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As we enter the last week of district play, there is plenty still to shake out. Three district races have had their top seed decided (District 1 – Hopkinsville, District 2 – Franklin-Simpson, District 5 – East Jessamine), three more we’re tentatively confident in who is going to take the crown, and two have real unknown outcomes. But even among those two, one stands out.

It’s been a long time since the sun has shined on Harrison County’s football program. Just last season, they snapped a 15 game losing streak. Their last winning season was in 2007, when they made a surprise run to the state semifinals, and their last district title was in 2008. Since Ray Graham ended his 25 year tenure at Harrison County in 2007, the Thorobreds have had four head coaches, none of whom stayed longer than three years. But here Harrison County sits on the cusp, entering at 5-3, winners of five of six, hosting a straight up district title tilt with Bourbon County. Bourbon County enters on a win streak of their own, taking three straight in-district as part of winning four out of their last five. The Colonels are not that far separated from success, but their run is a bit surprising given that they lost Clay Bolin to graduation, who threw for over 3,000 yards a season ago. Just three years ago Bourbon County ran to a 13-0 start before falling just short against Belfry in the state semifinals. It’s a fairly even matchup, but Harrison County is to my eyes a slight favorite going off their schedule. Should be a good one in the District 7 title game.

Breaking down the rest of the scenarios:

District 1 – #4 Hopkinsville clinched the top seed with their pasting of Calloway County last week, while Calloway County wrapped up the two seed when Logan County lost to Madisonville. There could still be a three way tie for second between Calloway County, Madisonville, and Hopkins County Central, but the tiebreaker will go to Calloway, who defeated the other two. Madisonville will settle into the three seed regardless of any results, while Hopkins County Central will take the four. Logan County will miss out on the playoffs again, though they do have a chance to break their long losing streak the last week of the year when they meet Todd County Central. Baby steps.

District 2 – Like District 1, the results this week are irrelevant. #2 Franklin-Simpson clinched the top spot before their bye week by knocking off South Warren, Warren Central, and Allen County-Scottsville in succession. Third-ranked South Warren clinched the #2 spot with their victory over Allen County-Scottsville, relegating the Patriots to third, while Warren East returned to the postseason with a 49-0 win over Warren Central, who will miss the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.

With these two districts having their teams set already, we know now that Hopkinsville will host Warren East, South Warren will host Madisonville, Allen County-Scottsville will visit Calloway County, and Hopkins County Central will visit Franklin-Simpson.

District 3 – The teams that will be home to start and teams headed on the road are already settled, but not the specific seeds. #6 John Hardin survived a road scare against Valley 21-20, and will host Western in a district title game. John Hardin won this game 36-0 a year ago, but Western did have the more impressive win over Valley. Valley will host Breckinridge County in the battle for the #3 seed, a game Valley will be heavily favored to win. My prediction: John Hardin clinches the district with a win over Western, while Valley grabs the third spot with a blowout of Breckinridge County.

District 4 – Considered by many to be the best district top to bottom, #9 Shelby County has emerged as the team to beat, carrying a 3-0 district record into their title game with Collins. Whoever wins that, wins the district. If Collins wins, Shelby County will slide into the two spot. If Shelby County wins, then it depends on what happens with Franklin County and North Oldham as to how everything else shakes out. Spencer County is done at 2-2 in the middle. If Collins loses and Franklin County wins, then Collins, Spencer County, and Franklin County will all be tied at 2-2 in the district. At current Spencer County would dominate that tiebreaker, holding wins over both East Jessamine and Bullitt Central at 6 wins apiece and Bullitt East at 3. Collins has a narrow 7-6 edge over Franklin County, with each team still having one additional opponent to play to add to their totals. My prediction: The tiebreaker happens as Shelby County dominates Collins and Franklin County does likewise to North Oldham. Spencer County jumps up to the #2 seed thanks to their strong tiebreaker status, while Collins ekes their way into the #3 spot, relegating Franklin County to travel to John Hardin again.

