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Not much to sweat about in the First Round

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you expect one seeds to take care of business in the First Round. But the opening slate of games in 5A this year were especially lopsided, most of them decided by halftime. Six of the seven 1v4 games (Anderson County had a bye) reached mercy rule status. The only game that didn't was Harlan County over South Laurel, and that one was never really in doubt. All told, the 1's hammered the 4's by an aggregate score of 344-54 (an average of 49-8). In fact, five of the eight 2v3 games were decided by three scores or more.

Region I

As expected, one seeds Owensboro and South Warren each had their way with Greenwood and Apollo, respectively. The red hot Red Devils (9-2), winners of seven straight, got 185 yards passing and 2 TDs from Will Warren, as well as two rushing TDs from running back Trevon Green. Greenwood's (2-9) one dimensional offense (109 rushing yards, and just 4 passing) posed no real threat to Owensboro, as they led 41-0 at the half. South Warren (11-0) was even more thorough in its dominance of Apollo. The Spartans allowed just 60 yards of offense and produced seven sacks in its 48-0 demolition of the Eagles. Running back Cameron Harrison was SW's standout performer, with 105 rushing yards and 3 TDs on just six carries in limited action.

Once again, Bowling Green (9-2) wasn't at its best offensively, but the defense got the job done versus Christian County (4-7). The Colonels have struggled mightily to put points on the board against good teams. They averaged a mere 11 ppg versus teams with a winning record this year. So BG's 22-0 lead after three quarters probably felt insurmountable from the perspective of the BG and CC faithful in attendance. Buchanan threw for 169 yards and two scores, while Jamil Smith and Evan Spader did the bulk of the work on the ground.

The performance of the week in 5A goes to Grayson County (8-3) running back Q Daryius McHenry. The sophomore had already put together an excellent season before last week's 54-35 win over Graves County (5-6). But his 357 rushing yards and 6 TDs have put him on the map as a name to remember around the state in the coming seasons. Not to rain on his parade, but I think he'll find running room a little more scarce this Friday against South Warren. Graves County QB Ryan Mathis went out guns blazing in the final game of his career. The four year starter accounted for 431 yards of total offense and threw 5 TD passes in defeat.

Region II

Three of the four games in this region featured a running clock. South Oldham (10-1), Fern Creek (7-4), and Oldham County (10-1) had little trouble putting away their opponents, outscoring Fairdale, Bullitt East, and Doss a combined 150-35. Fern Creek running back Terrance Mitchell posted the biggest individual performance out of Region II. His 190 yards and 3 TDs on seven carries paced the Tigers in their victory over the Chargers of Bullitt East.

By far the lowest scoring affair of Round One was the 10-0 defensive battle between Southern (4-7) and victorious Bullitt Central (7-4). The Cougars handed it to the Trojans three months ago, but the offense that couldn't be stopped on that night was nowhere to be found in last Friday's rematch. The Cougars were held to less than half of their yardage output from the first game.

Region III

Generally speaking, teams advance the ball up and down the field one of two ways - running and/or passing. If you hope to have even a sliver of a chance to beat Covington Catholic, you'd better be proficient in at least one, if not both. In a wholly one sided mismatch, CovCath (11-0) held Woodford County (2-9) to a whopping 2 yards of offense. That's three yards passing and -1 rushing. The only negative for the Colonels, if you even want to call it that, was Casey McGinness’ failure to reach 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. The Mr. Football candidate's night ended at 97 yards with three touchdowns. CovCath advances to entertain Montgomery County (9-2) in Round 2. The Indians topped Dixie Heights with Round 1’s most exciting finish. MoCo wide receiver Pharoah Davis caught a touchdown pass with twelve seconds remaining in regulation to lift his team over the red Colonels (1-10) in a game that was much closer than the records suggested it would be. Where would Montgomery County be without Davis? Probably breaking out the basketballs. The 6’4” WR/DB caught six balls for 116 yards and 3 TDs (including the game winner), as well as a 97 yard pick-six.

Highlands (9-2) began its journey toward another shot at the defending champs with a brisk 36-7 victory over Madison Southern. Grady Cramer passed for 189 yards and 3 TDs. In all, five different Birds found paydirt. This concluded a disappointing 2-9 season for MadSouth, coming off their best season in school history. As for Highlands, all that stands between them and another possible shot at their archrival is a trip to Anderson County and a tussle with the unbeaten Bearcats, who've had two weeks to prepare for this match-up.

Region IV

Every team wants to be playing its best ball during the playoffs. It appears that Pulaski County (9-2) is doing just that. The Maroons are peaking at the most opportune time. Their 61-0 rout of Whitley County gives them eight wins in a row, their best streak since winning twelve straight in 2015 during their run to the 5A championship game. Wiley Cain and Jake Sloan were at it again, connecting eight times for 142 yards. Cain had 320 yards and 4 TD passes all together on the night. Pulaski's defense created four turnovers to aid in Whitley's demise. This sets up a rematch between the Maroons and Lincoln County (7-4), 22-7 winners over homestanding Letcher County Central. The Patriots got it done against the Cougars almost entirely on the ground. More specifically, they got it done behind the legs of running back Darius Napier. He accounted for 158 of Lincoln's 212 yards of offense and all three touchdowns.

Southwestern (9-2) had to make do without the services of its best player to defeat Perry County Central, 21-0. Drew Sawyers, an impact player in all three phases of the game, was not in uniform for the Warriors. In his absence, David Crabtree connected on three of four passes for 91 yards, 87 of which is credited to sophomore RB Dylan Bland. He teamed with freshman Chase Doan to rush for 165 yards. Bland was responsible for all three of Southwestern's scores. PCC running back Jayden Neace closed out his career with 138 yards on the ground, but he was pretty much the entirety of the Commodores’ offense, as the Warriors’ defense took away every other option PCC (8-3) had. Neace ends his time at PCC with 5,748 career rushing yards and 70 TDs.

Southwestern will now travel to Harlan County (4-6) for a rematch of last year's regional final, unexpectedly won by the Black Bears. Harlan County ran through, over, and around South Laurel for 408 rushing yards in their 39-19 first round win. Running back and defensive back Patrick Bynum was the most impactful player on the field, rushing for 182 yards and two touchdowns, on top of recording three interceptions and returning one for a score. The Black Bears led 32-3 through three quarters before South Laurel (5-6) added a couple of scores in the 4th to make the score more respectable. Now it's time to find out if Harlan County has some more postseason magic brewing in those deep, dark hills.