Class 5A Notebook (9/1): Instability at the top
Frederick Douglass' roster full of D1 talent persuaded BGP to anoint the Broncos as pre-season top dog in 5A. But over the course of two hours on August 16th, Trinity swiftly began removing the shine from FD's sterling finish. Though it was only a scrimmage, it was as hyped up a scrimmage as we've seen in recent memory, and the result left a bad taste in the mouth of anyone looking for the Broncos to run away with their new class. The lingering doubt from that PrepSpin streamed shellacking carried over into the regular season and left the door wide open for someone else to walk through and grab the top spot. Enter "that team up north", right on cue. A sluggish start for Frederick Douglass against Bryan Station in Week 1 coupled with Scott County stuffing Great Crossing in a locker, afforded the Cardinals a sliver of an opening to usurp the #1 ranking from the Broncos, which they did. But the newly minted #1 Cards were hardly impressive during a 28-19 win over Lafayette on Friday. This was a Lafayette team that got manhandled the previous week by Johnson Central, a team that shares physical and philosophical similarities to the Cardinals. Despite another big game from Philip Garner (168 yards rushing/2 TDs), Scott County underwhelmed and missed an opportunity to solidify themselves at the top of the polls.
We're only two weeks into the season, but this class has more uncertainty at the top than perhaps any other. First Frederick Douglass, then Scott County, then…. who? Back to Frederick Douglass? They just whacked what some thought was a pretty solid Tates Creek team that has some talent. How about Covington Catholic? The Blue Colonels have rolled past two overwhelmed opponents, but their abbreviated body of work doesn't tell us much other than Michael Mayer (five TDs on five touches this season) likes scoring touchdowns and CovCath is really, really hard to run on - they've allowed -46 yards rushing so far. Then there's South Warren, the actual defending champions of 5A. Yeah, they lost a ton of talent, but they've displayed enough promise thus far to keep them near the forefront of 5A's consciousness.
It's still so early, but given what we've already seen and the matchups that lie ahead, 5A has all the makings of a wild ride. Week 3 presents us with opportunities to help start unraveling some of the mysteries at the top of this class. CovCath's defense will face by far its stiffest test from Beau Allen and Lexington Catholic, and Scott County hosts a Manual squad that's looking tough early on and carries a top five ranking in 6A. Plus, South Warren tangles with a Franklin-Simpson team aching for its first win. And what better way for the Wildcats to announce that they're still a force to be reckoned with in 4A than taking down the Spartans? The question is, will Week 3's results do anything to provide us with clarity, or just further muddy the waters?
Elsewhere In The Rankings
- One of the weekend's marquee matchups featured Highlands hitting the road to Corbin for the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic to rep the bluegrass state against Knoxville Catholic. The Fighting Irish are rated among the best in Tennessee and the majority opinion outside of Fort Thomas was that the Birds would take one on the chin. KnoxCath looked the part early on as they established a two touchdown lead in the first quarter. On two separate occasions in the first half, Highlands found themselves at a two score deficit, but they bounced back to tie things up at 21 going into the locker room. Brian Weinrich's squad held a brief lead in the fourth quarter before a KnoxCath TD put the Irish ahead for good with two minutes remaining. Even in defeat, it's hard to deny that Highlands raised its stock, especially considering the Birds went toe-to-toe with a very talented opponent without one of their best offensive weapons, Joe Buten.
- Bowling Green shook off two long second quarter touchdown passes from Elijah Wheat to beat McCracken County 42-14. Wheat and Franklin Hayes hooked up on consecutive possessions to put the Purples in a 0-14 hole before quarterback Conner Cooper ignited the dormant BG offense with a 56 yard touchdown pass to Desmond Wilson. That triggered a tidal wave of 42 unanswered points for the Purples over the remaining two and a half quarters of play. Cooper threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns, both to Wilson, while Javeius Bunton contributed 120 yards and a score on the ground. Bunton is averaging 18 yards per rush through two games.
- The Purples were not the only BG area team to stumble through a rough start before righting the ship and winning going away. South Warren was trailing Warren East 6-3 after a mistake filled first quarter before flipping a switch and laying waste to the Raiders in the second frame 41-0. The Spartans found the endzone five times in the final six minutes of the first half alone. Quarterback Caden Veltkamp completed all four of his TD passes on the night during that second quarter flurry that also included a Jay Whalen pick-six. The entire second half featured Spartan backups putting the finishing touches on the 50-6 rout.
