity. The season itself? Seemingly gone in the blink of an eye.

As the regular season is nearing its end, it's now time for the annual, and occasionally odd, out of district finale. I say “occasionally odd”, because playoff seeding and destinations have now been set in stone. Everyone knows who they're playing in Round 1, and whether they're hitting the road, or potentially settling in for a nice, long stay at home. It's hard not to look ahead, but there's still one game left on the schedule. Often times, it's a relatively meaningless game in the grand scheme of things. Other times, it's a very meaningful rivalry game. Every coach is faced with the question of how to approach this final regular season game. Do you rest your starters? Do you go full bore, so as not to lose momentum going into the playoffs?

Those are the questions that will have to be answered by Joe Morris and David Barnes, as their teams are set to square off in the final 2A Game of the Week for the 2017 season.

Mayfield comes in at 8-1, and aside from a three point loss to 3A #2 Corbin, has handled everyone else in their path by at least two touchdowns. After experimenting with a two quarterback system earlier in the season, the Cardinals appear to have settled on sophomore Jaden Stinson as the main man going forward. Jaden has passed for 1,095 yards and 12 touchdowns with only three interceptions, despite sharing snaps for most of the year. A go-to receiver hasn't really emerged this year. Instead, a deep receiving corps of Trey Matthews, Jack Murrell, Jordan Harrison, Alonzo Daniel, Diaz Perry, and Connor Guthrie have all combined to account for nearly 95% of the team's receiving yardage and all of the touchdowns. Murrell, Matthews, and Harrison have been the most consistent of the WRs, with Harrison emerging as the deep threat, averaging 21 yards per reception, and hauling in 6 touchdown grabs on 17 catches. The running game has also seen its production scattered out amongst a few different ball carriers. After three years of Trajon Bright, it's taken Matthews, Kyle Hurt, and Travon Halliburton to replace the production of one of Mayfield's all time greats.

Devon Jeffries, Austin Ashley, Quorterrius Cherry, and Ethan Couch form a formidable D-line, with Hurt and Markeacio Jackson making an equally formidable linebacker duo. Nate Fox, Connor Guthrie, and Denzel Perry are just a few of the talented Cardinals who see time in the secondary.

Caldwell County (8-1) dropped its opener to unbeaten 5A #2 Christian County in a competitive showing that actually helped their stock. Since then, they've reeled off eight wins in a row, averaging nearly 40 ppg in the process. The young man taking the snaps for the Tigers is junior quarterback Joby Jaggers. Jaggers has completed 68% of his passes for 1,958 yards and 22 touchdowns. His top targets have been Oliver Parker (529 yards, 5 TDs), Travis Newsom (588 yards, 6 TDs), and Jameer Riley (427 yards, 4 TDs). Jameer leads the pass oriented offense in rushing with 416 yards and five scores on the ground.

Caldwell's defense has excelled at creating turnovers this year, with 14 fumble recoveries and 18 interceptions. The chief thief is junior cornerback Trel Riley, who leads the team with six picks. Riley is a tremendous talent who's sure to start gaining the attention of Division I college recruiters. Aside from his defensive prowess, he's also a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He's found the end zone this year via TD run, TD catch, pick-six, and kick return.

The linebacker quartet of Hunter Vanhooser (101 tackles), Will Beshear (77 tackles), Caleb Burden (76 tackles), and Dylan Gray (74 tackles) are tackling machines with a collective nose for the football.

These two great Western Kentucky programs have met every year since 2006, and no team has more wins over Mayfield during that time than Caldwell County (3 - ‘08, ‘09, ‘13). This is the final tune-up before the “second” season begins. A win on Friday night would certainly springboard the winner into the post-season with a gust of confidence and momentum at their back.