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District Championship Week Turns into Blowout Friday

When the KHSAA implemented intra-district postseason play in 2019 it was guaranteed that the first two rounds would be rematches of regular season games. Six of the eight district championship games played Friday pitted a one seed versus a two, and the two three seeds that won first round games (Union County and Christian Academy of Louisville) were hardly surprises.

If you expected round two to be more competitive that the regular season game, you had another thing coming. Average margin of victory in the first meetings between Friday's district championship competitors was 15.6 points. This weekend: 28.5 points. What brought on the wide margins? It's hard to say for certain. But what is true is that Class 3A has a gorgeous setup of quarterfinals games this coming week.

DeSales 30 Christian Academy of Louisville 7
Perhaps the most complete domination came in District 4 where DeSales used four touchdown passes from Jayden Scroggins to roll over Christian Academy of Louisville, 30-7. It was a far cry from the double overtime thriller these two played on October 11. And it could be a sign that DeSales, after three consecutive years of falling to CAL in the postseason, is primed for a championship run in Class 3A.

"I think it could be the most complete game we’ve played," DeSales coach Harold Davis to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "This is a tremendous sign." (Kentucky high school football: DeSales beats Christian Academy).

After a scoreless first quarter, Scroggins threw his first of three touchdown passes to Demetri Scott to start the second frame. CAL would tie the game before DeSales took the lead for good with another Scroggins to Scott touchdown pass with just two minutes remaining in the half and cemented their lead with another touchdown pass with forty-three seconds remaining.

Paired with Elizabethtown's loss to Bardstown, DeSales is assured of at least one more home game this season. The Colts will host Bardstown this Friday night.

Bardstown 51 Elizabethtown 27
One of two road teams to win district championships on Friday, Bardstown used a second quarter defensive stop to change the flow of the game then rolled to three second half scores to best Elizabethtown, 51-27. E'town led 27-21 midway through the second quarter but chose to go for it on a fourth down in their own territory and came up short. Bardstown would score a touchdown and then a field goal to give the Tigers a 30-27 lead and all of the momentum heading into the break.

"I can’t say enough about that effort by our defense," Bardstown coach David Clark told the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise. "At that time, it made a huge difference. We were back on our heels a little and E’town had a ton of confidence. It says a lot for those kids to accept the challenge to get that confidence back." (PREP FOOTBALL 3-A PLAYOFFS: Bardstown wins second half, eliminates E’town | Sports | thenewsenterprise.com)

The game was an offensive showpiece completely different from the 20-14 overtime game played in October. Bardstown rushed for 199 yards and passed from 222 in the victory. Even in defeat, Elizabethtown piled up 345 yards of total offense. For Bardstown it sets up a second consecutive road game in a challenging environment as they travel north to DeSales. And for Elizabethtown, its five consecutive seasons of playoff wins but not able to make it to a state final.

Taylor County 20 Glasgow 14
Staying in the west and keeping our theme of turning tables in the playoffs, Taylor County topped Glasgow by six points four weeks after losing to the Scotties on a last second field goal. Tre Goodin, who didn't play in the first meeting, returned the second half opening kickoff 95 yards to give the Cardinals a 14-7 lead. Later in the period, Wes Oliver, who has rushed for 1,971 yards on the season, scored from sixty yards out to give Taylor a two score lead. A fourth quarter Glasgow score wouldn't be enough as Taylor County advanced to the quarterfinals for a second straight season.

"We wanted to do the things to get back here to be able to have a shot again," Taylor County coach Sam Marple said to the Bowling Green Daily News. "I’m just proud of the kids." (Scotties can't repeat last-drive match against Cards | Prep Sports | bgdailynews.com)

Taylor County will travel to Paducah Tilghman for the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the loss was a difficult end to a terrific season for Glasgow. For the third time in as many seasons the Scotties won double digit games but it wasn't enough.

