Franklin-Simpson has been everything you’d hope for in a defending champion. The Wildcats are 9-1 and their only loss came at the hands of South Warren, one of the top teams in the state regardless of class. Franklin has won seven games in a row, and the last four have come via running clock. They’ve scored 44 points or more in eight games on the way to a 44.6 PPG average and haven’t been held below 47 points since September 14th. Both Tre Bass and Carlos McKinney have rushed for over 1,000 yards on the year. Tre Bass has scored roughly every five times he has ran it, notching 21 touchdowns on 96 attempts while racking up 1,315 yards. That’s nearly 14 yards per carry, which is insanely good. McKinney has 1,150 yards on 130 rushes to key a Wildcat ground attack that is posting over 360 yards per game. All of those stats are prior to a 53-6 win over Russellville where I can guarantee they padded them more. If there is a weakness on the offense, it is the passing attack. A point of emphasis in almost every garbage time snap, the passing game has netted only 534 yards for the team. Luke Richardson is a solid 27/49, but with 4 INTs against his 5 TD throws. The rushing attack is so good that it scarcely matters, but it is something to note that if a team can manage to slow or stop the ground game in the playoffs, Franklin can be had. LB Michael Punzalan leads the defense with 45 solo tackles and 90 total, and they have allowed 14.5 PPG. The lion’s share of that came in the loss to South Warren and garbage time.
With respect to the rest of region 1, there isn’t really anyone that is considered a true threat. We have seen what the rest of District 2 has done against Franklin, which leaves Madisonville-North Hopkins and Logan County as the only real possibilities to slow them. Madisonville has bounced back from a 2-2 start to reel off six straight victories, including the last four by 14 points or less. As usual, Madisonville is heavily invested in the run game as well. Bellcow RB Jeriah Hightower has 1,437 yards on 197 rushes – almost more attempts than the rest of the team combined (which also counts sacks, so probably more actual attempts than the team). It’s the second straight year over 1,400 yards for the junior, who is closing in on 3,000 career rushing yards. Aaron Miller has also chipped in 563 yards on 97 attempts, but his pace is well off of last year’s effort where he had nearly 1,000 yards. The Maroons have not seen a ground game like Franklin’s, but are only allowing 79.3 rushing yards per game from their opponents. They would not run into Franklin until the region finals, which would be in Franklin. Meanwhile, Logan County fell just shy of matching last season’s undefeated effort, falling only to Madisonville en route to a 9-1 record. All the big names are making plays again. QB Tyler Ezell is connecting on nearly 62% of his passes with 11 TDs and 1,387 yards, though he has been banged up late this season. RB Gary Hardy has surpassed his rushing total from last year with 1,334 yards, 16 TDs on 153 attempts. The Cougar receiving corps is deep and spreads the ball around. Six different players have 200 yards or more, but none more than 455 yards. Maurice Gordon leads the pack with 31 receptions for 455 yards. The Cougar defense has forced 27 turnovers while allowing just 136 yards of offense per game. They have a tough opening matchup with Allen County-Scottsville, and if they win that, they visit Franklin.
Region 2 is District 3 & 5 this year, and will feature co-favorites Moore and Taylor County, both in the top ten of the BluegrassPreps.com rankings. Moore is enjoying one of its best season’s ever, racking up nine wins which is good enough for their best regular season since 1980. Their lone loss was to top-ranked Johnson Central on the road, a game where they allowed 49 points which was fully 1/3 of the total their defense has allowed this season. Justin Weaver leads a stout defense that has allowed 14 points or less in eight games. He has 54 solo tackles and 10 sacks. The secondary has 19 interceptions, led by five from Josiah Taylor. The Mustangs are not as prolific offensively with a roughly 67/33 split between rushing and passing. Rae Von Vaden is 52/98 for 16 touchdowns and 884 yards through the air. Larry Johnson (strong RB name) leads the rushing corps with 611 yards on 68 carries. On the other side of the bracket is Taylor County. The Cardinals are also 9-1, and have won seven in a row. Like the Mustangs, they are getting the job done on defense. They have four shutouts this year, and have allowed more than 10 points only three times. Sophomore LB Conner Roney has five sacks and leads the team with 78 tackles. They do give up a lot of yardage (almost 200 yards per game), but they also have scored at a higher clip than Moore. Taylor County is #3 in 4A in points per game with 43, and their average scoring margin of 33.4 PPG is #1 in 4A. Grant McQueary ranks in the top ten for passing yards per game in 4A, with 1,347 yards on 67/106 passing. He carries a 12:3 TD:INT ratio. We Oliver should go over 1,000 yards in their first playoff game.
Mercer County seems like the most likely dark horse candidate. The Titans are just 4-6, but rallied once district play began, going 3-2 down the stretch. That included a very narrow 26-21 road loss at Taylor County. The Titans had a better record a year ago (5-5 entering the postseason), but managed to climb to the region finals where they nearly upset Collins. Malachi Yulee took over the lead back role this year, and has run to 914 yards on 101 carries with 12 TDs. With Mercer, you can pretty much know the result if they get over 21 points. All of their wins they have topped that amount, and all their losses they’ve scored less than that. John Hardin is the other possible name. They opened the year with a 20-19 win over that same Mercer County team, and had six straight wins midseason before falling to Moore in the district title game, settling for a 7-3 record. The Bulldogs have held five opponents to less than ten points, but they average a margin of victory of less than 7 PPG – they’re used to close games. Justin Russell is completing 50% of his passes and his TDs and INTs are almost 50% as well – 15:14. The Bulldogs also have the toughest opening game of the home teams, starting with always dangerous East Jessamine. A win there would earn them a trip to Taylor County. But it feels likely that this region comes down to Moore and Taylor County.