District 5 – East Jessamine was the surprise district winner here, beating Mercer County and Taylor County by a combined 4 points on their way to clinching the crown. They still have a game with West Jessamine remaining, but that rivalry game is irrelevant to East Jessamine – they’re #1. Mercer County is in the clubhouse at #2 with a 3-1 record, leaving Taylor County, West Jessamine, and Marion County left to battle it out. Marion County sits in last place at 0-3, winless since their opening game against Nelson County. They host Taylor County, but look to be heavy underdogs in that matchup. If both Taylor County and West Jessamine win, Taylor County will be #3 thanks to the head to head tiebreaker. West Jessamine could jump up to #3 with an upset of East Jessamine plus a Marion County win, or a three-way tie could be created if Marion County wins and West Jessamine falls to East Jessamine. If a three way tie were to occur, Marion County has no shot, as winless Nelson County is their only win on the season, while Taylor County is in much better shape by virtue of more victories, most notably their win over four win LaRue County. But it’s likely not to matter anyway, because…. My prediction: East Jessamine sweeps the district by beating West Jessamine while Taylor County dominates Marion County. Taylor County clinches the #3 spot by virtue of their head to head win over West Jessamine, the four seed. Marion County is eliminated from the postseason.

District 6 – Absolutely nothing is firmly settled in this district except that #5 Rockcastle County, #7 Wayne County, and #9 Knox Central are in the playoffs. Rockcastle County goes for the outright district title when they host Knox Central on Friday. Win, and the top three become easy – Rockcastle at #1, Wayne at #2, and Knox at #3. If Knox Central wins, it creates a three way tie at the top. Rockcastle and Wayne County are currently tied at 15 in their tiebreaker totals while Knox Central is far behind at 10, meaning in any scenario, Knox Central is likely to be the #3 seed – unless they can somehow beat Corbin in the last week. It’s too close to call on the top two. Meanwhile, Russell County will host Clay County, with the winner claiming the #4 seed. Clay County has only scored 56 points on the year, and hasn’t scored since September 9th. Russell County should win that last playoff spot. My prediction: It doesn’t come easy, but Rockcastle County completes the district sweep, knocking off Knox Central to claim the top spot, keeping Wayne County at #2, pushing Knox Central to #3. Russell County rolls over Clay County to claim the final spot.

District 7 – The district title tilt was talked about above, with Harrison County and Bourbon County squaring off. Mason County has already locked in to the #3 spot. Scott, hammered by graduation following last year’s heartbreaking loss to Johnson Central in the region finals as part of a 10-3 campaign, is just 1-7 this year, visiting 2-6 Holmes in a playoff for the #4 seed. Both have shown competitive flashes, as Scott fell just 17-14 to Bourbon County last week, as Holmes fell by one in overtime to Mason County on the same night. Judging by the scores, Scott would seem to be a slight road favorite. My prediction: Harrison County gets it done, claiming their first district title in 8 years, defending their home turf over Bourbon County, who claims the second spot. Mason County sticks in third, while Holmes pulls the home “upset”, sending Scott home for the playoffs. (The Scott/Holmes game is the one I struggle with the most on this sheet.)

District 8 – Last, but not least, for the second straight year #1 Johnson Central and #10 Ashland meet in a winner-take-all final. But, unlike last year, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt in most minds as to who will take this. A year ago, these two met in a grueling defensive battle, with Johnson Central prevailing 8-7 to claim the crown. But Quenton Baker is not around for this Ashland team, and Johnson Central has just been obliterating everyone in their way in their redemption campaign to get back to the state finals. Ashland has recovered well from an 0-2 start, winning 6 straight, allowing only 31 total points in those games. But the Golden Eagles seem the clear choice. Greenup County visits Boyd County, needing to win to wrap up the #3 seed, while Rowan County travels to East Carter, hoping to play their way in. This district has some tough scenarios, as only the top two spots are clean. If:

-Greenup County and Rowan County win – Greenup County clinches #3, Rowan County clinches #4.
-Greenup County and East Carter win – Greenup County clinches #3, Boyd County, Rowan County, and East Carter tie for #4, which would likely put Boyd County in on tiebreakers thanks to their greater number of wins. Rowan County would for sure be out, with no games to be counted.
-Boyd County and Rowan County win – Another three way tie, this one for #3. Greenup County would win this tiebreaker easily, basically on the strength of Fleming County’s six wins alone. Rowan County again, would have no games to be counted, which would push Boyd County in at #4.
-Boyd County and East Carter win – Boyd County would vault up to #3, while Greenup County would fall to #4. Rowan County and East Carter would be out.

In all likelihood, East Carter has no path to the playoffs, while any tiebreaker knocks Rowan County out.

My prediction: Johnson Central wins by multiple scores to claim #1, knocking Ashland to #2. Greenup County rolls up Boyd County to claim the #3 spot, while Rowan County hits on the only scenario that gets them in, dropping East Carter to claim the #4 seed.

Let’s see how it all plays out!