"It’s tough out there for both teams," Glasgow coach Jeff Garmon said in the article linked above. "I thought both teams played really well. It got down to the last possession and we came up short." (Scotties can't repeat last-drive match against Cards | Prep Sports | bgdailynews.com)

Paducah Tilghman 36 Union County 7
Four Damien Ford touchdowns was all it took for the Blue Tornado to roll past rival Union County in the district championship. Paducah Tilghman will host Taylor County in the quarterfinals this Friday, their first quarterfinal appearance since falling to South Warren in 2014.

Ashland 33 Russell 14
One of the best regular season games in Class 3A was Ashland's 21-14 win at Russell on October 18. The Tomcats fell behind by two scores then clinched the win with a long touchdown pass from Jake Gregg to J.T. Garrett. Game two would prove to be much less climatic, as Ashland rolled the Red Devils, 33-14.

"The kids were so dialed in this week on attention to detail," Tomcats coach Tony Love told the Ashland Daily Independent. "I thought it was our best practice week in a long time. Our guys had laser focus day in and day out." (Tomcat-apult: Ashland springs past Red Devils | Sports | dailyindependent.com)

Ashland jumped ahead early behind first quarter touchdown runs from Keontae Pittman and Blake Hester. A second quarter touchdown pass from Gregg to Andy Layne gave the Tomcats a 20-0 lead, but Russell still had life. The Red Devils scored on a three-yard pass from Charlie Jachimczuk to Josh Griffith right before half and then on a Nathan Conley run on their opening drive of the third quarter, cutting the deficit to six points.

It was all Ashland from that point forward, specifically Pittman and Hester, who each scored another rushing touchdown and combined for over 300 yards rushing on the evening. Now the Tomcats, new to Class 3A in 2019, will be on the road at old rival Belfry for a chance to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since their 1990 championship season.

Belfry 60 Pike County Central 0
While Ashland was widening their margin of victory from the regular season to the playoffs, Belfry was doing the same in a domination of county rival Pike County Central. The Pirates scored early and often while holding Pike Central to negative first half yardage on the way to a 60-0 win. Belfry will host Ashland in the quarterfinals, rekindling a series last played in 2012. The two have met five times previously in the postseason, the last a 35-20 Ashland victory in 1990. Ashland leads the series 17-3.

Bell County 39 Rockcastle County 0
Bell County continues to play dominant football, rolling Rockcastle County 39-0, the Bobcats' twelfth win in as many tries. Dudley Hilton's club, dogged by questions all season about their strength of schedule, lead Class 3A in scoring offense at 44.2 points per game and scoring defense at 10.1 points per game.

William Dean scored two rushing touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass for the Bobcats. The catch was London Stephney's second touchdown pass of the evening; he also added a third quarter touchdown run to set the final margin. Bell will remain home for yet another week, this time hosting Fleming County in the quarterfinals.

Fleming County 35 Mason County 7
In the first meeting between old rivals Fleming County and Mason County, it wasn't until a late pick six from Fleming's Carsen Gulley that coach Bill Spencer could feel comfortable that his Panthers were going to win. That comfortable feeling came much quicker on Friday as Fleming used a stellar performance from Jonathan Maher to dominate the visiting Royals, 35-7.

Maher was a one-man wrecking crew, rushing for 182 yards and passing for 162, accounting for four of the five Fleming County touchdowns on the evening. The game was never in doubt as Fleming won their fifth district title in school history and hit the 10-win plateau for the first time since 2004.

Fleming County will now travel to Bell County for the quarterfinals, but you'll forgive them for taking a few moments to glory in an accomplished goal.

"We’ve talked about this since December. This has been our goal and what we set out to do. We knew if we played to our potential it was something we could do," said coach Bill Spencer to the Maysville Ledger-Independent. (https://maysville-online.com/sports/...district-title).

