There is a parlor game in which one is presented with three choices and must make a decision. While tawdry, the game can provide cheap humor and tough choices for male and female contestants. We're not going into full detail in this week's 3A Notebook, but since we have reached the final month of the regular season, we are going to look at each district and make a decision about three teams. One team is who we like long-term, another is who can have some success short-term, and last is who we just don't see it happening for this year.
Note: Records are current; rankings are from September 25 on Bluegrasspreps.com
DISTRICT 1 Long-term: Caldwell County (6-1; #6)
Caldwell County roared to a 21-0 lead midway through the first quarter on their way to demolishing previously unbeaten Union County 39-7 on Friday night. The Tigers have won six straight since a season opening loss to Christian County and have been much better defensively than in previous years. Coach David Barnes team has won five straight district titles and looks to be on their way to a sixth, having already knocked off their top two challengers. The question for Caldwell is if they can clear the regional final hurdle, a spot where they've lost each of the last four seasons.
Short-term: Paducah Tilghman (2-5; #14)
While the record isn't pretty, Paducah Tilghman has positioned themselves as the number two team in District 1. The Blue Tornado was averaging just over 14 points per game before exploding to a 56-7 win over Trigg County on Friday night. Minus a blowout loss to 2A power Mayfield, the Tilghman defense has been very stingy and held Caldwell County to just 24 points last week. They not have two weeks to prepare for a home game with Union County that should decide who gets a home first round playoff game. I'm not sure anyone is sold on Paducah Tilghman just yet, but they have made positive steps in recent weeks.
Not Happening: Union County (5-1; unranked)
Union County won their first five ballgames, including a victory over Madisonville-North Hopkins that has continued to look better as the season progresses, but came back to earth in their loss to Caldwell County. Now the Braves must win at Paducah Tilghman on October 13 or they'll have a first round road trip to either Larue County or Elizabethtown, both of which are ranked in the top ten. Union's offense has shown plenty of balance and the defense had allowed only 47 points total before being toasted for 39 on Friday night. A weak non-district slate (opponents are combined 10-22) may have made the start fool's gold in Morganfield.
DISTRICT 2 LT: Elizabethtown (5-1; #4)
Three straight inferior opponents have allowed Elizabethtown to play the subs more often and have kept them from the headlines, but this is a very good team. Wins over Franklin-Simpson and North Hardin to start the season were impressive, as was a good first quarter against Christian Academy-Louisville before things fell apart in the Panthers' only loss of the season. E'town is balancing the running load between several carriers and no one on the roster had rushed more than 27 for the entire season prior to Friday's 61-7 win over Hart County. There still is a likely district championship game with Larue County on October 13 and then questions will arise if they can get beyond the semifinals stumbling block of the last two years.
ST: Larue County (7-0; #10)
Obviously this exercise is being done before the end of the season so there is potential for change. Larue has shown a punishing ground game behind Bryson Cobb who is pushing the 1,000 yard mark already. Defensively the Hawks have been stout, too, giving up 9.6 points per game. The schedule is suspect to this point but that can all be put aside if they beat E'town in two weeks.
NH: Edmonson County (4-3; unranked)
Expectations aren't exactly through the roof for Edmonson County but you can rest assured if you watch the Wildcats play it will probably been an exciting affair. Edmonson followed up close losses to Warren East and Metcalfe County with a two point win over Adair County, likely guaranteeing them no worse than third in the district. Senior linebacker/lineman/kicker Brett Brannon has kicked 23 extra points, one field goal, and leads the team with 67 tackles.
DISTRICT 3 LT: Central (4-2; #5)
Former coach Ty Scroggins used to sometimes say he had a good 3A team, but not a good 6A team. Central might be somewhere in the middle of that this year, having already beaten Manual, Western, and Fern Creek, but with blowout losses at the hands of Ballard and St. Xavier. Central's first foray into 3A went swimmingly last Friday at Henry County and this week they had a bye. Now the de facto district championship looms against Waggener. Success has come primarily on the ground for the Yellowjackets. The offense has rushed for 911 yards while having allowed a scant 341.
