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I hope you enjoy the trio of Johnson Central, Franklin-Simpson, and Ashland at the top of the 4A rankings. Week 1 did nothing to discourage the notion that they are the elite of the elite in the class. The order may (or may not) change among those three this year, but Week 1 only reinforced the perception they’re not going to get run down from behind.

With Johnson Central off to start the season as per usual, Franklin-Simpson carried the banner for 4A. The defending state champion and potential co-favorite met an Elizabethtown squad that had thrashed them 55-23 via a running clock to start 2017. With revenge in their hearts and on their minds, the Wildcats visited Elizabethtown to return the favor. They did it with a punishing ground game, racking up 486 yards on the ground. It may be a sign of how they want to win this year given they completed as many passes as you or I did – zero. Tre Bass continued to put up ridiculous per carry numbers, averaging over 12 yards per carry with 209 yards on 17 carries – two for scores. Fullback Carlos McKinney had 231 yards on 23 carries as well, finding the end zone three times. While they didn’t return the running clock favor, they left no doubt about their dominance. Their matchup with South Warren on August 31st is likely the only game on their entire schedule still in doubt.

Ashland had revenge on their minds as well. Like Franklin, they started last season with a loss and had a losing record after three weeks before ripping off wins. Harlan County was the team that victimized Ashland a year ago, pasting the Tomcats 49-28. It was a frankly confusing result that still somewhat defies reasoning. There would be no crazy upset this time. Ashland jumped out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter, and expanded it to a 28-6 lead at the half, coasting home behind a running clock in the fourth quarter. Ashland ran 25 plays, and scored 7 touchdowns. That’s dominance. There had been some questions about who stud QB Braxton Ratliff would throw to, and that was answered in the form of Cade Brandt, a transfer from South Point, Ohio. He had three catches, three touchdowns, and 153 yards. Not a bad start.

Other games of note:

#4 Knox Central is a bit of a dark horse this year thanks to a veteran squad. They looked the part early, taking the season’s opening kick 87 yards for a score, but surprisingly fell behind 16-7 to a lackluster Letcher County Central team. They answered with 28 straight before settling in for a 49-22 season win. Quarterback Brady Worley had three touchdown passes. They meet powerful Alcoa (TN) next week. It’s not a game they will win, but if they can raise their level, perhaps they might be viewed as a serious threat.

Blowout losses punctuated most of the rest of the top 10. #5 Hopkinsville can be somewhat forgiven. The Tigers were throwing bombs on 5A #3 South Warren, and were down just 14-10 early. Unfortunately the Spartans adjusted and routed them 49-17. But they’re a top 10 team regardless of class. #6 Wayne County can also be mostly forgiven, falling 48-10 to 6A #7 Frederick Douglass. Depending on how you count Scott County, Federick Douglass is the standard bearer for Lexington. The second year program has only lost three games in their history – two to Scott County who made the 6A semis, and one to Danville, who won 2A. The Cardinals never had a chance, falling behind 41-0 by the 6:18 mark of the second quarter. Sophomore Brody Weaver got off to a tough start to his career, throwing three INTs on 4/19 passing, gaining just 70 yards. Their tough start will continue as they play Pulaski County and Boyle County in the next three weeks, but otherwise, this is the toughest competition they will see.

The other losses were even less encouraging. #8 Madisonville-North Hopkins dropped their season opener for the fourth straight year, enduring another pasting at the hands of Owensboro, this one a 41-13 decision. The Maroons dominated the ground game with 223 yards rushing, but were crushed via Owensboro’s aerial attack to the tune of 254 yards. Jeriah Hightower took on the bellcow role, gaining 131 yards on 19 attempts, but the Maroons may need some semblance of passing attack… and defense. Finally, #10 Scott stayed very close to 2A power Newport Central Catholic a season ago, falling just 17-7. This year, it was a 41-0 devastation. Chad Ohmer was just 3/14 for 53 yards and an INT, while Quincy Perrin managed just 3.8 YPC on 24 rushes for 92 yards. The result sends Scott tumbling from the top 10.

Upcoming Game of the Week

There’s a few matchups pitting teams in the top 10 of their respective classes. Ashland hosts 1A #3 Raceland, which is usually a solid game. I’m less optimistic about the chances of #5 Hopkinsville at 2A #1 Mayfield and #10 Franklin County visiting 3A #1 Boyle County. But no, if you were going to see one 4A game this week, watch #1 Johnson Central take on Capital (WV). Capital is the #2 team in West Virginia’s largest class per ATLCat, and while Johnson Central has won by 17 and 11 in the last two years against Capital, it is always competitive. It’s your first chance to see Joe Jackson in a real game since he got injured in this one a year ago, and he’s always worth the price of admission. If Johnson Central could come out and dominate, it will speak well of their chances to live up to this ranking.