5A Notebook: Colonels roll, Purples bowl, Spartans in control
As opening weekends go, Week 0 in 5A was rather uneventful. That's not to say that there weren't some noteworthy performances and close calls. But the opening weekend of the season can usually be counted on to deliver some unexpected surprises (I'm looking at you 6A!). Relative to its neighbors to the north, 5A was downright pedestrian this past week - not that that's a bad thing. There was much to digest from the week that was - a couple of heavyweights gave all indications that they're not going to budge from their lofty perches; another brand name program showed enough resolve to overcome some typical, early season obstacles against good opposition; a proud, tradition rich program (not Highlands!) served notice that they might be ready to get back in the mix after a year away; and a couple of up and comers posted the kind of results that will only build anticipation for their inevitable district showdown later on.
Week 0 In Review
- Covington Catholic flexed its considerable muscle with a second straight season opening blowout of Ryle. The Colonels outgained the Raiders 473-258 behind the arm of new quarterback Caleb Jacob and the legs of Casey McGinness. Jacob, the heir apparent to AJ Mayer, connected on a tidy 12 of 15 throws for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns, while seeing limited action in the second half. McGinness added 118 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. It remains to be seen what type of year is in store for the Raiders. But for now, this is exactly the type of performance the CovCath faithful were hoping to see, especially from their new QB.
- The best opportunity for some real drama in this class came in the nightcap of the Rafferty’s Bowl at WKU, where Bowling Green had to overcome some costly penalties, a case of the dropsies, and a feisty Central Hardin defense to hold on for a closer than expected 20-13 victory. Buchanan (26 of 36 for 239 yards) and Tisdale (122 rushing yards and a punt return touchdown) put in solid work for the winning side. And aside from an eight play, 95 yard drive from the Bruins that ate up a big chunk of the third quarter, the BG defense did its part, as well. The issues that plagued the Purples on this night can largely be attributed to some first game kinks that need ironing on the O-line, and an all new cast of receivers that just need a little time to gel with their QB.
- With its 49-17 dismantling of 4A #5 Hopkinsville, South Warren may have made the biggest statement of the opening weekend in 5A. The Spartans’ very opportunistic defense was responsible for three touchdowns - a 60 yard pick six and 70 yard fumble return by Clayton Bush, as well as a 19 yard fumble return by Garrett Dinkins. Bush found the endzone three times overall, as did running back Cameron Harris. Some might be skeptical about the quality of this win, given the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Hoptown's 2017 season. But the Tigers are not short on talent, and I think by season's end, people will look back on this as a powerhouse performance from South Warren.
- The lone blemish on an otherwise flawless week by the 5A top 10 came from the South Oldham Dragons. For the second consecutive season, Coach Jaime Reed's defense turned in a respectable performance against a formidable CAL team, but his offense just couldn't gain enough traction to really threaten the Centurions. South Oldham's commitment to the run game yielded just 67 yards on 36 carries. Just like a year ago, this setback shouldn't deter anyone from expecting a great season in Crestwood. The Dragons could still have a say in shaping the 5A landscape in 2018.
- Highlands began its quest to #MHFGA by posting a solid, if not spectacular, season opening win over the Cooper Jaguars. The Birds shook off a slow start and rode an improved defense and their “Mini-Cooper” to victory, as running back Cooper Schwalbach topped the century mark in rushing yards and found paydirt once. One of the Jaguars’ highest scoring outputs during last year's two win season came against Highlands, so it's an encouraging sign that the Birds defense might be well ahead of where they were this time last year. Coach Weinrich’s defense put consistent pressure on Cooper's athletic QB, forcing him into some poor decisions. He was sacked and picked off twice each.
- Southwestern exploded for 622 yards (433 rushing) of offense against an overmatched Jeffersonville (IN). The easy 50-7 victory was highlighted by standout performances by quarterback Drew Sawyers (4 of 7/189 yards/2 TDs/punt return TD) and wide receiver JP Vaught (108 yards and a TD on 3 catches). In total, seven different Warriors found the endzone.
