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For the last couple years this region has been almost entirely the domain of Elizabethtown and Caldwell County. This year has continued to see the Panthers and Tigers at the top, but a pair of challengers has emerged in Larue County and Paducah Tilghman, meaning competitive games could arrive earlier in the bracket than in years before.

Caldwell County (8-2) had won eight straight before being routed by Mayfield in the season finale. Expect the Tigers to rebound with little trouble against Hart County (2-8). The better matchup pits Union County (8-2) at Larue County (9-1). Union struggled with the two toughest teams on their schedule and while Larue has had some injuries late in the season they still look like the better team. That sets up a Jaggers-on-Jaggers second round game - Josh is the head coach at Larue; Joby, a cousin to Josh, is the quarterback at Caldwell. Larue's style can cause fits for defenses, but Caldwell has home field advantage. This will be one of the best second round games in the state.

Elizabethtown, in the opposite bracket, has spent the entire season doing what Mark Brown's teams always does - scoring points, stopping opponents, and hardly making a sound. E'town led Class 3A in scoring defense and was near the top in offense. The Panthers (9-1) should have their way with a Trigg County (5-5) team making the first postseason appearance since 2014. Paducah Tilghman doesn't have a tremendous record, although the Blue Tornado have been close in a number of losses to highly touted western Kentucky team. Tilghman (4-6) should beat Edmonson County (6-4) but don't appear to have the offensive firepower capable of winning at Elizabethtown.

Elizabethtown has put Caldwell County out in the regional final each of the last two seasons and this year looks like more of the same. While the game would be played in Princeton, E'town has too much on both sides for the Tigers.

Region I Championship: Elizabethtown 35 Caldwell County 24


With the onset of cross-bracketing in Class 3A this season, Region II lost a bit of the luster it held in recent years when central Kentucky's best were playing the best from Louisville. District 4 remains, but this year will be paired with District 5 teams from northeastern Kentucky. And there is a chance all four teams from District 4 could win their openers.

Boyle County will be the favorite in the region and should easily best West Carter (5-5). Look for the Rebels to get Western Hills in the second round. The Wolverines (7-3) haven't been able to stop many people, but their offense is so potent it hasn't mattered in most games. Hills travels to Russell (5-5) in the first round (they lost there in 2011 and 2014) and should win what appears to be a strong first round game. However, Boyle (9-1) dismantled Western Hills two weeks ago and expect a similar score this time.

Across the bracket, Lexington Catholic hosts a Bath County (7-3) squad that has been entertaining all season. While the Wildcats can't win at Catholic, the building project from Johnny Poynter has been impressive. Fleming County (8-2) hosts Garrard County in the final first round game. Fleming's Josh Crump was injured in the last game of the season but should be healthy for this one. Fleming's passing game will cause problems for Garrard's defense but the power offense of Garrard (3-7) could give Fleming fits. The advantage goes to Fleming County, in part because they are the home team. However, look for Lexington Catholic to win at Fleming in round two to set up yet another regional final against Boyle County.

Boyle County and Lexington Catholic have met in eight previous regional finals, with Boyle winning five but Catholic taking the last three. Boyle seems much better than the Knights this time around and appears to be moving toward an eighth state championship.

Region II Championship: Boyle County 42 Lexington Catholic 21


While central Kentucky's best in 3A lost the Louisville teams, the mountain schools found them. Because of that, we have what looks to be an absolute classic regional final brewing between old rivals Belfry and Central.

Other than a two week stretch midseason that saw Central lose to St. Xavier and Ballard, the Yellowjackets have dominated their competition all year. Offense, once a concern, has averaged 40.8 points per game over their last five. Central (8-2) should coast past Pike County Central (5-5) and expect the same from their second round opponent, most likely Floyd Central, who will be favored over Henry County (4-6). Floyd Central, a new consolidation of Allen Central and South Floyd, finished their inaugural season 7-3.

Just as Central should win twice with ease, so too should the Belfry Pirates. Belfry finished the season with nine consecutive victories, including impressive wins over Cabell Midland (WV) and Johnson Central. Thomas Nelson (3-7) will provide little competition in the first round, although congratulations to the Generals who will be making their first playoff appearance in their sixth year as a school. Belfry's next opponent should be Waggener, who has a ton of talent but had to deal with injuries late in the year. Waggener (4-6) will be favored over Lawrence County, although the Lawrence (5-5) offense is capable of putting up big numbers.

Belfry and Central have met six times since 2007, each time in the Class 3A state championship game. Due to cross-bracketing their matchup in 2017 will be a regional final. The boys from Pond Creek will make the nearly four hour drive to West Muhammad Ali Boulevard for what will be one of the most anticipated games of the postseason. Central won the first four meetings, but Belfry has won the last two. Look for the Pirates to pull out another victory in what will be a must-watch game.

Region III Championship: Belfry 28 Central 20


While the first three regions are full of high level teams, they are sorely lacking in Region IV. Corbin is the heavy favorite and appears the only team capable of competing with the best in the class. Casey County has spent most of the season in the top ten but fell to Corbin by three touchdowns just two weeks ago. District 7's champion Powell County is rated 27th in Class 3A by Calpreps.

Corbin will host Knott County Central (5-5) in the first round for the third year in a row and look for more of the same for the Redhounds. Bell County should be the next opponent, as the three-seeded Bobcats have to play on the road in round one, but will still be favorites against Breathitt County (4-6). Dudley Hilton has Bell (6-4) back on the uptick, but they lost by 34 points to Corbin (9-1) on October 13 and I can't envision a situation where the result isn't almost exactly the same.

Casey County will look to follow a similar path to the regional final as they did in 2016, winning once at home and once on the road. The Rebels (9-1) open with Morgan County (4-6) and should have little trouble with that matchup or a second round game at Powell County. Powell County (6-4) will likely be the only District 7 team to win a game as they host Jackson County (2-8) in round one.

If Casey can cut down on turnovers and stop Corbin in the second half, the regional final can be a good game. Of course that has been the formula in each of their three meetings over the last two years. While Casey's emergence as a 3A power has been nice to see, Corbin still looks to be the better club.

Region IV Championship: Corbin 40 Casey County 18


Two games, four of the top five in Class 3A, all to be decided on Thanksgiving Friday. Look for powerful Boyle County to be too much for Elizabethtown, while Belfry maintains their hex over Corbin, although this one will come down to the wire.

-Boyle County 42 Elizabethtown 14
-Belfry 28 Corbin 26

STATE FINALS: Boyle County 21 Belfry 14

In a game most have hoped for since Boyle returned to Class 3A in 2015, the Rebels and Pirates, two of the most decorated programs in Kentucky history, meet for the first time in history on the turf at Kroger Field in Lexington. Dominant defenses, explosive offenses, Hall-of-Fame coaches - it will all be on display at the University of Kentucky. Look for a focused players, excited cheerleaders, and nervous fans. Expect a classic end to what has been a fantastic season of Class 3A football!