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For the first time since 2007 and only the third time in history, the first two rounds of the playoffs will be intra-district, with teams having already met during the regular season squaring off for a second time. District champions will be crowned at the end of round two. Round three will incorporate RPI ratings, introduced by the KHSAA for the first time this season, to determine pairings between teams in the western half and eastern half of the state. Finally, the semifinals will again use the RPI to reseed the playoffs in hopes of placing the two best teams in Class 3A in the state championship game in Lexington.

What follows is a first and second round prediction of the Class 3A playoffs. We will reassess at the end of each week and the 3A Notebook will issue another round of predictions following the determination of district champions. Let's go!

DISTRICT 1
#4 Webster County (3-7) at #1 Paducah Tilghman (7-3)
Previous Meeting: Paducah Tilghman won 52-0 on October 25

Paducah Tilghman finds themselves in a favorable position holding the second best RPI rating in Class 3A. Provided they continue to win, the Blue Tornado would have four home playoff games before playing for the state championship. That's a big if, however, as even though they're number one in RPI, they likely won't be in the Bluegrasspreps Top 10 this week. As for now we'll focus squarely on the first game, which should be a comfortable win.

Prediction: Paducah Tilghman 56 Webster County 8

#3 Union County (5-5) at #2 Trigg County (6-4)
Previous Meeting: Trigg County won 33-7 on October 25

Two far west rivals meet up for the second time in three weeks. Trigg County is hosting a playoff game for the first time in five years and has rebounded nicely from a three-game losing skid midseason. Union County has struggled at times on offense, averaging 20 points per game and being held to single digits on three occasions, including the previous game with Trigg. Union hasn't won a playoff game since 2013 and while I expect this game to be closer than the regular version, Trigg County just appears the better team.

Prediction: Trigg County 24 Union County 20

District 1 Championship
#2 Trigg County at #1 Paducah Tilghman
Previous Meeting: Paducah Tilghman won 63-21 on September 27

Prediction: Paducah Tilghman 49 Trigg County 21

DISTRICT 2
#4 Adair County (2-8) at #1 Glasgow (9-1)
Previous Meeting: Glasgow won 50-22 on October 4

Unranked and underappreciated throughout much of the season, Glasgow has continued to do nothing but win. They'll have little trouble with the visiting Indians who are simply happy to be here after missing the postseason in both 2017 and 2018. If the Scotties are to make a deep run, however, they'll need to sure up a defense that allowed under a touchdown a game in the first half of the schedule before upping that to 21 points per game in the second half.

Prediction: Glasgow 42 Adair County 7

#3 Casey County (5-5) at #2 Taylor County (8-2)
Previous Meeting: Taylor County won 49-7 on September 27

Two neighbors meet in a matchup that could be much closer than the first game. Casey County won three of their last four after their blowout loss to Taylor, including a tight one touchdown loss to Glasgow. Taylor County also lost a close game to Glasgow, but also looked rather blah against Adair County and Bourbon County to close out the regular season. The Cardinals have been without EKU commit Tre Goodin for the last three games. His health and ability will go a long way toward determining who advances to the second round.

Prediction: Taylor County 35 Casey County 21

District 2 Championship
#2 Taylor County at #1 Glasgow
Previous Meeting: Glasgow won 31-28 on October 18

Prediction: Glasgow 31 Taylor County 21

DISTRICT 3
#4 Thomas Nelson (1-9) at #1 Elizabethtown (8-2)
Previous Meeting: Elizabethtown won 54-0 on September 20

The first meeting of the season between these two teams triggered a six-game Elizabethtown winning streak in which their only challenge was an overtime victory over Bardstown. Thomas Nelson was merely in the middle of what would ultimately be an eight-game losing streak to begin 2019 before they beat Nelson County for their first win and a playoff berth. E'town will have no trouble with this game but will host a second round game with all kinds of subplots.