- One of Week 2's best games took place in Monticello between Wayne County and the visiting Maroons of Pulaski County, both ranked in their respective classes. The Cardinals jumped out by two scores before Pulaski WR Grant Oakes snagged a couple of long TD passes from Drew Polston to help put the Maroons in front for good. But Wayne county would not go quietly into the night. They came back to answer each of Pulaski's next two scores to stay within reach late in the fourth quarter. Following Wayne's final score to pull within two with two and a half minutes to play, the Cardinals attempted an onside kick which was promptly fielded at mid-field and returned for a touchdown by Jake Sloan, setting the final score at 35-27. Wayne had one last shot to potentially tie the game up in the final seconds, but Sloan again swooped in to make a decisive play, breaking up a pass at the goal line on fourth down to thwart the Cardinals comeback attempt. Oakes caught three balls for 130 yards and 2 TDs, while Drew Polston threw and ran for a combined four scores.
- Lately there's just something about Owensboro hooking up with Evansville (IN) area teams that produces tension filled four quarter battles. Two years ago the Red Devils dropped a one point contest to Mater Dei and last season they toppled a stout Reitz program by the same margin. This year they were back on the losing end, this time at the hands of Evansville Central, last year's Indiana 4A runner-up and a contender again this season. The defensive struggle culminated with Owensboro QB Gavin Wimsatt being picked off near the goal line with a minute remaining, sealing the Red Devils' fate on this night. Owensboro outgained the Bears in total offense, but were continually turned away in the second half. Ethan Avery accounted for Owensboro's lone score, a short TD run in the third quarter.
Scanning The Periphery
- Greenwood successfully avoided a hangover from its season opening win over Franklin-Simpson by owning the third quarter against Warren Central. The Gators stretched a three point halftime edge into a comfortable 53-28 lead heading into the final frame. David Odom sandwiched two TD runs around a Reed Slone scoring jaunt as Greenwood outscored the Dragons 22-0 in the deciding period of play. Both Odom and Slone topped the century mark on the ground and combined to score seven of the Gator's eight TDs in the wild, back and forth 59-42 shootout.
- Cooper's offense might not be lighting up the scoreboard yet, but the Jeremiah Lee experiment has shown signs of bearing fruit. Lee accounted for both the the Jags' touchdowns - one rushing, one receiving - in their 13-7 win over 2A #5 Newport Central Catholic and totalled around 250 all-purpose yards. However, the real story to Cooper's 2-0 start is centered around their defense. NewCath's fourth quarter touchdown was the first points the Jaguars have surrendered this year, and they've been the beneficiary of seven turnovers in the first two weeks.
- Trailing Madison Southern by 2 TDs in the fourth quarter, Southwestern summoned its "Warrior(s) spirit" to score twice in the final six minutes of the game to force overtime. Following a MadSouth touchdown on its first play of OT, Austin Barnes ran one in to pull Southwestern within a point. Rather than opt for a shot at double OT, Coach Jason Foley displayed a little intestinal fortitude and chose to go for two and the win. Barnes' name was called again, and again he delivered, making good on the conversion and helping earn Foley his first win with the Warriors.
- It's two up and two down for Coach Bryson Warner at Boone County. His Rebels moved to 2-0 behind the strong running of Evan Curee (177 yards and 2 TDs) in a 34-28 win over Dunbar. It was not smooth sailing to the finish line however, as the Rebels had to fend off a fourth quarter rally by the Bulldogs. They cut a 34-13 Boone lead down to the final margin with two TDs in the final minutes. Following a successful onside kick, the Rebels' defense slammed the door shut on any hopes Dunbar may have had of completing the comeback.
- Grayson County's defense and quarterback Hunter Gibson are shining bright in the early stages of the season. The Cougars shut out Nelson County on Friday and held them to just 82 yards of offense. Through two games they've allowed six points and 183 total yards. Gibson once again paced the offense, rushing for 122 yards and 3 TDs plus another through the air.
- Q'Daryius McHenry followed up last week's 274 yards from scrimmage and 4 TDs with another monster outing, this time attached to a victory. The star running back amassed nearly 250 yards rushing and four more TDs, the last of which came in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to lift Ohio County past McLean County, 46-42.
Game Of The Week (3)
Covington Catholic vs. Lexington Catholic - Two of Kentucky's Mr. Football front-runners share the field as Beau Allen and the Knights travel north on I-75 to Park Hills for a clash with Michael Mayer and the Colonels. These two programs have had their share of close games over the years, but the last time they saw one another, CovCath's 2017 freight train ran roughshod over a then sophomore Allen and LexCath, 48-2.