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District 1

We start with District 1, but they were the last game played in the state this week for any class. With the snow days earlier in the week, it was agree to delay the #8 Hopkinsville/#7 Madisonville-North Hopkins game until mid-day on Saturday. Tens of Tiger fans lined the home side. Unlike the first matchup where Madisonville got out to a great start, it was the Tigers who jumped out first with a long and sloooow march up the field, draining nearly 7 minutes on the game’s opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. The Tigers briefly held a 14-0 lead before settling into a 14-7 halftime advantage. Madisonville’s Jeriah Hightower had -2 yards in the second half, but immediately tied the game three minutes into the third quarter and a three yard touchdown run gave Madisonville their first lead at 21-14. Bland pushed across for his third rushing touchdown of the game to tie it at 21 with 5:29 left, but Hayden Reynolds went right up the gut for a 55 yard score to make it 28-21. The Tigers drove to the MNH 19, but turned over on downs there to give Madisonville the district title. Jeriah Hightower rushed for 174 yards in the second half along with two scores, and he was ultimately the difference maker. Javier Bland was just 14/32 for 217 yards to go with his three rushing scores, and star Reece Jesse was held in check with only two receptions for 34 yards. Madisonville may have been the #3 seed, but they ultimately were the more complete team, and enter the region final round with a 10-2 record and two losses by a combined five points.

District 2

I got to take this game in personally. Franklin-Simpson has surged since an 0-4 start, entering this game at just 6-5, but winners of six of their previous seven games. For their part, Allen County-Scottsville had gotten off to four straight wins, but it was clear who was the dominant team in this one. The Wildcats won the toss and elected to receive, and they set the tone immediately. Very few offensive plays they ran on the night went for negative or even no positive yardage, and they ran, ran, ran the ball. They took a 7-0 lead on the first possession, and after the Patriots tied it to end the first quarter, Franklin scored 14 unanswered to take a 21-7 lead at the half. They unloaded in the third quarter, outscoring the Patriots 20-6 in the period, and eventually gained a running clock with the final margin of 56-20 with 6:23 left in the game. The game did feature an interesting stretch where there were 20 points scored between the two teams in 25 seconds of gametime, as a Rookstool touchdown run and Patriot kickoff return for TD were sandwiched around a 65 yard touchdown run for Franklin’s Stutzman at the end of the third into the beginning of the fourth. Stutzman racked up 195 yards and two scores on just 11 rushes, while Malik Carter added 124 yards and three scores on 20 rushes for Franklin. They held the Patriots to just 120 yards of offense in winning their fourth consecutive District 2 title. Now they face Madisonville-North Hopkins, trying to keep District 2’s run alive – the district has had a state final representative in each of the last four seasons.

District 3

#3 Franklin County vs. #9 Central was one of the most highly anticipated games in the state this weekend, but the sad reality is that the game may have been determined by an event the week before. Franklin County moved to 11-0 with their win over Waggener in the first round, but lost QB Nick Broyles to injury in the game, which would ultimately keep him out against Central’s dominant defense. Broyles was 133/204 this season for 2,437 yards, throwing for 32 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. He is not a player easily replaced. The Flyers did get out to a fast start, driving 64 yards in 6 plays to take a 7-0 lead just 2:30 into the game, capping the drive with a 5 yard run by backup QB Jayden Mattison. But that would prove to be the highlight of the night. Central scored one touchdown per quarter the rest of the way, taking their first lead 5 minutes into the third quarter and ultimately winning 18-7. Mattison was sacked three times and threw for only 98 yards on 8/17 passing. Franklin County was held to just 108 yards of offense in the contest, gaining only 44 after their opening drive. As usual, Dayshawn Mucker carried the load for Central, rolling to 200 yards on 44 rushing attempts, adding a pair of scores. 3A champions a year ago, Central has not failed to advance past the second round in any of the past 14 seasons. They are a model of consistency, and one of the greatest postseason forces in the state.

District 4

Moore/John Hardin was not a heralded matchup, but provided possibly the most thrilling game in the state. When the teams met in the regular season, Moore was a surprise 22-14 winner, and ultimately leveraged that into the #1 seed. They moved out to a 10-0 lead by mid-second quarter, behind a Horatio Willis 15 yard touchdown run and a Romero 24 yard field goal. The field goal launched a flurry of scores to end the first half, as the next four drives resulted in touchdowns, leaving Moore with a 24-13 halftime advantage. But John Hardin would reel them in during the third quarter behind a field goal and touchdown (plus two-point conversion), making 24 all heading into the final quarter. The score would stay there through regulation with John Hardin securing a goal line INT late, setting up the only overtime game of the round in any class. Moore would gamble on the opening possession, as RaeVon Vaden hit DeWayne Tarver for a nine yard score – with the Mustangs going for two as Vaden ran it in to put them ahead 32-24. John Hardin scored to make it 32-30, but Xavier Boone was stonewalled at the one yard line on the conversion attempt, lifting Moore to a 32-30 victory in overtime. John Hardin, once a staple of the late rounds, has failed to advance past the second round in the last three seasons, while Moore advanced to the region final round for the second straight year. They’ll face an extremely uphill battle when they meet Central this week.