Setting the Stage for the Quarterfinals

Taylor County at Paducah Tilghman
Paducah Tilghman comes in winners of four of their last five and having rarely been challenged. Meanwhile, Taylor County has won four straight but none by more than two scores. The long road trip could be a challenge for the Cardinals, but Tilghman has struggled to advance past this round in several previous tries.

Prediction: Paducah Tilghman 28 Taylor County 21

Bardstown at DeSales
In what could be a beauty of a game, Bardstown will try to win a second consecutive road playoff game while a DeSales and a little bit of help could give the Colts home field advantage for the state semifinals as well. Bardstown has been undervalued all season and is highly productive on offense scoring over 43 points per game. The defense has proven a bit more susceptible in late season when the schedule stiffened. After a confounding loss to Meade County to end the regular season, DeSales has looked like their old self in the first two weeks of the playoffs. Coach Harold Davis likes how his Colts are playing. I do too.

Prediction: DeSales 28 Bardstown 24

Fleming County at Bell County
The 3A Notebook has decided that even though Bell County's schedule was weak, the results speak for themselves. Dudley Hilton's Bobcats have been impressive on both sides of the ball all season. They'll face a stiff challenge in Fleming's do-it-all quarterback Jonathan Maher, but that will only delay the inevitable.

Prediction: Bell County 38 Fleming County 14

Ashland at Belfry
The most exciting game in the mountains this weekend pits two of the most storied programs in Kentucky history against one another. Ashland will look to run the ball behind their two headed monster of Keontae Pittman and Blake Hester, while Belfry will counter with its terrific rushing trio of Peyton Hensley, Ben Bentley, and Isaac Dixon. Look for a classic at CAM Stadium.

Prediction: Belfry 27 Ashland 20

One Last Look at the RPI

Quarterfinals pairings were determined by the RPI. Semifinals will be determined the same way, although the next round will not separate into east and west but will instead include all four remaining teams. Below is the RPI for the eight remaining teams in Class 3A. The state semifinals will pit the highest rated RPI team remaining against the lowest, along with second versus third. The two best rated teams will host the semifinals.

1. Bell County (.703)
Forecast: Bobcats are assured of hosting a state semifinal game provided they defeat Fleming County.

2. Paducah Tilghman (.665)
Forecast: Blue Tornado are assured of hosting a state semifinal game provided they defeat Taylor County.

3. DeSales (.639)
Forecast: Colts would need to beat Bardstown and hope either Bell County or Paducah Tilghman lose this weekend. If Bell, Tilghman, and DeSales all win, the Colts will make a second trip to Paducah Tilghman this season.

4. Belfry (.637)
Forecast: Ashland beating Russell assured Belfry of a third home playoff game this season, but a fourth home game could be a tough task. First, the Pirates will need to beat Ashland on Friday. They would also need at least two of the three teams ranked ahead of them to lose. Worst case scenario from a travel standpoint for Belfry would be Bell and Tilghman winning and DeSales losing, which would mean a six-and-a-half hour road trip to Tilghman for the state semifinals.

5. Ashland (.632)
Forecast: Tomcats would need to beat Belfry and hope two of the Bell, Tilghman, DeSales triumvirate lose to get a state semifinal game at Putnam Stadium.

6. Bardstown (.624)
Forecast: Coach David Clark's Tigers would need a win at DeSales, along with losses by both Bell County and Paducah Tilghman to get a home game in the state semifinals. Bardstown has proven to be road warriors thus far and odds are they'll need to continue that both this week and in the future.

7. Fleming County (.603)
Forecast: Fleming County can't host another playoff game in 2019. If Fleming can upset Bell, the best case travel scenario for the Panthers would be a Tilghman loss, DeSales win, and Ashland win, which would send Fleming to Ashland for the state semifinals.

8. Taylor County (.591)
Forecast: Like Fleming, Taylor County can't host another playoff game in 2019. For the sake of travel, the shortest potential state semifinal route for Taylor would require a DeSales win and a Fleming County upset of Bell County, which would send Taylor to DeSales to play for a trip to the state championship.