5A Notebook (8/25): Getting Defensive
Another week, another slate of mostly chalky results. Through two weeks, 5A has managed to avoid a dramatic shake-up at the top. CovCath, BG, South Warren, South Oldham, and Highlands all won their Week 1 games by an average score of 40-8. That's the sort of domination you want to see from your top teams. Top ranked Covington Catholic continued its reign of terror, jumping on Henry Clay early, and never looking back. The 41-0 beatdown was a textbook display of efficiency and killer instinct. With the promising potential of quarterback Caleb Jacob, weapons like McGinness, Mayer, and Coldiron, and one of the best offensive lines in the state, the Colonels’ offense gets most of the headlines. But the defense, which had to replace several standouts from last year, has been suffocating through two games. Henry Clay dropped half-a-hundred on Tates Creek in Week 0, but could only muster 71 yards of offense against CovCath. And the Blue Devils aren't exactly short on speed and playmakers. Casey McGinness led the way on offense, with 137 rushing yards and a TD. And Mayer, who seriously looks like he could suit up for Notre Dame right now, added a team high 78 yards receiving and two TDs on six catches.
Following a less than stellar performance against Central Hardin, Bowling Green looked a little more like their old selves in a 44-7 victory over Pleasure Ridge Park. Like CovCath, the Purples’ defense came to play, allowing 159 yards of offense and a lone score. PRP scored 35 points and topped 400 yards in last year's upset win over BG. Vito Tisdale surpassed the century mark for the second straight game, rushing for 115 yards and a TD on 14 carries, and added a 71 yard TD catch on a hook and ladder. Beau Buchanan looked good, finishing 14 of 22 for 220 yards and a couple of TD tosses. His night wasn't perfect, though - he was picked off on BG's first possession. Meanwhile, on the campus of WKU, South Warren made quick work of Warren Central. The Spartans were the far superior team on both sides of the ball, racing out to a 39-0 lead four minutes into the 2nd quarter, before easing their foot off the gas and coasting to the finish line. Gavin Spurrier was a perfect 12 of 12 on the night for 132 yards and 3 TDs. Continuing to display his nose for the endzone, Clayton Bush scored another non-offensive touchdown (his third on the young season), this time darting 50 yards to paydirt on a punt return.
South Oldham recovered very nicely from its 21-3 setback to CAL in their opener by demolishing Doss 42-6, retaining their status as “Dragon Bowl Champions”. Last year, this game marked the start of a ten game win streak for SO. Looking ahead, 2-0 Oldham County could potentially be the only speed bump on the Dragons’ path to a similar streak.
Highlands’ 34-7 win over Campbell County put a bow on a dominant Week 1 by the 5A top 5. A sluggish 1st half from both teams saw the Camels take a 7-6 lead into the locker room. Superior execution after halftime propelled the Birds to a one-sided 3rd quarter, where they outscored the Camels 21-0, and entered the final frame with a 27-7 lead. Quarterback Grady Cramer was 17-29 for 189 yards and 4 TDs. Campbell County was plagued by six turnovers in the loss, a couple of which set up quick Highlands scores.
Elsewhere among the Top 10
- Southwestern’s typical big play offense never took flight in a 28-7 win over Dunbar at Georgetown College. But the defense more than picked up the slack, keeping Dunbar under 100 yards of total offense and recording eight sacks. Star receiver JP Vaught had to assume QB duties for the Warriors after starter Drew Sawyers left the game with an undisclosed injury. After Sawyers exited the game, SW's offense was left diminished, as they only found the endzone once in the second half.
- What a difference a year makes. Meade County destroyed Anderson County 48-0 last season on the strength of 386 yards rushing. With numerous starters back for the Bearcats, Anderson came out victorious over the Green Wave, 34-19. This team could be a handful come playoff time.
- Owensboro fell behind by two scores at halftime to the #3 team in Indiana's class 4A. Long TDs by Imonte Owsley (58 yard run) and Treyvon Tinsley (30 yard reception), coupled with a total 180° turnaround on defense in the second half allowed the Red Devils to complete the comeback and defeat Reitz 35-34. Will Warren continued his strong start as Owensboro's QB, finishing 20 of 30 for 271 yards and 3 TDs. Owsley had himself a game as well, racking up 141 yards rushing and a TD on just 10 carries and catching a couple of TD throws from Warren.
- Like last week, there was but one blemish in the top 10. This time around, it was Montgomery County who stubbed their toe in a 27-26 loss to East Jessamine. I declared in last week's notebook that a 7-0 start was very attainable for the Indians, given their schedule. Oops?
- Apollo joined cross town rival Owensboro in defeating another highly regarded team from Evansville (IN).The Eagles got a couple of touchdown runs from Mariano McKenzie and Colby Clark, plus some stout defense to defeat Mater Dei (ranked #3 in Indiana's class 2A) 17-10. McKenzie totalled 216 yards rushing, including a 75 yard TD that opened the scoring.
Scanning the periphery
- Perry County Central running back Jayden Neace ran wild in the Commodores’ 54-39 win over Breathitt County, posting an incredible 454 yards and 7 TDs on 29 carries. The yardage total ranks fifth all time for a single game in state history. The seven touchdowns ties him for 9th.
- South Laurel is 2-0 for the first time since 2011, following a 52-6 rout of McCreary Central. The early schedule hasn't exactly presented the type of challenging games that will garner the Cardinals a lot of attention, but they've taken care of business, outscoring their first two opponents 82-14. Ace Allen has been a two way standout so far, rushing for 211 yards and 4 TDs, while totalling 24 tackles and 4 sacks on defense through the first two weeks of the season.
- Oldham County has matched South Laurel with an under-the-radar 2-0 start of their own. Defense has been the name of the game for the Colonels - they have yet to surrender a point through two games. Their big district tussle with South Oldham is still a few weeks away, but I'm sure someone over in Crestwood is keeping an eye on the Colonels.
- Two of last year's semi-finalists have struggled early on to replace their heavy hitters from 2017. Madison Southern and Harlan County are a combined 0-4 and are each giving up 40+ points per game. Neither team got off to a great start a year ago, so there's still hope for a turnaround for the Eagles and Black Bears.
Game of the week for Week 2
South Warren at Franklin Simpson - One of the premier matchups in any class this weekend pits the 5A #3 Spartans vs. the 4A #2 Wildcats. This was a top 10 match-up last year that turned into an unexpected running clock victory for South Warren. The guys that led the charge for South Warren that night are mostly back. Spurrier had one of his best games in a Spartan uniform with 260 yards passing and 2 TDs. Clayton Bush (107 yards receiving and 2 TDs) and Cameron Harris (4 catches for 70 yards) were his top two targets. Coach Brandon Smith's defense will face a stiff challenge from the potent backfield duo of Bass and McKinney, who are averaging nearly 300 yards a game between them. As a tandem, they've crossed the goal line 10 times and average 11.5 yards per carry.
Franklin Simpson has the wind at its back after claiming the 4A state championship last year and rolling through it's first two games this season. Can they carry that momentum over into this game, or will South Warren's QB play and top shelf defense be too much to overcome again?