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The six class system has given us many years of poor matchups in all playoff rounds. This year, we saw the debut of the new RPI version of the region finals, and as expected, it was terrible. Essentially, it flipped the games that we’d normally see in the region finals into the second round, and vice versa. In this year’s second round, five of the eight games were decided by 14 points or less, with two games decided by a single score – one in overtime. The average margin of victory for the round was 21.5, and even that high margin owed a lot to the 47 and 44 point victories by Boyle County and Johnson Central, respectively. That gave way to an atrocious region final round that was decided by an average of 34 points per game, and only one game closer than 29 points. In my opinion, that serves up the failure of the intra-district format perfectly. If you can say anything for the RPI format, it’s that the higher rated team won every game, so… I guess that part works?

The only game that was truly competitive matched a pair of familiar foes. #7 Madisonville-North Hopkins and Franklin-Simpson met for the third straight postseason, and had squared off in seven of the previous nine playoffs. Franklin had won the previous season’s matchup by a mere 12-10 score, en route to their second straight state title. Madisonville had been entrenched in close games for weeks, with their previous three games and five of their previous seven games decided by 7 points or less. They found themselves in a similar situation against Franklin. After the teams traded scores in a 7-7 first quarter, Franklin-Simpson pulled ahead, and took a 24-20 lead into the half. That too was a familiar situation for the Maroons, who trailed at the half in each of their victories in the first two rounds. The third quarter’s first drive would provide the turning point of the game. Madisonville received, and drove to the Wildcat 30. Per @FSfan, a shotgun snap on 2nd and 1 was low and rolled past Reynolds. He dove on the ball, but it squirted free, eventually being recovered by the Wildcats. However, the officials, thinking that Reynolds had recovered it, blew the play dead for the dreaded inadvertent whistle. That meant no fumble recovery for Franklin. It meant not even a devastating loss to make it third and long. No, it was 2nd 1 right back on the 30 – and Jeriah Hightower took the next play straight into the end zone. The Maroons never trailed again, running off 25 straight before coasting in for a 45-31 victory. It was a bitter end to Franklin-Simpson’s back to back title defense, but they still closed strong with a 7-2 finish after an 0-4 start, claiming their fourth consecutive district title. With their loss, the District 2 champion will not make the title game for the first time since 2014. For Madisonville, this is their first region title since 1971, when they advanced to the state title game. Jeriah Hightower was stupid good in the game, running 37 times for 324 yards and SIX touchdowns. Hightower is up to 2,817 yards on the season, and will face a stiff test to try to get to 3,000 when he faces Johnson Central, but it’s a distinct possibility.

The rest of the games, it must be said, were horrendous. #2 Johnson Central/#5 Wayne County had real potential, but QB Brody Weaver was lost after the very first offensive play of the game for the Cardinals, robbing them of one dimension of their attack. Braedon Sloan became 100% of their offense, taking snaps at QB and running for 101 yards, but Johnson Central was just way too much, advancing to the state semifinals yet again in a 36-7 victory. The Golden Eagles didn’t put the ball in the air a single time, running 35 times for 364 yards and five scores. Devin Johnson was his usual efficient self, with 121 yards on just 10 rushes, scoring twice. #9 Central hosted Moore and posted their eighth game giving up less than 10 points in holding the Mustangs down in a 46-8 victory. For Central, that equaled their highest score of the year, fueled by Jeremiah Thornton’s 273 yards and four scores on the ground. Thornton entered the game with just 145 on the year. The loss ended a seven game win streak for Moore, finishing an 8-5 campaign. Finally, the favorite and #1 Boyle County kept it rolling in a 55-0 domination of Scott. That was their fourth shutout of the season, and ninth time holding an opponent to seven points or less. The 55 point offensive output was only their sixth highest of the year – that’s how good they’ve been. They have the top scoring offense and defense in the class. Reed Lanter was perfect on the night, going 11/11 for 257 yards and five scores for the Rebels. Reese Smith had four receptions for 87 yards and converted two of them into scores. They still have not played a single game that was decided by less than 30 points. They’ll host Central this week, which should be their toughest test of the year thus far.

All in all, it was pure chalk in a year (and playoff system) that seems designed for it. Only five road teams have won in the 28 playoff games played so far in 4A – two of those came from Madisonville-North Hopkins which entered each game higher rated than their opponent, relegated to the third seed only because of a Hail Mary loss during the regular season and a three-way tiebreak that went against them. We don’t figure to see upsets this week either. Central and Madisonville-North Hopkins are both very capable teams, but they’re up against true monsters in Boyle County and Johnson Central. In Madisonville’s case, the 300+ mile trip to Johnson Central – where a Kentucky team hasn’t beaten the Golden Eagles since 2016 – won’t help.