Class 4A Notebook (9/27): Big Game Meets the Hype
How great was that South Warren at Franklin-Simpson game? These days, it feels increasingly rare for a game to live up to the hype, but this one met it and then some. All the elements were there, as detailed last week. You had rivals situated about 20 minutes from each other. You had the defending state champion in South Warren, albeit without many of their players from last year, and the historical power Franklin-Simpson, yearning to prove that they were finally ready to make good on years of talent that was simply “too young” to be ready. South Warren entered the game with a blemish on their record, to a team that Franklin-Simpson beat a week later, and yet South was still in many circles considered the favorite. And they proved early on capable of that status, as QB Ryder Litten found receivers Chris Sheppard and CJ Hayes (9 receptions for 180 yards) for a pair of long TD receptions to stake the Spartans to the early 14-0 lead. They then answered Franklin-Simpson’s initial reply with another long bomb to CJ Hayes, capped by a Litten rush for a score to go up 21-7. But the Wildcats patiently hung around, closing to 21-20 behind Caudill’s aerial attack and Josiah Robey’s strong receiving and ground game. When Litten left with an injury for Franklin-Simpson, confidence shot sky high on the Wildcat sideline. And yet, despite numerous opportunities, they still trailed 24-22 late. South Warren turnovers deep in their own territory led to no points, and even a blocked punt in the end zone merely got them the safety to draw within two. It appeared that the Spartans still just knew how to win better than the Cats. But then, Franklin-Simpson had been in this exact spot before. Just weeks earlier, they were on the ropes against Greenwood, before a miracle reception in the end zone by Hunter Janes gave them the win. And with Franklin-Simpson facing 4th and 10 from their own 42, who did Caudill dial up? Janes, who caught a pass with two Spartans around him, taking it down to the 1, and setting up the winning score. The touchdown lifted the Wildcats to 6-0 for the first time in 22 years, and installed them as the favorites on the western side of the state. Caudill had 295 yards passing with 2 touchdowns for the Wildcats, who racked up over 400 yards of offense. Josiah Robey added 129 yards receiving and two TD receptions. South Warren, meanwhile, hopes to lick their wounds and more importantly, heal up (without additional injuries), and seek their revenge come playoff time. Of course, now they’ll likely have to hit the road to do so, which will probably include a trip to the Stadium of Champions and Hopkinsville. It’ll be an interesting postseason.
The rest of the class was pretty by the boards, as 8 of the 9 teams playing from the top ten won, and someone had to lose that South Warren/Franklin-Simpson game. Rockcastle County reeled in an impressive 26-20 win over 2A Somerset, raising their record to 4-1, their most wins through the first half of the year in five seasons. The Rockets got strong play from their defense, forcing four turnovers from Somerset, including three interceptions. Spencer County continued their surge after their opening setback against Bardstown, coming from behind in a 42-35 victory over Collins. Collins outgained the Bears narrowly, but committed three turnovers, including a pick six by Hunter Brown to give Spencer County a 42-28 lead. Collins’ QB JR Lucas put up 344 yards combined through the air and ground to lead the Titans, while Austin Ashley (18/148) and Brandon Leff (15/11/1) led the rushing attack for the Bears. So far, Spencer County is exactly on track as they were last year in the district, and it increasingly appears that October 16th against Shelby County will decide the #1 seed. They’re not quite as good as last year, but District 4 remains top to bottom the best district in the class.
Game of the week this week easily goes to #2 Wayne County at #7 Rockcastle County. A year ago, the Rockets gave Wayne County all they wanted in two meetings, both on the road at Wayne County. The regular season was a 21-13 win for the Cardinals, who then followed up with a 27-24 victory in the second round of the playoffs. The Rockets were just 1-4 entering that game last year – they’ve flipped that record heading in this time, and have homefield advantage in seeking their first victory over Wayne County since 2010. Meanwhile Wayne County has continued to do the same thing week in and week out – grind teams to dust on the ground and put up points. The Cardinals have not scored less than 28 all year, and haven’t scored less than 41 since the opening loss to Bryan Station. Despite entering at #2 in the BGP rankings, many seem to think that they are overrated, even after blowing out Mercer County two weeks ago. The Cardinals will have opportunities the next two weeks to make statements against Rockcastle County and Knox Central, both highly regarded opponents, both on the road. Win both, and the district is theirs again.
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