South-Central Kentucky Football Playoff Preview
South-Central Kentucky Football Playoff Preview
Bowling Green (9-0) – The Purples entered the year as the heavy favorite in 5A and have done nothing whatsoever to lighten that impression. Led by a senior class that is 27 strong, they have established themselves as nothing less than the best team in the state regardless of class.
You can’t talk about the Purples without starting with Mr. Football candidate Nacarius Fant. The WKU commit has amassed an impressive 1,139 yards on just 61 catches, 17 of them going for TDs. Thanks to a weather cancellation in the second week of the year, that’s in just 9 games, good enough for an average of 127 yards per game. Add in the fact that he’s played sparingly or not at all during the second half of their many blowouts, and you get the picture – dominance.
Throwing the ball to Fant is one of the most underrated passers in the state, senior Devin Hayes. Hayes has 2,289 yards and a 33:4 TD:INT ratio. Hayes has completed just under 72% of his passes on 195 attempts, an incredibly accurate rate. It’s almost not fair for a team to have a QB that is pinpoint accurate wherever he is throwing it and a WR that possesses perhaps the best hands in the state and an elusiveness that makes up for a (perceived) lack of speed. And that’s to say nothing of a talented stable of running backs including the bruiser Blue Tisdale (111/601/13) and Blake Pillow (42/276/6) that runs behind a powerful offensive line. And a defense that is allowing 15 points per game. Yeah, these guys are good. 5A – good luck to ya. The march begins against Owensboro Apollo.
Best Case Scenario: The Purples are crowned for the third consecutive year and carry a 44 game win streak into the next season with a shot at history. No hooks and ladders needed this time as the Purples win by an average of 30 PPG in the postseason.
South Warren (9-1) – One game changed the Spartans from a runaway train to favorite status in 3A to merely contenders, but their humbling 8-3 loss at 6A Daviess County shined a light on a somewhat troubling reality – their defense is one of the best in the state but perhaps their offense is not quite what it needs to be.
The offense has suffered with the absence of Joel Iyiegbuniwe, who has not played since the fourth game of the year with a blood disorder. It is not known when, or if, he will play again. It leaves the Spartans without one of their most talented playmakers, a player that can line up anywhere on offense and a powerful linebacker to boot. Offensively the load has been shouldered by Julius Allen, the lead running back with 508 yards on 86 rushes. Allen is mostly a straight line runner, mowing down those in his path rather than shift around them. Far more shifty is the dual threat QB Jay Eblen, who leads the team in rushing with 723 yards on 109 attempts and 15 TDs. He supplements that with 620 yards passing and 6 TDs against 4 INTs. Still, only 2700 yards of offense is not exactly what you’d expect from a 9-1 team……
……unless they have a defense that has allowed 25 points. Not 25 points per game mind you, 25 points TOTAL. On the year. And 42 yards rushing. Again, TOTAL on the year. Yes, their schedule has been lacking but goodness, there’s not a collection of teams out there that wouldn’t be impressive numbers against. The Spartans definitely make their hay on defense, but there are concerns that teams with speed – like at matchup in the region finals with Paducah Tilghman or the state semifinals with Central, may be their undoing. The Spartans open up with Webster County, and will likely host dangerous Fort Campbell before taking the trip west to Paducah.
Best Case Scenario: Continually underestimated because of a weak schedule, the Spartans continue to grind opposing offenses into dust and it carries them to an unbelievable state title as a third year program. In all, the Spartans allow only 60 points through 15 games.
THE DARK HORSE
Glasgow (9-1) – Like South Warren, Glasgow had some of the wind taken out of their sails as a statewide contender with a midseason loss. Theirs was a 35-13 pasting on the road by Somerset. At the time Somerset was considered to be on the outside looking in of 2A. Another hit to their status is just the sheer weight of the schedule they’d have to go through to win 2A. They face a potential second round game against DeSales, then a region final at Christian Academy, then a state semifinal at Caldwell County. For those of you keeping score, that’s successive games against BGP’s #3, #2, and #1 rated teams just to get to the state championship. Ugh.
The Scotties have been led by three standouts offensively. Marquez Trigg entered the year as part of a fairly even split with Quentel Bradley, and while they still receive similar carries on the game, Trigg has established himself as the more dominant back with 1,114 yards on 141 carries and 16 TDs. He’s even chipped in for the passing game with 5 receptions for 102 yards and a TD. Which isn’t to say Bradley hasn’t been impressive in his own right, with a respectable 5.87 YPC average for 716 yards and 6 TDs. Ryan Hinkley has been solid in the passing game with 1,167 yards through the air and 15 TDs. They are complimented by a defense that has forced 17 takeaways and is allowing about 12.5 points per game on the year. Still, with that schedule, it is hard to foresee a run to glory. If they do take home the title, they may have done more to earn it by any team in the state. They open with a gimmie against Washington County.
Best Case Scenario: The Scotties find the right mix and pull the upsets over DeSales and Christian Academy. But the unlikely run ends at the hands of preseason favorite Caldwell County – just as was presumed prior to the season.
Warren Central (5-5) – If Warren Central were a class lower as they will likely be in two years, they may have achieved dark horse status. But there’s a big reason why this team has made three straight region title games and hasn’t won a single one, and that’s the team that has personally seen to it that they lost the last two, Bowling Green. The Purples essentially blot out the sun and the Dragons can’t escape the shadow. Perhaps next year will provide some relief.