District 5

Boyle County just keeps impressing, even when you think you have placed the bar as high as you can go. Their 54-7 victory over Lexington Catholic was never competitive, in the same way their regular season meeting was not competitive. Reed Lanter was clinical again, going 11/13 for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Andrew Sacco had 14 rushes for 114 yards with two scores and Reese Smith had 109 yards on six receptions with two scores. It was the seventh victory of 40 points or more for the Rebels this year, their eighth game posting 50 points or more, and their eighth game holding their opponent to single digits. The point total was the lowest score of the year for Lexington Catholic by 14 points, and that includes their game against Frederick Douglass, which has posted nine shutouts. In fact, it was their lowest score in two years. Dominance, pure and simple – nuff said.

District 6

Holmes stunned Scott on the road on October 25th, winning 50-38 behind two pick-sixes. That gave the Bulldogs the #1 seed in the district in what was viewed as an upset. Scott set out to prove that they truly were the better team in the rematch this week. It certainly looked that way early, as they gained a 14-0 advantage after one, highlighted by Gus Howlett finding Nate Meyer for a 57 yard touchdown – Howlett’s only touchdown pass of the night and the only reception for Meyer. But Holmes would strike back with three touchdown runs by Quantez Calloway, staking them to a 22-20 halftime lead. They extended the lead to 29-20 after three quarters after another Quantez Calloway touchdown run, and it appeared Holmes was on their way to the next round. But as with the first game, a defensive play turned the game around. In this case, a bad snap on a punt was recovered in the end zone for a score to draw Scott within 29-27, and after forcing a three and out, Scott took the lead for good on a 10 play, 70 yard drive. An interception in Holmes territory set up one more score, and Scott advanced with a 40-29 victory, outscoring Holmes 20-0 in the final quarter. Quincy Perrin fought off cramps for Scott, and proved to be a workhorse with 35 rushes for 199 yards and two scores. Tayquan Calloway had 106 scoreless yards on 16 rushes, while Quantez Calloway had 84 yards passing and 72 yards rushing from the quarterback position. Scott’s reward? They visit #1 Boyle County next week.

District 7

In their first matchup, #5 Wayne County seized the district from #6 Corbin behind a whirlwind finish, scoring a touchdown, recovering an onside kick, and kicking a game-winning field goal to take an 18-16 win and ending Corbin’s long district winning streak. The rematch would prove to be less dramatic and about a full 180 degrees in terms of offense. It was all Wayne County early, forcing turnovers and running all over Corbin, pushing to a 35-7 lead in the second quarter as Braedon Sloan ran for four touchdowns in the half along with 220 yards. Corbin would battle back and fight off a running clock, trimming the lead to 42-22 at the break. The Redhounds would continue to battle back, closing to 49-36 after Combs found Massengill for a 53 yard touchdown pass to end the third quarter. Corbin forced a punt and then made it 49-43 with 7:27 left after Combs found Patterson for a score. But just when it looked like Corbin might pull off an incredible comeback victory, Braedon Sloan appeared again, rushing for back to back scores – the last a 43 yarder for his seventh rushing TD of the night, making it 63-43 with 1:48 remaining and effectively ending the game, with the final of 63-49. The score equaled Wayne County’s highest offensive output of the season while it was their most points allowed as well. Still, the Cardinals forced five turnovers and Braedon Sloan had a game for the ages. His seven scores went with 408 yards on the ground on 37 attempts, as he literally carried them to victory. Cameron Combs was almost equal to the task in the loss, throwing for five scores and 457 yards for Corbin. Dakota Patterson posted 190 yards on 9 receptions with three scores, but it was not to be for the Redhounds. It’s their earliest postseason exit in six years – they lost to Wayne County that year too.

District 8

The Johnson Central invitational came to a close in the typical fashion – a blowout Johnson Central victory, this one a 50-6 result over Harlan County. For the Golden Eagles, it marked their sixth game in their last seven where they held their opponent to less than 10 points, and it was their fourth game scoring 50 or more. Devin Johnson scored on three of his four rushes, posting 131 yards on the ground. That’s roughly 33 yards per rush, which I think is pretty good. Riley Preece was 4/6 for 102 yards and 2 scores. In total, Johnson Central didn’t even need 20 offensive plays to score 50 points. The defense held Harlan County to 138 yards, all on the ground. There really isn’t much to say as Johnson Central hasn’t been remotely challenged since August. But that may end in this next round. Unlike the other three matchups, which all project to have a heavy favorite on one side, Wayne County is a team that may actually be able to push Johnson Central. But if the Golden Eagles were to win this one in blowout fashion…. let me just say that the likely title game between Boyle County and Johnson Central would become even more of a must watch than it already is.