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District 1

The most competitive 4A district unsurprisingly produced the most competitive games in 4A. The #8 Hopkinsville/Calloway County game was not expected to be one of those given the Tigers shut out the Lakers 43-0 in their regular season meeting. I was confident enough that I essentially called it a bye. But hats off to Calloway County, as they battled throughout. Calloway County held leads of 7-0 in the second and 17-14 in the third, but they fell just short in a 28-20 result. Bland threw for 226 and ran for 113 for Hopkinsville. Meanwhile, #10 Logan County hosted #7 Madisonville-North Hopkins in what was the most anticipated first round game in the class, and it did not disappoint. Tyler Ezell gutted out the game, but it was not his sharpest effort, going 11/21 for 129 yards and an INT. His backup Braxton Baptiste had a very good game on the ground, going 13/96 with 2 scores. Gary Hardy added two scores as well on just 5 rushes for 72 yards. Madisonville had a surprisingly tough time on the ground, gaining only 141 yards with their rushing attack, with Jeriah Hightower posting 27 rushes for 88 yards and two scores. It was Hayden Reynolds who carried the day, with 260 yards passing and a score along with 8 rushes for 62 yards and a score. Madisonville was playing from behind almost the whole night, with Logan County taking a lead just over a minute into the game, and the Maroons never more than tied until they took the lead on a Hayden Reynolds to Marquise Parker pass for 27 yards with 28 seconds remaining in the game, giving them a 35-28 victory. That sets up a district final between #7 Madisonville-North Hopkins and #8 Hopkinsville. Bland threw for 200 yards in the first game for Hopkinsville, while Hightower rushed for 147 in the Madisonville victory. Unlike the first, this game will be played in Hopkinsville, though I expect Madisonville to emerge victorious again.

District 2

Two-time defending state champion Franklin-Simpson opened their postseason healthier than they were the first time around against Russell County, and it showed. At the beginning of October, the two battled to a 35-21 result. This time, the Wildcats jumped out to a 23-0 lead in the third quarter, and were never seriously threatened in the 37-14 result. Leandre Stutzman ran for 163 yards and two scores on just 13 carries for the Wildcats. In typical Franklin fashion, they threw only enough to keep the other team honest. Richardson completed just two passes for 60 yards, but both were scores to Andrew Ogles. Much more excitement marked the Allen County-Scottsville/Warren East game. The teams traded blows with East gaining a 6-0 lead at the end of the first, before the Patriots scored twice to take a 14-12 lead at the half. Three minutes into the third quarter the Raiders went back ahead 18-14, before ACS took the lead for good with a pair of touchdowns at the end of the quarter to go up 27-18. But the real excitement came in the final five minutes. With the Patriots driving for a knockout blow at the East 10, DeSean Gilbert came up with an interception at the goalline, and took it 99 yards the other way for a score to make it 27-25. The Patriots again drove to the East red zone, but turned over on downs at the Raider 4 with 2:01 remaining. After a short completion then incomplete pass, Ford hit on a 77 yard bomb to put the Raiders in business at the ACS 8. Just when it seemed bleak for the Patriots, Seth Byrd came up with an interception in the end zone to secure the 27-25 victory for ACS. The win was the first postseason win for the program since 2016. It sets them up for a second round rematch at Franklin-Simpson, who defeated ACS 40-0 in their only postseason meeting ever in 2016. The margin should be closer than that, but I expect the same result.

District 3

Moore entered their matchup with Valley as the favorite for the district and on a five game winning streak, but I made this game one of the truly possible 1/4 upsets thanks to a close 31-27 result between the teams just three weeks prior. Moore made sure there was nothing approaching a game that close again in a 43-0 devastation of the Vikings, ending their season a 2-9. It puts Moore back into the second round for the second straight year. They’ll meet John Hardin, who avenged a surprising 45-31 loss to Spencer County two weeks before with a 35-21 victory in the first round. The Bulldogs put up 340 yards of offense, fueled by Keyandre Strand’s 133 yards on 17 rushes with two scores. Spencer County frequently stayed within a score of John Hardin, but from the 3:16 mark of the third quarter on, never held the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead. Seth Thompson rushed for 66 yards on 12 attempts with a pair of scores in the loss. That sets up a Moore/John Hardin rematch. The two met on October 11th in Louisville, and the Moore Mustangs won 22-14 behind 138 yards from Jamari Wilson. John Hardin has the longer pedigree in the postseason, but Moore should make it two trips to the “region” finals in two years with a win.

District 4

#3 Franklin County kept the unbeaten season alive with a 50-32 win over Waggener. The score was just 7-0 after one, but the Flyers gained a more comfortable advantage at 29-12 by halftime, and cruised from there. Nick Broyles did it all for the Flyers, throwing for 179 yards on just 8 completions, and three of them went for scores. Broyles also added 152 yards on the ground with a score there as well. He did leave the game midway through the third quarter with an injury, so his status is something to watch in advance of their game this Friday. Backup Jayden Mattison threw for a pair of scores in relief. They’ll meet a Central squad that exploded for their most impressive win of the year, a thundering 44-0 domination of Shelby County. Their first matchup at the start of October was a modest 14-0 result, but Dayshawn Mucker rushed for three scores on his own along with 195 yards to give the Yellow Jackets their second highest scoring output of the year. The Dark Side defense allowed only 44 yards of offense for Shelby County, and pitched their fourth shutout of the season. The Yellow Jackets are a fearsome presence in the postseason, and they looked amped up after a bye week entering the postseason. They lost 14-12 at home against Franklin County a couple of weeks ago, but I’m going to pivot from my prediction in my preview – give me Central on the road in an upset of the unbeaten Flyers this Friday, especially if Broyles were to miss the game.