ST: Waggener (2-4; #15)
Waggener has a ton of talent, which is very nice. They also have a very tough schedule and a lack of depth, which is not so nice. Losses to Lexington Christian, Boyle County, and Danville, all ranked at or near the top of their respective classes have made some question the legitimacy of this Wildcat club. A bye week after the Danville game seemed to rejuvenate Waggener as they routed Bardstown 56-13 on Friday. I'm not sure how far Waggener can go in the postseason (a second round trip to Belfry looms if they don't beat Central), but it does appear the ship is being righted in St. Matthews.
NH: Thomas Nelson (2-5; unranked)
Thomas Nelson already lost to Bardstown and still has games remaining with Central and Waggener so it is safe to say the Generals probably won't make much postseason noise. However, just playing in the playoffs is an opportunity the six year old school outside of Bardstown has not yet experienced, and a 21-20 win at Henry County on Friday all but assured they will get there this year. The reward is a trip to Belfry, but hey, it's one more week of football for the first time.
DISTRICT 4 LT: Boyle County (5-1; #3)
Chuck Smith has what appears to be the best team of his second term at Boyle County. The Rebels have been solid on defense and the offense has begun to click in recent weeks. One concern with Boyle is they have seemingly beat teams that have the same strengths. They've also yet to play Lexington Catholic, something of a bugaboo for the Rebels in recent years. Boyle hosts Catholic on October 13, but win or lose that game, this looks like a team capable of winning a state championship.
ST: Lexington Catholic (3-3; #7)
Catholic has followed a win-loss pattern throughout the first six games on the season and now looks to break that cycle in hopes of winning their fourth consecutive district championship. District play begins on Friday with Western Hills (by pattern, it should be a win), before traveling to Boyle County in two weeks (by pattern, that should be a loss). If Catholic can break the streak, they'll likely wear the crown. If they can't, it will probably be due to a defense that is allowing 236 yards rushing per game and 30.7 points. There are questions at Catholic, but these Knights may yet have some answers.
NH: Western Hills (5-1; #8)
It has been a remarkable year at the Capital for coach Don Miller's Wolverines. Led by superstar Wandale Robinson (19 total touchdowns entering Friday's 50-20 win over Washington County), Western Hills has spent nearly the entire season the top ten. However, they've spent that entire season behind district mates Boyle County and Lexington Catholic. Now Hills must travel to both in the next three weeks, sandwich around a tricky home game with Garrard County. If the Wolverines can pull a surprise over one of the two district powerhouses then we will reconsider their ranking, but right now the jury is still out.
DISTRICT 5 LT: Fleming County (5-1; #11)
What a difference a punt makes. With thirty-nine seconds remaining in what probably was the district championship game at Russell, Fleming County trailed 30-28. After draining as much time from the clock as possible, Russell punted. Fleming County's Jaden Campbell knew exactly what to do with the ball, going 79 yards for the victory, and in the process potentially securing home field advantage through the first three weeks of the postseason. It was the second consecutive win at Russell for Fleming County and while the Panthers have been jarred with injuries this season, they still are doing just enough to keep winning.
ST: Russell (2-4; unranked)
It may just not be the Red Devils' year. One year after following a punishing defense to a 10-2 record and a loss in the regional finals, Russell is allowing 25.5 points per game and gave up a devastating punt return in a loss to Fleming County. The schedule does get easier over the next three weeks but Russell is looking at hosting one of the strong teams from District 4 in the first round of the playoffs. Russell hasn't lost in the first round since 2012 but this could be the year.
NH: Bath County (5-1; unranked)
I doubt Bath County makes it out of the first round of the playoffs - we'll establish that right off the bat. However, if they do win, I bet it will be insane. Bath has won five of their first six games in 2017, but by six points on average and never more than 13. This is an exciting team for anyone not suffering from high blood pressure. Landan Swartz leads the Wildcats with 850 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on the season.
DISTRICT 6 LT: Belfry (5-1; #1)
You weren't expecting someone else were you? The four-time defending state champs continued to impress on Friday night, needing only fourteen offensive plays to dispatch of Floyd Central, 53-0. Belfry is posting 50.2 points per game, but it is on the defensive side where the Pirates have shown steady improvement. While not nearly as dominant (or big) across the defensive line, this unit is still disruptive and is gaining experience every week. This week sees Belfry travel to Cabell-Midland (West Virginia), a place they lost 49-7 in 2015, and they'll have their hands full again this year.
