Class 5A Notebook (9/23): District breakdown
Now that district play is underway for most teams, it would be a good time to break down each one. There will be no cross bracketing this year for 5A. The districts will be paired straight up, 1 through 8 for the playoffs.
Coming into this season, D1 looked to be one of the most hotly contested districts in the class. Defending champion Christian County had it's house cleaned by graduation and off-season transfers; Owensboro returned several difference makers on both sides of the ball and got an early Christmas present from Owensboro Catholic in the form of QB Will Warren; Apollo (4-2) returned a strong nucleus from its best team in many years; And Graves County (2-3) can never be counted out.
For the most part, the teams mentioned above have held up to preseason expectations. Christian County (3-2) has arguably been the biggest surprise. The Colonels upset Caldwell County in Week 0 and put together a defensive gem against Hopkinsville before opening district play with a 47-10 blowout of Marshall County (3-3). The Red Devils (3-2) have looked impressive in their wins, and had a good showing in defeat against Bowling Green. And Apollo (4-2) followed up a 4-0 start with back to back losses, including a 64-49 Arena League style shootout to Graves County last Friday. There are several key games remaining between CC, Owensboro, Graves County and Apollo. I hate to throw in the towel on Marshall County (3-3) already, but they appear to be the odd team out in District 1.
Predicted Champion: Owensboro
Bowling Green (6-0) and South Warren (6-0) are miles ahead of Grayson County and Greenwood. And Barren County bought out its games with BG and SW. The Purples have had a tight grip on this district going back several years, winning seven straight titles. But South Warren is lurking. Each dominant display from the Spartans this year feeds a growing narrative that the balance of power in Bowling Green is shifting in favor of SW.
With all due respect to Grayson County (4-2, and having a fine season) and Greenwood (2-4), the game that matters most in this district is happening on October 19th. If you asked anyone affiliated with either of those teams, I'm sure they'd spit out the “one game at a time” cliche. But they have to be keeping tabs on one another. How could they not? It's the biggest regular season game that 5A has to offer. Winner gets to avoid a potentially tricky 2nd Round playoff opponent. Greenwood vs. Grayson County should be a good scrap to decide the 3 and 4 seeds.
Predicted Champion: South Warren
With South Oldham's victory over Oldham County, most may feel like this district's champion has already been decided. OC (4-1) gave the Dragons (4-1) their only district challenge a year ago, and started 4-0 this season before dropping a 23-17 contest to their southern rival on Friday.
The Colonels look good for the #2 spot. But after that, it's anyone's guess as to whom would potentially fill the final two playoff positions. Bullitt Central (4-1) has shown signs of life following a severe injury to the their best player. They have a leg up on North Bullitt (3-3), having just defeated the Eagles 47-21 on Friday. Bullitt East (2-3) had been struggling mightily on offense before putting up 33 points to beat Nelson County (0-5) this past week. Bullitt Central and East will meet this coming Friday.
Predicted Champion: South Oldham
Simply put, this district has been awful. Preseason favorite Doss is 0-5. And only Fairdale (3-2), the last place team from 2017, has a winning record. The Bulldogs began their district slate with a 30-0 win over Iroquois (1-4). If you were assuming that Doss’ battle tested FBS talent would assert itself after facing teams the caliber of Male, Butler, and South Oldham, you'd be wrong. Southern (2-3) shut the Dragons down in a 20-6 Trojan victory. If someone's going to run away with D4, the best bet would have to be Fern Creek (2-4). Though they may have lost them all, the Tigers weathered a brutal four game stretch that might prove hugely beneficial in regards to their district fate. They pounded Atherton (2-4) 58-19 on Friday to start district play off on the right foot.
Predicted Champion: Fern Creek
Poor Dixie Heights. It doesn't get much worse than being stuck in a district with both CovCath and Highlands. They don't even have Grant County to pick on after the Braves dropped from district play following the 2016 season. The Red Colonels (0-6) will likely serve as cannon fodder for the Birds and Colonels of the blue variety. Highlands (5-1) is having a resurgent year, and is feeling pretty good about itself after a decisive 38-9 win over Simon Kenton. It's been the kind of start that has people believing Highlands can challenge CovCath (6-0) after losing to them by a combined 115-26 the past two years. These two have continuously shared a district for over 30 years, with numerous momentum shifts. Can the Birds put an end to this shift while it's still in its infancy? I say no, at least not this year.
Predicted Champion: Covington Catholic
Mad South swept this district last year en route to its state runner-up finish. Don't expect a repeat. The Eagles (1-5) have been grounded this year after losing a ton of production from 2017. Anderson County (5-0) looks to be the team best suited to step up and seize the D6 crown. They haven't really been threatened in any of their five games so far. On paper, Montgomery County (4-1) should be their only challenge. The loss of some key linemen and Charles Collins from last year has resulted in a slight decline in the Indians’ running game, which led 5A last season. They haven't posted the type of results that their preseason ranking suggested we'd see from them. But they still look like a firm #2 behind Anderson. Woodford County (1-5) will likely bring up the rear.
Predicted Champion: Anderson County
From top to bottom, this looks like the most competitive district in the class. Southwestern (5-0) has pretty much been what we thought they'd be. And Pulaski County (4-2) appears to be rounding into shape after dropping two in a row earlier in the year. Your district champion will most likely be the winner of the Warriors/Maroons tussle on October 19th. But Lincoln County (4-1) and South Laurel (4-1) could make for some 1st Round playoff upsets from the 3 and 4 spots. Both teams are having their best season in many years.
Predicted Champion: Southwestern
This may be the most difficult district to get a read on. If there was a favorite early on, it was Perry Central (4-1). But the Commodores schedule was, shall we say… comfortable? There's not a winning team to be found on it through five games. Letcher County Central's (2-4) challenging early season scheduling paid off when the Cougars dealt the Commodores their first loss last Friday. Next up for LCC is a struggling Harlan County (1-4) team that just broke into the win column last week. The Black Bears defeated North Laurel 22-14 to kickstart district play after giving up 40+ points in each of its first four games. North Laurel (3-3) is the only team other than PCC to not have a losing record, but their three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 2-15. Whitley County (1-4) entertained another non-district opponent last week while the other four got the ball rolling. When the Colonels have stepped up in competition this season, they've been manhandled.
Predicted Champion: Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. I'll go with Letcher Central, because they were tested early and seem to have some momentum going. But any one of these five teams could emerge with the district title and I wouldn't be surprised. I'm half expecting a three way tie.