Class 4A Notebook (8/29): Mulligans
The 4A rankings this week were exactly the same as a week ago despite four losses by top ten teams. The reason for that was a disparity between the level of competition faced by the teams that fell - each playing a team in the top 2 of their respective class in their respective state - and that faced by virtually every other team that won, most of which were beaten before setting foot on the field. For the teams that lost, it's the equivalent of a mulligan in golf. They get a re-do at this rank, but this week, they likely wouldn't be so lucky.
With Johnson Central taking the first week off, their game last week against Capital (WV) was the first opportunity to see the #1 Golden Eagles. Capital is no slouch – they entered the game #2 in West Virginia’s 3A class, the largest class in the state. Johnson Central had won the season opener against Capital the previous two years, and appeared on their way to another solid win when they jumped out 14-0 early in the second quarter. But that would be the largest lead they’d enjoy, with the score narrowed to 14-7 at the half, and knotted at 21 all after a kickoff return for a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. A pair of fourth quarter turnovers and an avalanche of penalties doomed Johnson Central, and allowed Capital to finally get a win against the Golden Eagles, settling in for a game winning score at the 1:29 mark, sealing a 28-21 win. It’s the first time Johnson Central has opened with a loss since 2010. The good news is that Joe Jackson is back. The senior showed out in his return from last season’s knee injury, compiling 125 yards on 22 rushes (a solid 5.7 YPC). He didn’t find the end zone, but it’s a matter of time. The Golden Eagle offense outgained Capital 344-255, but had trouble in the passing game, with two interceptions and four sacks of Riley Preece. And the kickoff return was a backbreaker. It’s unfamiliar territory, but Johnson Central holds onto the top rank for another week despite the loss. But they have lost the initiative to remain there as they don’t have another opponent to show out against of the caliber of that facing the team chasing them.
That team would be #2 Franklin-Simpson. They enjoyed another blowout victory, a 57-7 thrashing of Monroe County. In the win the Wildcats held Monroe County to -12 rushing yards. Offensive stars Carlos McKinney and Tre Bass scored at will. McKinney housed two of his eight rushing attempts (for 10 YPC and 80 yards), while Tre Bass took three of his five carries to the house for 63 yards (12.6 YPC). They look every bit the part of a defending champion, and have now won 12 straight. If there is a knock on Franklin, it is that their passing game has been nonexistent. Luke Richardson was 2/4 on the night for 20 yards, and one of those incompletions was an interception. On the year he has still completed as many passes to the other team (two) as his own. That’s not going to fly against their next opponent, 5A #3 South Warren. The Spartans rained devastation in a 36-7 win over Franklin last season, and rushing defense is something they’re kinda known for being really good at. It will be a very difficult win to get for Franklin, but if they do, they are likely to grab #1 and run away with it for the remainder of the regular season. It is also likely that they will ultimately set a school record winning streak if they can clear this hurdle. That record is currently 14 in a row.
Other games of note:
#3 Ashland stayed unbeaten thanks to a fantastic 99 yard touchdown pass from Braxton Ratliff to Cade Brandt in the fourth quarter, completing a comeback over 1A #3 Raceland by a 21-14 score. That score had followed a nearly 7 minute Raceland drive that ended in a goalline stand to force a turnover on downs at the Ashland 1. Ashland ultimately had scored 21 straight to rally from a 14-0 halftime deficit, grabbing their second straight win over Raceland. The 99 yard strike helped build Ratliff’s 281 yards passing on the night. Next up for the Tomcats is George Washington out of Charleston, and a chance to avenge their only other regular season loss from a season ago to go with their blowout win over Harlan County in Week 1.
#4 Knox Central and [B]#5 Hopkinsville used their last mulligans in Week 2. Both remained in those ranks this week despite blowout losses a week ago. Knox Central fell 50-14 to Alcoa (TN) while Hopkinsville could not build on a 0-0 first quarter against 2A #1 Mayfield, falling 35-7. Both of those teams are powers in their respective states. Alcoa has won five straight state titles in their Tennessee class, and Mayfield is, well, Mayfield. Their ranking is likely a reflection of a belief that other teams could not do better against those powers, but now they’ll have to perform at a much higher level to remain in their place. #10 Franklin County received the same treatment for the same reason – their 50-7 loss to 3A #1 Boyle County is one we’d expect most of 4A to take.
#7 Wayne County had what is probably the best win in 4A this week, somewhat surprisingly taking down 5A Pulaski County on the road by a 34-25 score. Brody Weaver threw for 180 yards and two scores in the win, while Carson Simpson rumbled for 109 yards on 20 rushes. It was a win the Cardinals really needed, lest they start 0-2. Now it feels likely that they will pick up a win over Warren East this week, take it on the chin against Boyle County in Week 4, but not face a game the rest of the way that they aren’t expected to at least be competitive in.
#9 Madisonville-North Hopkins was another team in need of a win to avoid an 0-2 start, and they did so by nearly flipping the score from their 41-13 loss to Owensboro, taking down Marshall County 45-14. Jeriah Hightower stayed hot, posting three touchdowns in 21 carries for 174 yards. He is now up to 305 yards on the year already. The Maroons should be 5-1 before their home showdown with Hopkinsville at the end of September. District rival [B]#6 Logan County[b] will likely be unbeaten when they face Hopkinsville the week after that in October. They moved to 2-0 courtesy of a 56-18 win over Muhlenberg County. Their September 7th meeting with rival Russellville is the only game in their first six that even approaches a speedbump.
Per the Ashland Daily Independent, #8 Greenup County had fallen to Russell in 15 of 16 meetings prior to last season’s Musketeer victory. But thanks to a 41-21 win Friday, Greenup has knocked off Russell for the second straight year, posting consecutive wins over Russell for the first time. Patrick Kelly hauled in four passes for 161 yards to become Greenup’s all-time leading receiver.
The best win by a team not in the current top 10 belongs to Moore. The Mustangs fell to Collins 54-14 a season ago, but leveraged homefield into a 38-33 this time around, and they’re now out to a 2-0 start. QB Rae Von Vaden only completed four passes in the win, but boy were they efficient – three of them went for scores.
Upcoming Game of the Week
#2 Franklin-Simpson vs. 5A #3 South Warren may seem to be the marquee choice, but with no disrespect to Franklin, most pundits expect that to be a Spartan win comfortably. Hope they’re wrong! That leaves the choice to be #5 Hopkinsville visiting 3A #8 Caldwell County. It’ll be Tigers against Tigers, and Hoptown is facing a plummet if they can’t get off the mat this time. Caldwell County enters at 1-1, dropping a very tight 11-6 decision to Christian County in the season opener before scoring a 28-17 win over Graves County. A season ago Hoptown could not end their skid via this game, dropping a 28-21 home game against Caldwell en route to an 0-4 and 1-6 start to the year. Javier Bland has thrown for 305 yards in Hopkinsville’s two games, but his 18/57 completion rate has to come up, and his 1:4 TD:INT ratio definitely has to come up for the Tigers to make good on their promise.
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