Round 1 Recap - No surprises were expected in the far reaches of Kentucky's westernmost 5A district. Owensboro got the ball rolling with a 40-0 rout of Muhlenberg County, and Graves County followed suit with a 28-0 shutout of Grayson County. Gavin Wimsatt threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns for the Red Devils, who secured their sixth ten (10) win season in the last seven years. Graves County got big nights from QB John Brown (231 yards passing/3 TDs) and Clint McKee (227 yards from scrimmage/3 TDs) to carry the Eagles through to the second round.
District 1 Championship: Graves County (7-4) at Owensboro (10-1)
Right from the start, this felt like Owensboro's district to lose. The Red Devils have persevered through a pair of major injury setbacks in the preseason without ever losing their place as district favorite. If anyone was going to challenge them, it was Graves County. The Eagles returned enough important pieces this year - including FBS prospect Cody Goatley - to earn a spot in the BGP preseason top 10. They emerged a little bruised and battered from a rugged early season schedule to win six of their last seven games. That one loss was a 27-8 defeat to the team they'll see this Friday. The rigorous schedule they endured looked like it was paying off on October 18th. Owensboro clung to a 13-8 halftime lead, aided by a couple of costly turnovers committed by Graves County in the Devils' red zone. A couple of Wimsatt to Treyvon Tinsley touchdown connections in the second half helped create some breathing room for Owensboro. Despite the three score margin, the Red Devils knew they were in a scrap that night. If Graves could have come away with points on those drives, who knows how it might have altered how things played out in Mayfield.
This time around, the Eagles will do the road work, making the 2 ½ hour bus trip to Rash Stadium to face a confident Owensboro team further bolstered by the return of Austin Gough. If Graves can cut out the drive killing turnovers, they could keep this close for a while, but ultimately the Red Devils should prove too much again. They have too many playmakers on offense and a defense that hasn't wavered all season.
Prediction: Owensboro 34 Graves County 7
Round 1 Recap - Bowling Green pounced on Christian County, triggering a third quarter running clock and mercifully ending an 0-11 season for the Colonels. Conner Cooper only misfired on two of his seventeen throws and distributed the ball amongst several receivers.
South Warren received a far stiffer challenge from Greenwood to complete their half of the anticipated district championship equation. Spartan fans couldn't breathe easy until a 14-0 fourth quarter broke open an eight point game. South Warren turned in a defensive gem, limiting the Gators to just five yards rushing.
District 2 Championship: South Warren (10-1) at Bowling Green (7-3)
One of the state's more hotly anticipated postseason rematches is upon us. In three short years, the BG/SW series has gone from nonexistent to one of 5A's centerpiece rivalries, and being in the same district means we'll probably be treated to multiple encounters per season more often than not.
This has been a funky season, in some respects, for the Purples. An inauspicious start against Father Ryan paved the way for criticism that persisted for several weeks. They were robbed of a game by mother nature halfway through the season and lost to a couple of 6A heavyweights, but the crown jewel of their season so far is a 14-3 win over South Warren back in Week 7. The Spartans were playing their second game without quarterback Kaden Veltkamp and it showed. Actually, both offenses struggled mightily in the first half before the Purples broke through with two scores after halftime. Both teams are far more stable at quarterback than they were the first time they met. Save for a bad night against Trinity, Conner Cooper has played well for the Purples over the last few weeks, solidifying himself at the quarterback position after uncertainty behind center earlier in the season. He's not splitting snaps anymore, putting him in a better position to find and sustain rhythm and continuity within the offense. Everyone else in the huddle knows who the man is now. And Mason Willingham has six starts under his belt for South Warren at this point, lessening the possibility that he'll be overwhelmed by the bright light of this game.
Expect both offenses to be sharper from the outset, but this is November football, playoff football. This is the time for defenses to shine, and both of these teams play sound defense.
Prediction: Bowling Green 21 South Warren 17
Round 1 Recap - Fairdale rolled over Iroquois, as expected, but Bullitt Central played its best game of the season to turn a three point win over Doss on October 3rd into a 23 point dragon slaying last Friday.
