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The Quarterfinal Round Delivers No Surprises

Anyone hoping for some November chaos in 5A, went to bed Friday night feeling a pang of disappointment. All four quarterfinal games saw the favorite advance - Bowling Green was the decided favorite here at BGP, despite being on the road.

Top ranked Covington Catholic ran the score against Madison Southern out to 49-0 before the Eagles tacked on a safety and touchdown against CovCath's backups in the fourth quarter. The running clock was triggered in the first half. Daniel Felix was the star of the night for the Colonels, scoring four touchdowns, while Caleb Jacob tossed a pair of touchdown passes, one to Michael Mayer, the other to Andy Molique. Tobias Storm was responsible for Madison Southern's touchdown, a five yard run.

Frederick Douglass had to wait a little longer to run the clock on Southwestern, but the end result was the same - a comprehensive victory for the heavy favorite. FD's Josh McClurg had nearly 200 yards passing and a couple of scores, and Darius Neal rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Tanner Wright scored Southwestern's lone touchdown on a long run in the third quarter.

To the chagrin of many in Louisville, Fairdale's clock struck midnight in Owensboro. You had a feeling it was coming, partly because Owensboro is pretty darn good and partly because of the Bulldogs' close call in the second round versus a sub-par Bullitt Central. The Red Devils' defense delivered again, holding 5A's highest scoring offense forty points below its average. They've kept pace with Douglass and CovCath as one of the top defensive teams in Kentucky. Gavin Wimsatt (266 total yards/2 TDs), Treyvon Tinsley (114 receiving yards/2 TDs), and Ethan Avery (144 rushing yards/2 TDs) had very productive nights for an Owensboro offense that more than doubled up Fairdale in yardage.

The last quarterfinal, pitting South Oldham versus Bowling Green, was the only competitive one of the lot. It was clear the Purples had a fight on their hands after the Dragons scored on the game's opening possession, chewing up nearly half of the first quarter in the process. South Oldham scored on its first and last possessions of the first half, sandwiching a pair of BG scores. The Dragons shot themselves in the foot in the third quarter, when they immediately fumbled the ball away after an interception set them up at the Bowling Green 27. They had a chance to get points there and put pressure back on the Purples, but instead, BG recovered the fumble and proceeded to produce a go-ahead touchdown drive. The Purples amped up the defense a notch or two in the second half to escape Crestwood with a 28-14 win. Javy Bunton scored two rushing touchdowns for Bowling Green and Ethan Bednarczyk accounted for both of South Oldham's scores.



Class 5A Semifinals

Owensboro (12-1) at Frederick Douglass (13-0)

When it comes to high school football, as the temperature falls, the stakes rise. And the stakes are at an all-time high for a young Frederick Douglass program looking to prove the doubters wrong and show that they are more than just an all-star collection of talented individuals. The playoff win over Scott County has gone a long way toward backing up the confidence the Broncos exude, but there is much work still to be done, and that work will only get more challenging from here on.

The next hurdle comes in the form of an Owensboro team playing its most meaningful game in five years, since the 2014 4A championship game against Highlands. To their immense credit, the Red Devils have overcome some injury setbacks to field one of their best teams in recent memory. The defense, especially, has been a constant, week after week. They haven't allowed more than two touchdowns in any one game this season and have pitched six shutouts, second most in the state behind Douglass' nine - that's right, nine shutouts in thirteen games. If you like cold, late November playoff games featuring great defense, then Friday night on "The Farm" looks like the place to be, at least on paper. So often, games that have the feel of a low scoring, war of attrition will subvert those expectations. With the athletes on the field for both of these teams, don't be surprised to see the scoreboard operator get more of a workout than the defensive numbers would suggest.

Random Observations

1. Owensboro needs to limit the big plays. Accept that one or two will slip through the cracks, but keep Dane Key, Devin Neal, and Josh McClurg in front of you. If you're staring at the backs of their jerseys, you're in for a long night.

2. Douglass' offensive line has given McClurg all day to make decisions this season and now is not the time to start giving ground. Owensboro should present the Broncos with their stiffest challenge to date in the trenches. Kobe Skortz, Yovani Sales, Jaden Greathouse, Trace Grenier, and a healthy Austin Gough versus Walker Parks, Jager Burton, and Co. is a key position battle that should go a long way toward deciding the outcome.

Prediction: Frederick Douglass 27 Owensboro 14



Bowling Green (9-3) at Covington Catholic (13-0)

Covington Catholic and Bowling Green. The blue Colonels and the purple… uh, Purples. The mention of these two football superpowers evokes memories of great players and championships from both the distant and recent past. They've combined for thirteen state championships over the past three decades and have met twice with a title on the line - 1994 and 2006, both CovCath wins.

The Colonels have been pushed to their absolute limit only once this season, a 39-38 win over Lexington Catholic. The defense has not had a single off night since, allowing five points per game over the last ten weeks. And since the Highlands game, the offense has returned to form and caught up with the defense, in terms of week to week consistency.

Bowling Green has taken a less direct path to get to this point. They've gotten "dinged" a few times this season and haven't been the explosive offensive machine that has typically propelled them to their previous, deep playoff runs. The defense, however, has been their saving grace, especially in playoff wins over South Warren and South Oldham. This is BG's best defensive unit since their championship years.

Random Observations

1. Running into the teeth of CovCath's defense has proven an arduous task this season. You might as well find the nearest brick wall and repeatedly bang your head against it. There's not much difference. Bowling Green would likely benefit from emphasizing the short passing game, hitting their running backs with some swing passes into the flats as an alternative/extension to the run game, and Conner Cooper's ability to make things happen with his legs when the pocket breaks down could come in handy.

2. Word is that Vito Tisdale suffered a significant injury against South Oldham. If he's diminished, or worse yet, absent, to what degree will that alter CovCath's game plan? His versatility has been on full display this season, making an impact at all three levels of the defense. The BG secondary at full strength was already going to have its hands full with Mayer, Reardon, and Molique. You've got to figure that some Tisdale on Mayer action was in the works. If he's a no-go, that leaves a giant void on that side of the ball for CovCath to exploit.

Prediction: Covington Catholic 35 Bowling Green 20