As for this season, if the Dragons are to pull the greatest upset, it will likely rest on the shoulders of QB Chris Porter-Bunton. The converted WR has had an uneven year – something you’d expect from a player that entered his senior year with 9 career passing attempts. Porter-Bunton has completed 46% of his attempts for 882 yards and 8 TDs, but provides some athleticism at the position that can make the Dragons a little bit more difficult to defend. That’s carried him to 466 yards rushing and 11 TDs on the ground. He is complimented in the ground attack by Rondell Green and Daryen Ross, who have rushed for 430 yards and 426 yards respectively. The Dragons are averaging over 37 points per game despite their 5-5 record, but possess only one truly good win, that a 28-7 road win over Owensboro. The majority of their schedule has seen them lose the games they’re supposed to and win when expected. Expect that to continue in the playoffs as the Dragons should roll over Hopkinsville to set up a potential second round game against Graves County – which should be a total tossup.
Best Case Scenario: The schedule was difficult, but it forged the Dragons into steel and taught them valuable lessons that they used to pull out the road win over Graves County in the second round for the second straight year – again denying Graves County the multiple win postseason they so desperately seek. But in a case of déjà vu’, Bowling Green ends their season for the third straight year in the region finals. The Dragons will have to wait another year to break through.
Warren East (6-4) – It’s been a hard fall for the Raiders off of their 13-1 state semifinal run last year. They became the first Warren County Public School team to finish a regular season unbeaten, but their first game against South Warren heralded a new reality this year with a 35-0 loss. It was an ugly start as they lost QB Austen Pagel for the season in that game, and have really struggled ever since to get production from that position – at least through the air. Backup Antwan Gilbert averages just 40 yards passing a game on 21/48 passing for 277 yards and 2 TDs. But the most production they’ve gotten out of the spot has come from the best hope the Raiders have – for you see, they have Eli Brown and you don’t.
Brown (recently decomitted from Vandy) has rushed for 1,033 yards on the year on just 125 attempts, and at times has taken snaps at the QB position, including against Hopkinsville when he racked up 336 yards on the ground. But what has really assisted the Raiders has been the emergence of Antonio Shields. Shields has had two games this season where he’s topped 200 rushing yards, and has 672 yards on 100 carries with 7 TDs. The two headed attack has accounted for 80% of Warren East’s total offensive output on the year. Defensively, the standout is of course Brown at the linebacker position, but linebacker Matt Hughes has stepped up to be the team leader in tackles with 44 solos, keying a Raider attack that has forced 16 takeaways.
Eli Brown went down with an injury against Logan County, but as long as that doesn’t prove serious, the Raiders should be able to breathe relatively easy in the first round against Calloway County, but will have to travel to Rash Stadium to take on region favorite and BGP Top 10 team Owensboro in the second round.
Best Case Scenario: The Raiders ride Eli Brown and Antonio Shields to a second round upset of Owensboro, then redeem themselves from their 37-7 regular season loss by ending Franklin-Simpson’s quest for a region title. The road ends when Collins comes to Bowling Green for a repeat performance of last year’s drubbing in the state semifinals.
THE CUBBIES (AKA – WAIT TIL’ NEXT YEAR)
Allen County-Scottsville (4-6) – The middle of the year showed signs of the Patriots recovering from their post-2010 funk, but they’ve fallen flat at the end with three consecutive losses –albeit to decent teams - to virtually assure themselves of another losing record. The Patriots have suffered only one truly bad loss on the year, a 17-6 loss to Greenwood in Week 2. Other than that, it’s been losses to contenders (Mercer County, Glasgow, Monroe County), and teams just on the fringe (Warren East, Franklin-Simpson). But it’s the loss to Franklin-Simpson that was the most disappointing. A year ago the Patriots earned a home playoff game with a 27-14 win over Franklin-Simpson, but the tables were turned this year as the Patriots, needing a win to force a tie atop the district, fell hard 35-7 in Franklin. The loss relegated them to third place and the road, and an unwelcome sight on the road against Madisonville-North Hopkins in the opener. The Maroons have eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs the last two seasons.
It’s not all doom and gloom for AC/S. They’ve had an incredible season from their tailback Charlie Trapp, who has amassed 1,280 yards on 154 carries and 17 TDs. Trapp has accounted for more than 45% of their total offensive effort. Midseason replacement Jessie Bow has been helpful at the QB position, gaining 554 yards through the air with 5 TDs in the modest Patriot passing attack. Still, there’s little hope for the 13 seniors, including Trapp, to advance.
Best Case Scenario: The Maroons have been a team that at times could not seem to get out of their own way. The Patriots do what they’ve done the past two years – stay within striking distance and play them closer than expected – with the twist that they pull the last second upset this time before falling to Franklin-Simpson again in the second round.
Greenwood (3-7) – There was a lot to like about Greenwood entering the year. They returned a 2,000 yard passer in senior Josh Dyer and there was a lot of optimism surrounding new head coach Chris Seabolt and a new philosophy of two-platoon football. But it hasn’t panned out on the field. The writing was there from day 1, when an improved Hopkinsville team unexpectedly ran the Gators off the field in the second half of a 35-6 Tiger win at The Swamp. After a temporary stabilization of a 17-6 win over Allen County-Scottsville – easily the best win of the year for Greenwood – they collapsed again by dropping 6 of their last 8 games. Their only two wins in that span came against teams that are a combined 2-18. Their struggles have mostly fallen on the shoulders of the offense. Aside from a 62-0 win over Logan County, the Gators have scored 63 points in their other games combined, with three shutouts and two other games with just 6 points. It’s no shock that the only three times they topped 10 points have yielded their three wins. Thanks to a loss to Barren County that snapped a 7 game win streak against the Trojans, the Gators are the #4 seed and will hit the long road to Graves County to open the playoffs.
Best Case Scenario: This season may have been a struggle, but the institution of platoon football will help provide building blocks for the future. Greenwood keeps it somewhat respectable in losing to Graves County, and the players hit the weight room inspired in the offseason and a hunger to do better in Year 2 under Coach Seabolt.
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