Projected Regional Final: Moore 27 Taylor County 21
Coming into the year Knox Central was tabbed as the favorite for this region, which matches Districts 4 & 6 this year. While Knox is still very much in the mix, it is Franklin County that has emerged as the favorite, thanks to an October 12th 42-20 home win over Knox Central, which propelled them to the #4 ranking. That win was part of a six-game winning streak for the Flyers, and they’ve scored 35 points or more in all six of those games. Their 8-2 record represents their most wins since 2014. Franklin County has one of the top passing attacks in 4A. Nick Broyles is #2 in 4A with 215 yards per game, with 1,936 yards, 19 TDs, and 4 INTs through 9 games. His 64.1% completion percentage is #2 among all eligible quarterbacks as well. He also leads the team in rushing with 728 yards on 107 attempts. He accounted for over 400 yards of offense in the win over Knox Central. The defense can be a little vulnerable, with no shutouts and only one team held to single digits, but have played in a surprisingly low number of games decided by single digits (two). Brady Holleran leads the unit with 87 solo tackles, 37.5 TFL, and 12 sacks.
Knox Central is just a step behind them, and enjoyed a 7-3 record, just like 2017. They played a brutal schedule down the stretch, falling to Franklin County and Corbin (28-14) with wins over Wayne County and Rockcastle County. Broyles was #2 in 4A for passing – Knox Central’s Brady Worley is #1. In a class that almost exclusively runs the ball, Worley has gone 131/220 for 2,184 yards while tossing 23 touchdowns, which also leads the class. He also has the benefit of a 1,000 yard back to share the backfield in Ethan Mills. Mills has rushed 157 times for 1,051 yards and 12 scores. While they pass about 60% of the time, the duo provide a nice balance to an offense that averaged 33.1 PPG. Tucker Holland is a name to watch on defense. He had a monster year with 78 solo tackles and 7 sacks. Blevin Campbell leads the secondary with 6 INTs, two of them taken to the house for scores. One reason to place them just a step below Franklin County in addition to the head to head result is their opening round matchup with Collins. Collins is just 1-9 so it looks like a real mismatch on paper, but that’s a team that has played a brutal schedule and has had close results against the likes of Moore and Pulaski County. They were region champions last year, and stranger things have happened….
Wayne County is the likely other possibility from the region. Region champions in 2017, they finished a respectable 7-3 with losses to Frederick Douglass, Boyle County, and Knox Central. They averaged 38.2 PPG and have scored over 50 points four times this season. Brody Weaver has acquitted himself well, throwing 23 touchdowns and 1,668 yards. Braedon Sloan has averaged almost 9 yards per carry in racking up 824 yards rushing. Like Franklin County, they have held teams to single digits only one time and have no shutouts on the season. Their probable second round matchup with Franklin County is likely to be one with the scoreboard getting a workout.
Projected Regional Final: Knox Central 35 Franklin County 28
It feels highly likely that Johnson Central is on their way to a fourth straight state title game and a third straight against Franklin-Simpson. That was the prediction coming into the year, and began to feel even more likely when they blew the doors off previously undefeated Ashland 47-24 on October 19th. Johnson Central has homefield advantage through the playoffs, and they have not lost to a team there since 2016. They haven’t lost at home to a team from their class since 2014. That all feels problematic for opponents hoping to knock off the Golden Eagles. Johnson Central capped a 9-1 year with a 34-21 win over Belfry, one of 3As top teams. Their low point total for the season was 21 in their opening loss to Capital (WV), and the Belfry win was the only time they’ve been held below 43 points since August. Joe Jackson is back, and averaging 9.3 YPC on his way to 1,388 yards rushing, good enough for #5 in 4A. Jackson is the top guy in the rush first, rush later, then rush more offense. Johnson Central is averaging 338.5 yards per game on the ground, which is second only to Franklin-Simpson in 4A. Alex and Matt Horn anchor the defense from the linebacker position, combining for 15.5 sacks and 154 tackles.
Ashland figures to be the only team with a serious hope in the region. Ashland’s loss at Johnson Central ended their run for their first perfect regular season since 1975, but they still had a 9-1 year. The Tomcats averaged 37.6 PPG thanks in large part to the play of Braxton Ratliff, who threw for 1,612 yards while running for 620. His 62.9% completion percentage is fourth in 4A and he’s just outside the top 30 for rushing yards. Keontae Pittman (72 rushes, 694 yards, 9 TDs) and Blake Hester (64 rushes, 475 yards, 15 TDs) also help fuel the rushing attack. Ashland has a very balanced offensive attack, and a defense that has notched three shutouts and three other games holding opponents to single digits. Notable on defense is Caleb Tackett is #4 in 4A with 12 tackles per game, 78 of his 120 tackles solo. Still, they will have to find a way to fix the leak they sprung against Johnson Central, who rushed for fully 1/3 of the total rushing yards Ashland has allowed on the season.
Scott and Harrison County are the two teams that would be the likely second round matchups for Johnson Central and Ashland respectively. Harrison County earned the right to likely host Ashland in the second round by pulling an upset on Scott on September 28th, winning 19-18. Devin Lewis has 923 yards rushing and Chase Blanton has 781 for a Thorobred team that has attempted only 35 passes all season. Scott has a feature back in Quincy Perrin who has rushed for 1,015 yards. But frankly, Ashland and Johnson Central are the wrong teams to run up against with predominantly rushing games.
Projected Regional Final: Johnson Central 35 Ashland 20
Projected Semi-Final: Franklin-Simpson 49 Moore 14 Projected Semi-Final: Johnson Central 42 Knox Central 21
Projected Class 4A State Championship: Johnson Central 28 Franklin-Simpson 21
Last edited by DragonFire; Oct 31, 18 at 03:17 PM.