District 3 Championship: Bullitt Central (5-6) at Fairdale (10-1)
The Bulldogs are the feel good story of 5A this season, riding a ten game winning streak into this game against the Cougars. The first game featured Fairdale's lowest point total of the season, but the defense played one of its best games that night, a 27-7 Bulldog win. Bullitt Central is in good place following their first round win, but this is Fairdale's year. Quarterback Trey McCoy has expertly piloted an offense averaging over fifty points per game over the past six weeks. Who knows how much further they'll go beyond district play, but their high octane offense gets the job done for at least another week.
Prediction: Fairdale 35 Bullitt Central 17
Round 1 Recap - There are some similarities shared between this district and the one directly above: One team hasn't lost since the season opener and the other is a Bullitt County school that won its first round game more decisively than they did the first meeting. The former is South Oldham, who blasted Atherton 48-6, giving them ten wins for the fifth straight season. The latter is North Bullitt, who hung 69 points on Jeffersontown.
District 4 Championship: North Bullitt (7-4) at South Oldham (10-1)
A time tested adage of football is that defense and a strong running game is the foundation for success in the playoffs. South Oldham emphatically checks both of those boxes. The Dragons crammed the ball down North Bullitt's throat in Week 8 to the tune of 13.5 yards per carry while stifling an Eagles offense that averaged 37 ppg this season. Overall, South Oldham has allowed fewer points this year than anyone not named Frederick Douglass. Cole Durbin gives North Bullitt a formidable running threat of their own, but they fail to measure up on the other side of the ball - of the sixteen teams left in 5A, only Madison Southern has allowed more points than North Bullitt's 304.
Prediction: South Oldham 43 North Bullitt 14
Round 1 Recap - No first round game in this class had a microscope on it like Conner hosting Highlands. Despite winning the regular season meeting, most were anticipating a playoff reversal, as if Highlands simply had to flip a switch. As it turned out, the room was too dark for Highlands to even find the switch, let alone turn it on. Instead, Conner consolidated its place above the Birds this season by besting them a second time. Jared Hicks cemented his place in Conner's athletic lore by scoring four touchdowns and accounting for ¾ of the Cougars' offensive yardage. A scoreless first quarter gave way to a wild final 36 minutes before a late interception allowed Conner to run out the clock.
There was no such drama in Park Hills, as CovCath blew Cooper off the field, 41-6, with all 41 points coming in the first half. The Colonels picked off Cooper QB Drew Warth five times.
District 5 Championship: Conner (8-3) at Covington Catholic (11-0)
This might not be the matchup most would have predicted, but it's the most appropriate. Conner earned the right to play for a district championship by beating Highlands, and CovCath is here by virtue of beating... everybody. The Cougars have had a very successful inaugural season in 5A after dropping down a class, and Hicks has proven himself a gutsy field general, but the end of the road is rapidly approaching. You can search every nook and cranny of the first encounter between these two and you're not going to find a legitimate reason why Conner should win this game. The Colonels have the advantage in virtually every phase. The connection between Caleb Jacob and Mayer/Reardon eviscerated Conner's defense in Week 10 for four touchdowns and nearly 30 yards per hook-up.
Both offensively and defensively, Covington Catholic has looked like a team with a singular focus - take apart the team in front of them and continue the march to Kroger Field. This Friday is another step toward that goal.
Prediction: Covington Catholic 38 Conner 7
Round 1 Recap - Douglass and Scott County both put the finishing touches on their collective manhandling of the rest of the district, for which the other schools are surely grateful. They defeated Great Crossing and Montgomery County a combined 93-6 last Friday. The Broncos and Cardinals each averaged around 10 yards per rush against their first round opposition with Darius Neal (FD) and Bronson Brown (SC) topping the century mark and scoring multiple times.
