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REGION 1

Region 1 is shaping up a lot like last year. Campbellsville and Crittenden County have been solidly ranked at #6 and #7 in the 1A top ten all year. They opened the season there and lived up to their billing all season. Each team has one quality loss on the season. These two teams are the strong favorites to get to a rematch of last year’s regional final.

Crittenden County should have no trouble with Caverna in round 1. From there the Rockets will face the winner of Bethlehem and Fulton County. The Fulton County Pilots have been one of the feel good stories in 1A this season. Led by the #2 rusher in 1A, Jr. Caleb Kimble, the Pilots will be looking to break a 20 year drought since their last playoff win. This game is a coin flip and Fulton County has a great opportunity to get the win. As much as we would like to pick the Pilots, we think the long road trip will be the edge in favor of Bethlehem. Not to put a damper on that fun first round game, the winner will be a major underdog in round 2 to the Rockets.

On the other side of the regional, Campbellsville will get a bye in round 1 to await the winner of Fort Knox at Russellville. Russellville owned this region the first two years after the last re-districting. The Panthers have struggled to a 4-6 record under first year head coach Mikie Benton but should roll over Fort Knox in round 1. That sets up a playoff rematch with Campbellsville, who shocked Russellville 50-26 in last year’s playoffs. Campbellsville will be a strong favorite in the rematch. Look for a similar margin of victory for the Eagles in this year’s game.

That gets us to our expected regional final rematch. This year Crittenden County will have to travel to Campbellsville and do what the Eagles did to them last year, win a regional title on the road. This should be a fantastic game featuring many of the best players in 1A. Campbellsville’s Jr. Malachi Corley has speed to burn and is arguably the player of the year in 1A. He leads 1A in receiving yards per game and also has over 800 yards rushing on the year. Soph. QB Arren Hash is #3 in passing in 1A and has thrown 27 TD passes with only 4 interceptions. The Rockets will counter with their senior triumvirate of QB Hunter Boone, the #2 passer in 1A; WR Ethan Dossett, the #2 receiver in 1A; and RB Devon Nesbitt who has over 1,000 yards rushing. Those three will be looking for major redemption after being held to 8 points in last year’s loss. Crittenden County leads 1A in scoring margin averaging 45 points a game and only allowing 12 points a game. Look for the Rockets’ three seniors to not be denied a regional title in their careers. Last year we picked Campbellsville to upset the Rockets. This year, we will pick the road team again and go with Crittenden County to win the regional.

Region 1 Championship - Crittenden County 38 Campbellsville 35

REGION 2

The Beechwood Tigers are on an impressive run over the four years of this class alignment. The Tigers have lost one playoff game in the past three years – the 2015 title game to Pikeville. Beechwood looks as strong as ever this year. They have been ranked #1 all season and are the consensus favorite to win a third title in a row. Can anyone in this region stop the Tigers?

Frankfort is the top seed on the top side of the bracket. They get a bye in round one. The Panthers will host the winner of Ludlow and Louisville Holy Cross. Last year Holy Cross got a 30-21 win at Ludlow and this year they will host the Ludlow Panthers. Holy Cross has been up and down this year. They are a senior dominated team and were a dark horse pick to make some noise in 1A but that fell apart in district play. At 7-3 Ludlow would look to be the definite favorite over 4-5 Holy Cross. Something tells us all those seniors for Holy Cross will use their experience and pull out the win. The challenge for Ludlow or Holy Cross will be the Frankfort Panthers have some very talented seniors of their own. QB John Tillman is a dual threat who has accumulated over 2,000 yards passing and rushing. RB DaJuan Davis and WR Jevon Bush are among the leaders in the 1A stats. Any one of these three teams could come out of this bracket but look for Frankfort to get the job done.

The other side of the region’s bracket is where the Beechwood Tigers will go to work. The Tigers also get a bye in round 1. Kentucky Country Day will host the Bellevue Tigers and try to earn the trip to Ft. Mitchell. The Bearcats have done a nice job building their lineup back after losing virtually all the key players from last year’s impressive team. They were sitting at 5-3 with a win over district rival Holy Cross before losing their last two games, including the district title game to Frankfort. Bellevue has lost four of their last 5 after a 4-1 start. The Bearcats at home look to be too much for Bellevue. That will give the Bearcats a playoff rematch against Beechwood, but this year’s game will not be nearly as difficult as last year’s game was for Beechwood. The Tigers will roll on with a lopsided win over the Bearcats.