Prediction: Elizabethtown 56 Thomas Nelson 0

#3 Larue County (5-5) at #2 Bardstown (8-2)
Previous Meeting: Bardstown won 42-0 on September 27

Bardstown responded well to their second loss of the season in whipping Anderson County, 48-14, in the finale. The Tigers defense has been phenomenal all year allowing just 166 yards of total offense per game. That same defense gave up just 103 rushing yards and a mere 3 passing yards in the first meeting with Larue County. Larue coach Josh Jaggers has lamented his team's lack of big play ability this season. The Hawks will have to control possession and force a couple turnovers to possibly position themselves to pull an upset.

Prediction: Bardstown 42 Larue County 8

District 3 Championship
#2 Bardstown at #1 Elizabethtown
Previous Meeting: Elizabethtown won 20-14 in overtime on October 25

Prediction: Elizabethtown 27 Bardstown 24

DISTRICT 4
#4 Western Hills (3-7) at #1 DeSales (7-3)
Previous Meeting: DeSales won 48-13 on October 18

While DeSales won the two games that had to win (Mercer County and Christian Academy of Louisville) to assure themselves a number one seed, it was the game last Friday that they didn't win that has many scratching their heads going into the postseason. 3-6 Meade County held a previously potent Colts offense to ten points in a shocking 14-10 defeat. Expect easy picking for DeSales in the first round but a challenging second round matchup could send the team that spent the majority of the season ranked first in Class 3A headed home early.

Prediction: DeSales 49 Western Hills 6

#3 Christian Academy of Louisville (6-4) at #2 Mercer County (8-2)
Previous Meeting: Mercer County won 45-42 on September 27

Class 3A's best first round game is a repeat of one of Class 3A's best regular season games. Mercer County withstood countless challenges in the first meeting before coming away victorious in Louisville. The Titans ran for 420 yards and five scores in that game, a stat that will have to be cleaned up in order for CAL to win. Offense hasn't been a problem all season for defending Class 2A state champion CAL, including in a loss to DeSales two weeks ago that locked them into a first round road game. If they can slow Mercer down then it could be yet another Jefferson County private school playoff tussle in round two.

Prediction: Christian Academy of Louisville 35 Mercer County 28

District 4 Championship
#3 Christian Academy of Louisville at #1 DeSales
Previous Meeting: DeSales won 35-28 in double overtime on October 11

Prediction: DeSales 24 Christian Academy of Louisville 21

DISTRICT 5
#4 Garrard County (4-6) at #1 Bell County (10-0)
Previous Meeting: Bell County won 39-0 on October 11

Bell County has rolled to an undefeated regular season and the top RPI spot in Class 3A. Bell can host four playoff games before heading to Lexington for the state championship, provided they take care of business. Business shouldn't be too tough in round one as they host a Garrard County team whose wheels have completely come off following a 4-2 start. Bell quarterback London Stephney is worth the price of admission, having compiled 1,836 yards of total offense and has been responsible for 23 touchdowns.

Prediction: Bell County 48 Garrard County 6

#3 Estill County (5-5) at #2 Rockcastle County (7-3)
Previous Meeting: Rockcastle County won 18-13 on September 27

Rockcastle County needed a late punt return touchdown from Christopher Mink to beat Estill County in the first game and it's been mostly smooth sailing since then. After losing two of their first three games, the Rockets have won six of seven to close out the year, including back-to-back defensive smotherings of Garrard County and Lincoln County. Estill County has been a classic case of the sum being better than the parts but an offense that scored 144 points over a three game stretch in October came down to earth with consecutive losses to Bell County and Bethlehem to finish the season.

Prediction: Rockcastle County 32 Estill County 18

District 5 Championship
#2 Rockcastle County at #1 Bell County
Previous Meeting: Bell County won 39-6 on October 4

Prediction: Bell County 40 Rockcastle County 14

DISTRICT 6
#4 Pendleton County (5-5) at #1 Fleming County (8-2)
Previous Meeting: Fleming County won 41-0 on October 18

The 3A Notebook predicted in the preseason that District 6 had no clear front-runner and could be wild this season. That didn't necessarily happen as Fleming County emerged as the best team midway through the campaign. Now the Panthers look to win two playoff games for the first time since 2004 and will start with a Pendleton County program that has seen its fortunes turn for the better after several difficult seasons. This will mark Pendleton's first playoff game since 2009.

