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We’re halfway through the 2016 regular season. Can you believe that? Isn’t that depressing? But depression aside, to my eyes, we have seen some definitive tiers emerge in 4A. The true monsters of the class seem to shuffle around a bit in the top 5, but they all stay in the top five. John Hardin crashed the party early on, and perhaps may yet do so again in the future, but for now, they occupy the stalking horse position. But those top five, you have to really feel like one of them is going to be your state champion. You have Johnson Central and their powerful run game, tearing up opponents just like last year, but with a bit more edge and hunger. They’ve tasted some success in reaching the state title game, but were batted away by the Spartans. You have Wayne County, another ground titan, just a few years removed from their own just missed chance at glory. Since starting last season 2-2, they have won 13 of 15 games, and appear to have a great chance to win out the rest of the season, albeit with some tough road tests at Rockcastle County and Knox Central. Then you have the westerners. First is South Warren, the defending champs who would like you to know that hey, we’re still around and pretty good. Aside from a nightmarish first 13 minutes against Greenwood, they’re still mostly rolling, MASH unit and all. Their trick of taking down the Hardins was no small feat. Franklin-Simpson has made good on all that potential, and will hope to seize total control of the west when they host South Warren this week. They’re averaging nearly 282 yards a game on the ground, and knocked off the Gators a week after the Spartans failed to do so. And the Hopkinsville Tigers, they remain one of the most intriguing teams thanks to (as I say many weeks) their aerial attack that so many teams lack. They fell to Christian County 19-16 in a game that almost defies explanation. They made an artform of “winning everywhere but the scoreboard”. Don’t let the Christian County loss to Bowling Green fool you – the Colonels are doggone good. Below them lie the hopefuls, the spoilers, the limitless potential. Among the next 5-8 teams you can see any number of spoilers. But many of them will beat up on each other just to get to one of those top five. When the chips are down, will any of them really displace one of them?

The game of the week is an easy choice this week. South Warren and Franklin-Simpson meet in a top five showdown. When it was first announced that South Warren would be joining the district, this was a game we all circled. The schools are barely 20 minutes apart with South Warren sitting on (duh) the south side of the county. They’re close enough that some players on each team live in the opposite school’s district. Last season it was though that perhaps Franklin could round into form and really push the Spartans, but it was not meant to be, as it wasn’t for the rest of the class. A combined 61-7 was the score in their two matchups, and the message most took away was that Franklin should open up to the air more. The message so far this season by Franklin? Screw that, we’re going to run it down your throat anyway. So a major question will be is South Warren’s rushing D the immovable force it once was? Or at least able to do a good impression of it? And another major question is, who in the world will even be dressed in white for the Spartans, who have seemingly had an injury to almost any guy you’d know the name of. Ryder Litten remains banged up, Namvong is gimpy, Hayes is most likely still out, Lacey is banged up, and so on and so forth. Will the Spartans have another rabbit to pull out of the hat and show the doubters they are still the champs? Or will the Wildcats seize control and likely stake a future claim to homefield in the first three rounds of the playoffs?