That will bring Frankfort to Beechwood for the regional title game. Since the 6 class era started in 2007, only three 1A teams have defeated Beechwood: Mayfield, Pikeville and the Frankfort Panthers. All the losses to Mayfield and the Pikeville loss happened in the state semifinals or the title game. Frankfort is the only 1A team in that time to defeat Beechwood in a game prior to the state semifinals. That happened in 2013. That is a good memory for Panther fans, but don’t look for that to happen again in 2018. With an offensive line of seniors led by D1 commits Adam Derry and Dayton Baugh and 1A player of the year candidate RB/S Logan Castleman, who is a D1 commit in baseball, Beechwood is too strong this year for the Panthers.

Region 2 Championship - Beechwood 49 Frankfort 14

REGION 3

Region 3 always seems to be loaded with a good number of teams that have been in the top 15 of 1A. This year is no different. Every team in this region except Fairview has a .500 or better record. At the top of the list are the #3 ranked Paintsville Tigers and the #4 ranked Raceland Rams. Raceland is in the top part of the bracket and will host Bishop Brossart in round 1. The Mustangs have won 3 of their last 4 but no one in those games is anything like the Rams. Raceland will take a double digit win and head on the road to Paris for round 2. Paris has a first round bye and will use that extra prep time to figure out what they might be able to do to get a win over the Rams. Even though the Greyhounds are the higher seed, they will be no match for Raceland.

On the other side of the bracket the top seeded Paintsville Tigers will host Bracken County in round 1. That should send a chill down the Polar Bears’ back as the Tigers are looking strong and should coast to a win. The Tigers will then host the winner of Nicholas County versus Fairview. Nicholas County’s Sr. QB Isaac Fryman has had an excellent season and will lead Nicholas County into round 2 at Paintsville. Unfortunately for Fryman and Nicholas County, Paintsville will be the end of the road for the Bluejackets.

A win in that game for Paintsville will set the rematch with Raceland for the regional title. In 2017 Raceland got over the hump beating Paintsville and then winning in the state semifinal over Pikeville before losing in the title game to Beechwood. Prior to last year’s playoff win over Paintsville, Raceland had lost five in a row to Paintsville. This will be the sixth year in a row that these two have met in the playoffs, with Raceland having won three of the previous five. This is arguably the best rivalry in 1A and this game should be another great one. The defenses dominated in the regular season meeting with Paintsville eeking out a 6-0 win. That is no surprise as Raceland’s defense has allowed the fewest points in 1A this season. Expect another defense dominated game in the regional final. Can Raceland do it again in the playoffs? We think yes.

Region 3 Championship - Raceland 20 Paintsville 14

REGION 4

Last year for the first time in seven years, the winner of region four did not win the state semifinal and go on to the title game. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Pikeville fought back from a 1-4 start to win seven in a row before being edged out in the state semifinal 17-14 by Raceland. This year Pikeville has built upon last year’s in season resurgence. The Panthers head into the playoffs ranked #2 in 1A and the favorite to get to the title game from the east. In round 1 the Panthers should have no problem getting past Pineville. Their opponent will be the winner of Lynn Camp and Phelps. Lynn Camp was the last team to lose a game in 1A this season and will be the clear favorite over Phelps. That win will send Lynn Camp and the state’s leading rusher in 1A, Dalton Cook, to Pikeville. It has been a memorable season for Lynn Camp but they just don’t have enough to get a win over Pikeville.

The top half of the region bracket has Williamsburg with a bye. They will play the winner of Harlan at Hazard. Harlan got a nice win versus Pineville two weeks ago but that is their only win in their last four games. Hazard should have no problem getting the win over Harlan and moving on to Williamsburg. If you like QB play, that will be a game you don’t want to miss. Hazard’s Bailey Blair and Williamsburg’s Dalton Ponder are two of the most productive quarterbacks in 1A. Ponder has over 2,000 yards passing and over 1,000 yards rushing which makes him #1 in the state across all classes in total offensive yards. Blair is a three year starter for one of the top 5 teams in 1A over his tenure and has played in a state title game. There are common opponents with both teams being dealt losses by Somerset and Paintsville. This is a very tough game to call. Since their back to back title game trips and a near miss of an upset title win over Mayfield in 2014, Williamsburg has not had a playoff win over a top level opponent. The opportunity is there in this game at home versus the Bulldogs. The fact that Williamsburg’s offense struggled to score against the two top teams they played (Somerset, Paintsville) makes us lean toward Hazard in this game.