Prediction: Fleming County 49 Pendleton County 8

#3 Powell County (3-7) at #2 Mason County (5-5)
Previous Meeting: Mason County won 45-14 on October 25

After advancing in the postseason in three of the past four season, some of the starch came out of Powell County as the Pirates only won three games. At Mason County, the Royals rebounded from a horrible 2018 season to gain a home playoff game for the first time since 2013. Royals quarterback Carson Brammer has passed for 1,728 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season, with four of those touchdown passes coming in the win over Powell two weeks ago.

Prediction: Mason County 42 Powell County 19

District 6 Championship
#2 Mason County at #1 Fleming County
Previous Meeting: Fleming County won 29-19 on October 11

Prediction: Fleming County 35 Mason County 24

DISTRICT 7
#4 Greenup County (4-6) at #1 Ashland (8-2)
Previous Meeting: Ashland won 38-7 on October 25

Ashland's five game winning streak came to a screeching halt in a 35-0 shutout loss to Spring Valley (WV) in the season finale. While Spring Valley is among the best in West Virginia's largest class, the dearth of offense came as a surprise for a Tomcats team averaging nearly 270 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, it hasn't been the offense but rather the defense that has kept Greenup County from winning more. The Musketeers gave up over 29 points per game in the regular season. Both sides of the ball will have to be great from Greenup to avoid a fate similar to the previous meeting two weeks earlier.

Prediction: Ashland 42 Greenup County 7

#3 East Carter (7-3) at #2 Russell (8-2)
Previous Meeting: Russell won 31-7 on October 25

One of the best surprises of 2019 has been East Carter who have their most regular season wins since 2005 and will make the postseason in back to back seasons for the first time since 2007 and 2008. In their way is a Russell club that thrives on defense, allowing under 200 yards per game on defense and holding opponents to 9 points per outing. Russell had three 100-yard rushers in their first meeting with East Carter and the Raiders will absolutely have to slow the ground game to have a chance to win.

Prediction: Russell 35 East Carter 12

District 7 Championship
#2 Russell at #1 Ashland
Previous Meeting: Ashland won 21-14 on October 18

Prediction: Ashland 18 Russell 16

DISTRICT 8
#4 Floyd Central (3-7) at #1 Belfry (6-3)
Previous Meeting: Belfry won 41-6 on October 4

Perhaps the best team in Class 3A if they are healthy, Belfry saw a four game winning streak implode in a 53-16 blowout loss to Johnson Central in the last game of the regular season. The good news for the Pirates is they'll not see anyone in the Class 3A playoffs with the ability of Johnson Central. Belfry can ease into the postseason with a what should be a comfortable victory over Floyd Central. Coach Shawn Hager's Jaguars have lost four of five and only made the playoffs with an overtime victory over Magoffin County.

Prediction: Belfry 48 Floyd Central 6

#3 Lawrence County (4-6) at #2 Pike County Central (7-3)
Previous Meeting: Pike County Central won 48-35 on October 11

Back to back losses to mountain powers Belfry and Breathitt County soured the end of a terrific regular season for Pike County Central and the Hawks will have to right the ship to avoid a first round knockout at the hands of Lawrence County. Lawrence doesn't have the firepower of last season, when Noah West was scoring touchdowns from all over the field, but the Bulldogs still love to run the football, averaging over 250 yards per game on the ground. These two have played some crazy games over the last few seasons and this one could be more of the same.

Prediction: Lawrence County 36 Pike County Central 34

District 8 Championship
#3 Lawrence County at #1 Belfry
Previous Meeting: Belfry won 48-0 on October 18

Prediction: Belfry 48 Lawrence County 14


PROJECTED REMAINING TEAMS IN ROUND THREE (RPI USED TO DETERMINE PAIRINGS IN PARENTHESES)
West
[4] Glasgow (.638) at [1] Paducah Tilghman (.665)
[3] DeSales (.639) at [2] Elizabethtown (.650)

East
[4] Fleming County (.603) at [1] Bell County (.703)
[3] Ashland (.632) at [2] Belfry (.637)