Class 5A Playoff Preview
Region I (District 1 vs. District 2)
Region one has traditionally been a solid region that is chock full of some of the best teams in the class. This year is no different as it is absolutely loaded with four of the 8 teams in the region currently residing in the BGP top ten. Even sixth ranked South Warren gets a tough first round game versus #12 Graves County. One would think that #2 Bowling Green would get a cupcake in the opening round, yet they enter the playoffs facing off against rival Owensboro, a team sitting just outside of the top 15. There isnít a single team in the class that would want to be staring down a hungry Red Devils team in the opening round.
The (8-2) Purples are still the favorite to win the region however. After two early season losses to 6A Pleasure Ridge Park and St. Xavier the young Purples have grown up quickly, winning seven straight by a combined score of 320-60. Including lopsided wins over sixth ranked South Warren as well as a 48-21 win over first round opponent Owensboro. While the Purples look to be the favorite to win the region, for the first time in a long time they will have to play three solid games of football to do so, as the road to the regional championship appears to be much tougher this season than in recent years.
Christian County is the only team in the region that looks to have an opportunity to coast through their opening round game, giving them the opportunity to rest some players. One of two undefeated teams in the class, the Colonels open up the playoffs versus a one win Barren County team. While the outcome of the Colonelís first round game is not in question, things will get much tougher in the second round as they will face the winner of South Warren and Graves County. Just a few weeks ago, Christian County needed overtime to beat #12 Graves County on the road. Christian County would get home field advantage in the rematch, however South Warren may keep that rematch from happening.
Speaking of South Warren and Graves County, both teams are looking to make some noise in the playoffs and appear primed to potentially upset a higher ranked team. Four years ago, Graves County upset a Bowling Green team that had not lost to an in state team all season and looked to be a favorite to win yet another championship. Meanwhile, South Warren has essentially shocked the state in their inaugural class 5A season. Most, myself included, expected them to struggle a bit this season, yet the Spartans have proved the majority wrong posting an (8-2) record in the regular season with their only in state loss coming to the Purples. If there is a canít miss opening round game in this class, this one is it!
Apollo has been another pleasant surprise this season. After finishing last season with only two wins the Eagles have turned things around in short notice, posting seven wins this season, including solid wins over 2A Owensboro Catholic, Graves County and Owensboro. They open the playoffs with the Gators from Greenwood, who dropped off a bit from last season. However, with the exception of the Christian County/Barren County game there isnít a gimme in the opening round of this region. If Apollo wants to advance they will have to remain focussed against a Greenwood offense that is very hard to defend.
Region I Championship: Bowling Green 42 South Warren 21
Region II (District 3 vs. District 5)
Unfortunately due to cross bracketing, this region includes district 5 this season, which is where the number one team in the class, Covington Catholic resides. With cross bracketing, this region now has two top five teams, as well as #11 Highlands fighting it out to play the region one winner in the state semifinals.
This region looks to be a two horse race, with undefeated Covington Catholic being a clear favorite, unless they trip themselves up somewhere along the way. Itís rare for a team to get a bye week in the opening round of the playoffs, however fourth ranked South Oldham was given one due to district 5 being a three team district.
Neutral observers have mentioned that this may be the best Covington Catholic team ever. A handful of rival fans claim that Covington Catholic fans are saying the same, however for the most part that does not seem to be the case. If the Colonels do in fact run the table this season, given their out of state competition, as well as their upcoming playoff opponents, this may very well be the best Colonel team in history.
South Oldham gets a week of rest during the opening round to prepare for the winner between Highlands and Oldham County. Given Covington Catholicís 52-0 win over #11 Highlands for the district championship, it appears that fourth ranked South Oldham may be the only team that stands in the way of a clash between Covington Catholic and the region one winner.
Region II Championship: Covington Catholic 56 South Oldham 21
Region III (District 4 vs. District 6)
Outside of region one, this region looks to be the strongest in the class, as it features three top ten teams in Doss, Fern Creek and Madison Southern, along with #13 Montgomery County. Donít forget about a solid Anderson County team, that happened to be in the top 15 discussion prior to their losses to Madison Southern and Montgomery County. Like region one, this region will offer plenty of exciting matchups, as well as no clear favorite to win the region. In fact, this region may turn out to be more competitive than region one.
While Madison Southern may have a slight edge in this region, it isnít measurable by most standards. They and Doss share the same record of 7-3, while the only thing separating Fern Creek from those two teams is a one point loss to Doss. This is by far the hardest region to pick a winner as there will likely be an upset or two by the time these teams are done fighting it out.
Madison Southern, Doss, as well as Montgomery County, should all win their first round games convincingly, while Fern Creek gets a solid test versus Anderson County. The second round is where things get really interesting. If the higher seeds win out in the first round, we will see matchups of four top #15 teams in the second round. As a fan of football, this region is certainly a good one to focus on, as the winner of this region may very well be playing in the state championship game.
Region III Championship: Fern Creek 17 Doss 14
Region IV (District 7 vs. District 8)
Region four only features one top ten team in the BGP rankings, Southwestern. Southwestern is sitting at (8-2) on the season and are the favorite to win the region. To do so however, the Warriors will face a tough second round game versus the Whitley County and South Laurel winner, Whitley County is ranked 15th in the BGP poll.
If the Warriors can get the win over Whitley County, look for them to face off against either North Laurel or their cross county rival Pulaski County. Pulaski County is a team that was expected to challenge for the district as well as the region. However the Maroons have struggled to regroup this season losing six games, including a 50-24 loss to Southwestern.
North Laurel, on the other hand, has been a team on the rise this season. The Jaguars are sitting at (8-2) on the season, just like the region favorite Southwestern. While the Jags havenít played as tough of a schedule as Southwestern, they have been in the top 15, even top ten discussion early on in the season. Their two losses to Somerset and an up and down Harlan County team are the only things that have left some questions on the table as to how good the Jags really are.
Region IV Championship: Southwestern 35 North Laurel 28
Itís unfortunate that due to cross bracketing the two best teams in the state are likely to meet up in the semifinals, rather than the championship game. It is what it is though, and hopefully the KHSAA will end this cross bracketing mess in the near future.
Covington Catholic 28 Bowling Green 14
Fern Creek 35 Southwestern 21
Last season, the Tigers of Fern Creek got the best of a solid Covington Catholic team on their way to a state semifinals matchup versus Bowling Green. This year, the Tigers cannot meet the Colonels unless they both meet at Kroger Field in Lexington, which I believe they will.
Covington Catholic 35 Fern Creek 7