- It's very, very early. But it's already looking like the October 12th showdown between Anderson County and Montgomery County could be a dandy. Both teams opened their seasons with lopsided wins - Anderson over GRC (41-0), and Montgomery over Breathitt County (55-18). Neither team's schedule is daunting, so a potential matchup of unbeatens in Mount Sterling is a distinct possibility.
- Owensboro took a big step towards making the disappointment of 2017 a distant memory. In a 41-13 blasting of 4A #8 Madisonville-North Hopkins, the Red Devils unleashed a new offensive wrinkle... the arm of new quarterback Will Warren. The addition of the strong armed senior has helped push Owensboro into a more diverse, multifaceted offensive philosophy. Warren threw for 254 yards and 5 TDs - numbers you don't often see from a Red Devils QB. And Imonte Owsley did his usual Imonte Owsley things - 186 yards from scrimmage and 3 TDs on 11 touches. It's only one game, but Owensboro fans have to be thrilled with the potential of this offense.
- Coach Philip Hawkins has to be pleased with how his team performed in its first game with the former Doss boss patrolling the sidelines. Running back Mariano McKenzie paced the Eagles with 177 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, while quarterback Colby Clark was a very efficient 9 of 12 for 144 yards and two TD tosses in the team's 47-12 win over Muhlenberg County.
Scanning the Periphery
The rumors of Christian County's demise may have been greatly exaggerated. After losing so much talent to graduation and transfers, it looked as though Christian County was in for a rebuilding year. On Friday night, at Hopkinsville's Stadium of Champions, the Colonels clashed with Caldwell County in a game that would surely test CC's inexperienced defense. Coach Lovelace’s guys aced the test with flying colors, stifling Joby Jaggers and the rest of Caldwell's talented skill kids. The Colonels clearly didn't get the memo that you're not supposed to lose seven future college players on defense and pick up right where you left off the following year. It wasn't pretty, but the unorthodox 11-6 final score gives Christian County a quality win to build on in this young season.
If Saturday night was an indication of things to come, heavy graduation losses have taken quite a toll on last year's 5A runner-up, Madison Southern. After losing a great deal of production at key positions on both sides of the ball, the 2018 incarnation of Mad South football was no match for Lexington Catholic’s high octane offense. The Knights scorched the turf at Madison Central High School, lighting up the Eagles’ defense for 450 yards and 51 points.
Running back Jayden Niece, of Perry County Central, turned in one of the weekend's top individual performances - 160 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns on 17 carries in a 30 point win over McCreary Central. Big numbers are in store for Mr. Neace this season, and a big season could be in store for the Commodores.
Pulaski County fended off a challenge from Northwest (TN) with a triple threat of offensive standouts - QB Wiley Cain (305 yards passing, 5 TDs), WR Grant Oakes (159 yards receiving, 3 TDs), and RB Tristan Cox (106 yards rushing, 2 TDs). That trio propelled the Maroons to 48 points and 533 yards of offense.
South Laurel won the battle of Laurel County for the first time since 2011, taking down North Laurel 30-8. Cardinals RB Ace Allen led the charge with 104 yards rushing and 2 TDs, as well as 14 tackles (5 TFL) on defense.
Harlan County rode its ground ‘n pound offense all the way to the semi-finals last year. But hefty graduation losses and a 49-6 drubbing by Ashland may have the Black Bears seeking out a cave in which to hibernate for the remainder of the season. One game does not a season make, but Harlan County doesn't appear to have the playmakers they had last year. And they're about to embark on a rigorous four game stretch that yielded no wins for them in 2017.
Game of the week for Week 1
Highlands vs. Campbell County - This has blossomed into a good NKY series in recent years. Three of the last four meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less. Highlands’ pass defense will be put to the test by the combination of QB Andrew Helton and WR Reid Jolly. Helton shredded Dixie Heights’ secondary for 338 yards and 4 TDs last week. Jolly was on the receiving end of 203 of those yards and 3 TDs. Both teams should feel confident coming in to this one after very successful Week 0 results.