ST: Pike County Central (4-2; unranked) and Lawrence County (4-3; unranked)
The margin between Pike County Central and Lawrence County is razor thin so we'll put both the Hawks and Bulldogs in this spot. Lawrence travels to Pike Central this Friday for a game that likely will determine second place in the district, while the loser will have to make a three hour plus road trip to Louisville in the first round. Last year's game was won by Pike County Central, a 21-20 thriller.
NH: Floyd Central (4-3; unranked)
After an undefeated start times have gotten tougher for the Jaguars in their inaugural season. Losses to Prestonsburg, Pike County Central, and Belfry have shown Floyd Central isn't quite ready for the top level of Class 3A. This week does provide an opportunity for Floyd Central to extend their season as they travel to Sheldon Clark with the winner all but guaranteed a playoff spot.
DISTRICT 7 LT: None
ST: Maybe Powell County (2-4; unranked)?
In what is by far the worst district in Class 3A, three teams have placed themselves at the top of the heap by winning their first two district games. Powell County is one of those, having defeated Magoffin County and Knott County Central in consecutive weeks. Offense isn't a problem for the Pirates who average 36.8 points per game. Defense is the problem, where Powell allows 37.3 per game.
NH: The entire district.
Powell County is rated highest by Calpreps, but that is still good for only 30th in Class 3A. McCreary Central, the fourth best team in District 8 and the likely first round opponent for the District 7 champion, is ranked 27th in 3A. There is a very real possibility all four playoff teams could lose in the first round.
DISTRICT 8 LT: Corbin (5-1; #2)
Corbin showed no hangover from their huge victory over Mayfield on September 22, pounding McCreary Central to the tune of 63-0. Cameron Sizemore threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns in limited action. Things shouldn't be any tougher this week as Corbin hosts Jackson County. All signs point to a district championship showdown with Casey County on October 20. Beyond the district, the Redhounds have their sights set on a first state championship since 1982, but may again have to beat Belfry in the state semifinals to get there.
ST: Casey County (6-0; #9)
One of only two undefeated teams remaining in Class 3A, Casey County continues to impress in year two of Steve Stonebraker's return to Liberty. Casey used a strong fourth quarter to ease past Bell County on the road on Friday, winning 49-28, and likely locking up a home playoff game for the second straight season. Britt Pingleton set school records for receptions (14) and yards (240) in the Rebel win.
NH: Bell County (4-2; unranked)
One season after a 4-8 debacle, Dudley Hilton's Bobcats have returned to form in 2017, winning four of their first six games. The gap between Bell and both Corbin and Casey is still wide, though, and the Bobcats have not quite made it all the way back. The bad news? Bell County is probably playing a first round playoff game on the road. The good news? With District 7 being so down, there's a good chance Bell wins a playoff game for the fourteenth consecutive season.
Three to See (Each week the 3A Notebook will preview the three best games featuring Class 3A teams for the coming week)
1. Central at Waggener. This game will be played on Thursday night, a Jefferson County tradition leading into Fall Break. Both teams have question marks in a few places, but there will be very few fields in the commonwealth with as much talent on display as in this one. Waggener leads the all-time series 15-11, but Central has won the last six. First place in District 3 is on the line.
2. Western Hills at Lexington Catholic. If Western Hills is going to make noise in District 4, they'd be wise to start on Friday night. Lexington Catholic will have to contain Wandale Robinson, who left early and didn't record a carry in last season's 41-7 Knights victory.
3. Lawrence County at Pike County Central. Much rests on this District 6 clash, with the winner likely hosting a playoff game and the loser shipping out to Jefferson County the first Friday in November. Both sides have done nearly all of their offensive damage on the ground, with Pike County Central having rushed for 1,834 yards on the season and Lawrence County having ran for 2,284. The Hawks and Bulldogs have combined to pass for 296 yards for the year. Get there early because this one may be over by nine o'clock.
Just One More (Tired of the same teams every week? Want to go off the beaten path for a 3A game this Friday night? Each week we'll look at an under-the-radar matchup to watch in Class 3A)
Knott County Central at Magoffin County. As stated earlier, there are three 2-0 teams in District 7. There are also three 0-2 teams in District 7 and two of them play each other on Thursday night. The winner will keep themselves in the playoff picture while the loser may need to start planning for basketball. Knott Central, who is averaging 34.3 points per game but allowing 36.7, beat the Hornets 48-36 in 2016.