That mental twister only gets Hazard to another even tougher challenge - a rematch against Pikeville in the regional title game. In the regular season game between these two it was a back and forth battle with Pikeville getting the win on a fourth quarter touchdown. These are two of the top programs in 1A with recent state title wins and title game appearances. Toss a coin to decide which 1A rivalry is the best between these two and Raceland/Paintsville. If title game appearances are a big factor, you have to give the edge to the Hazard/Pikeville rivalry. This is another great quarterback matchup. Pikeville’s Sr. QB Connor Roberts is another great dual threat quarterback. He had 134 yards passing and 121 yards rushing against Hazard in the regular season game. The big factor in this game as we write this preview is the status of Hazard RB Skylar Pelfrey. He has not played the last two weeks since leaving the Paintsville game. Pelfrey rushed for 213 yards against Pikeville in the regular season game. In the last two games with no Pelfrey, no Hazard rusher has gone for 100 yards. If there is no Pelfrey in this game, Pikeville should win. With Pelfrey, it will still be an uphill battle at Pikeville. We will go with the Panthers.

Region 4 Championship - Pikeville 34 Hazard 21


East Semifinals

There is room for error in Region 1. It will be surprising if that regional final is not between Campbellsville and Crittenden County but either of those teams could win that game. Conversely, it would be a shock of major proportions if Beechwood does not win Region 2. We see Crittenden County facing the Tigers. Ten years ago Beechwood hosted Crittenden County in the 1A semifinal. The Tigers were in complete control of that game winning 34-0. Crittenden County has an outstanding team that is used to winning and dominated nearly every opponent this season. The game on their resume that should give Rockets fans the most hope for a win though is their one loss. The 32-20 loss to 3A top ten Caldwell County shows that the Rockets can hang with a very tough, highly ranked opponent. However, those 2008 Rockets also had played well in a two touchdown loss to Caldwell County, Similar to those 2008 Tigers, this Beechwood team is a strong favorite to win it all. Look for history to repeat itself in this semifinal.

East Semifinal: Beechwood 42 Crittenden County 14


West Semifinal

Pikeville has a 36-13 win over Paintsville from earlier in the year and would be a two touchdown favorite if Paintsville were to defeat Raceland. If Raceland gets past Paintsville as predicted above, this semifinal will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The Rams have been on a year long mission to get back to the title game and a chance at putting forth a better performance than last year. Meanwhile, the Pikeville Panthers have a sour taste from last year of their own. They dominated the first half action in last year’s semifinal game between these two but could only muster a 6-0 lead at halftime. Raceland fought hard just to stay in the game but came out a different team in the second half and won the game on a last second field goal. That was a young Pikeville team last year that almost pulled off a big upset over a favored Raceland team. All those Pikeville youngsters are back with memories of last year and their own mission of redemption in mind. These two teams went back forth between #2 and #3 in 1A most of this season so this matchup has been expected. Raceland will need QB Jacob Heighton to have success in the air if they are going to get the upset win this year. With a year’s more experience, we expect Pikeville to win this rematch.

West Semifinal: Pikeville 24 Raceland 14


State Finals

We feel pretty confident that this title game will be between Beechwood and Pikeville. Beechwood has been a powerhouse all year and has faced one of the strongest schedules in the state. Every Beechwood non-district opponent except one is ranked in the top ten in their respective class. Add on top of that a Beechwood scrimmage with 4A #1 ranked Johnson Central and Beechwood has faced a top ten team from each class. The Tigers are senior led, talented, experienced and successful with two straight state titles and three straight title game appearances. Assuming the Tigers make it to the title game, this Beechwood senior class will have appeared in the state championship game every year of their high school careers. The only blemish in their four year careers is a championship game loss to the Pikeville Panthers when they were freshmen. It almost seems fitting that they should face Pikeville in this year’s state final to get a chance to in some way avenge that one playoff loss, even though they watched that game from the sideline as freshmen. Pikeville will present the toughest challenge Beechwood has faced in 1A since the 2016 title game against Hazard. The Panthers have put forth some impressive performances this year. We just can’t see Beechwood’s seniors losing this game. It will be a battle but we believe Beechwood will find a way to a third consecutive title in their last game as a 1A school.

State Final: Beechwood 28 Pikeville 21