District 6 Championship: Scott County (10-1) at Frederick Douglass (11-0)
There was essentially zero chance these two wouldn't see one another twice this season, though the first meeting did nothing to whet anyone's appetite for the rematch. In one of 5A's most stunning results this year, the Broncos trampled all over the Cardinals on September 27th. That 36-0 trip to the woodshed quieted any doubts about Douglass at #1, at least until CovCath toppled LaSalle (OH). It's rare that Scott County is outgained on the ground, but the Broncos out rushed them 315-139, while neutralizing the Cardinals' dynamic backfield.
But that was then, this is now, and now is cold weather, playoff football. This is typically when Jim McKee's teams play their best, as this time of year is more conducive to their style of play. Look no further than last season, when Scott County bounced back from a three score defeat in the regular season to get some playoff revenge over Douglass. Will it happen again? Anyone expecting another Broncos blowout might end up a little disappointed, because Scott County will almost certainly play better - they can't play much worse than they did the first time, can they? At the end of the day, though, this Frederick Douglass bunch just have a different feel to them. They look ready for their close-up. If they were guilty of overlooking Scott County in the playoffs last year, don't look for them to make that mistake again.
Prediction: Frederick Douglass 35 Scott County 20
Round 1 Recap - East Jessamine kept it all on the ground versus Collins, rushing for 327 yards without attempting a pass. Dylan Moore had three touchdowns and nearly 200 yards in the Jags' 50-6 destruction of the Titans. Meanwhile, Madison Southern took a page from East Jessamine's playbook and utilized a run heavy approach to beat Woodford County, 50-20. Adrian Jones and Tobias Storm combined for 343 yards and six touchdowns on just nine carries - a staggering 38 yards per carry.
District 7 Championship: Madison Southern (6-5) at East Jessamine (9-2)
East Jessamine has been quietly rolling along, under the radar, putting together a fantastic season. They've scored almost at will over their last seven games, averaging 46 ppg during that stretch behind 5A's most productive running game. However, there has been one noticeable defensive hiccup during this seven game win streak - the Jags allowed 35 points and a balanced 369 yards to the team they'll see this Friday, Madison Southern.
MadSouth's record might not strike fear into the hearts of opponents at this point in the season, but they've been competitive in most of their losses. One troubling tidbit for the Eagles from October 4th's 49-35 East Jessamine win: three different Jaguars ran for over a hundred yards, giving them a balanced three headed monster in the backfield that piled up 413 yards. As was stated earlier, a stout running game is almost an essential ingredient to advance in November. East Jessamine has just that, and they'll march on, continuing their best season in fifteen years. Expect another competitive game, but the Jags should grind out the win.
Prediction: East Jessamine 42 Madison Southern 27
Round 1 Recap - Southwestern backed up its upset of Pulaski County a couple of weeks ago with 17-7 win last Friday, the state's only four seed over one seed outcome. But don't think of the playoff win as an upset, Southwestern is the better team as we dip our toes into postseason waters. Pulaski lost its QB during the regular season game and completely fell apart, unable to find a Plan B and manufacture enough offense. The Warriors now turn their attention to Whitley County, who survived another close call against North Laurel. The Jaguars pulled within a point late in the fourth quarter and opted to go for two and the win, but couldn't convert, allowing the Colonels to hang on.
District 8 Championship: Southwestern (6-5) at Whitley County (8-3)
Relative to how their season began, no one in 5A has more momentum than Southwestern right now. A 2-5 record through seven games has given way to a four game winning streak. Whitley County hasn't exactly been slackin' lately, winning six in a row since back to back losses to Bell County and a full strength Pulaski. More pertinent to this week is the Colonels' 14-0 win over the Warriors on October 11th. Both teams are playing well, but it's important to keep in mind that most of Southwestern's buzz has been generated by two wins over a neutered Pulaski squad. These teams are very evenly matched and this game should be hotly contested to the final whistle.
Prediction: Whitley County 20 Southwestern 13
Projected Third Round Matchups Based On The Above Results
Whitley County at Covington Catholic
East Jessamine at Frederick Douglass
Fairdale at Owensboro
Bowling Green at South Oldham