District 5

When you post 64 points and it is only good enough to equal your second highest output of the year, you know you’re having a great season. Such was the case for #1 Boyle County as they dismantled Anderson County by a 64-14 score, to go with their 52-7 win in the regular season. The Rebels held Anderson County to just 92 yards on 38 plays, while rolling up 365 yards on just 27 plays themselves. It’s the type of dominance we’ve come to expect from a Rebel team that shouldn’t be truly challenged until the state finals. That includes second round opponent #4 Lexington Catholic, which picked up a 43-23 win over Bourbon County. Beau Allen was efficient, going 10/12 for 145 yards and three scores, while running for two scores on 8 rushes for 99 yards. It was the fifth loss in six games for Bourbon County, which exits in the first round for the second straight season. Lexington Catholic has won three of four, and has scored 31 points or more in each of their last ten games with the sole exception of when they ran headlong into Boyle County in a 64-28 loss on October 11th. Allen had one of his worst completion percentages of the year in that game, while Reed Lanter exploded for a 24/28/494/5 line. The Rebels have not given us any reason to believe they will slow down now – they should win the rematch comfortably.

District 6

Holmes had a heck of a time with Harrison County the first time they matched up, an 8-7 victory on October 18th that put them in position to secure a shot at the #1 seed. The drama was less this time, though Holmes led just 6-0 at the half and 12-0 entering the fourth quarter. While the game was not comfortably out of reach on the scoreboard, the reality is that the moment Holmes put up a point they had enough, as they shut out Harrison County 21-0. Tayquan and Quantez Calloway notched all the offensive scores for Holmes, which also gained a safety on defense. They’ll meet Scott, who they surprised in a 50-38 win two weeks ago. Scott got the typical strong performance from Quincy Perrin, who rushed for 192 yards on 21 attempts with three scores in their 29-7 win over Rowan County. That ended a three game winning streak for Rowan County, and was the fifth time Scott held an opponent to single digits this season. That sort of defensive effort is going to be crucial against Holmes, who scored 36 offensive points the last time the teams met, with a pair of pick sixes elevating their score to 50 points – a season high for an opponent against Scott. Still, Scott was favored the first time around, and a change of venue and an unexpected result won’t sway me from favoring them again. If Scott can take care of the ball, this should be their district.

District 7

Wayne County rolled to their eighth straight win in a 56-33 victory over Lincoln County. It’s their seventh effort with 44 points or more in the win streak. Brody Weaver completed 18 of 23 attempts for 212 yards and a pair of scores in the win, while Braedon Sloan rushed for 5 touchdowns and 223 yards. He now has 40 scores on the ground for the year, and continues to average over 10 yards per carry despite having 207 attempts. He added an 80 yard pick-six as well. Tito Ruiz had 8 receptions for 111 yards in the win. Clayton Davis had 146 yards on 4 receptions and two scores in the loss, while QB Nick Harris accounted for 294 yards combined through the air and on the ground for Lincoln County. They’ll meet Corbin in a rematch of their epic 18-16 game for the #1 seed two weeks ago. Wayne County won that game after recovering an onside kick with less than a minute remaining, and driving for the game winning field goal. In their first round matchup with Corbin, the Redhounds had a sloppy first half, turning the ball over three times and giving up three scores for a 21 all tie at the break. The game-winning score came with 21 seconds left in the third quarter when Treyveon Longmire ran in for a 19 yard touchdown, and two fourth quarter scores gave them a 42-21 final and advanced them to the second round. Longmire had four scores in the win, while Seth Huff had 148 yards on 21 attempts with two scores in the loss for Knox Central, which bowed out with a disappointing 3-8 record despite being mostly competitive in all their games. Corbin will visit Wayne County after having not gone on the road for a playoff game at all last year en route to their appearance in the title game. In fact, it’s their first road game in the first two rounds of the playoffs since 2013 – when they lost to Wayne County 36-0. The margin should be much closer than that, but I like Wayne County to eke out another win and advance.

District 8

The Johnson Central Invitational got under way in typical fashion, with the Golden Eagles rolling to a 49-7 win over Letcher County Central. It’s the fifth time in six games Johnson Central has held their opponent to single digits, and sixth overall this season. Riley Preece threw for 320 yards and had more touchdown passes (3) than incompletions (2). Seth Dalton hauled in all three scores with 8 receptions for 198 yards. Preece entered the game having thrown for only 711 yards all year long – it is clear they used the game to work on a potential weakness. Harlan County moved to 8-3 with a 53-14 win over Clay County. Ben Landis rushed 11 times for 190 yards and a score as the Black Bears, and the 53 point effort was their second highest of the year. The result was much more comfortable than the 21-7 result these teams played to on September 27th. With the win, Harlan County earns a rematch with Johnson Central, who beat them 56-6 on October 18th. Harlan County managed only 107 yards of offense in that one – they likely won’t fare any better this time around. Johnson Central should roll.