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Class 5A Playoff Preview

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The leaves have turned and temperatures are plummeting. Around here, that means one thing… It's playoff time!

 

This season, the KHSAA has instituted two major changes to the postseason format. Firstly, rounds one and two will be played within each district, as opposed to the sister district format of years past. Think of the first two rounds as the football equivalent of the district tournaments we have in basketball, baseball, softball, etc. District champions will be decided at the conclusion of the second round.

 

At that point, the second major alteration to the playoff format takes center stage. The new RPI system will seed the eight remaining district champions, keeping the east and west separate. The four teams in each semi-state will be seeded 1-4, with the top seed hosting #4 and #2 hosting #3. For the semifinals, the RPI rankings will again be used to seed the remaining four teams, this time with the barrier separating east and west removed. Again, #1 hosts #4 and #2 hosts #3. The two victors will then convene at Kroger Field for the state championship.

 

Below is a breakdown of the district rounds with projected outcomes for each game.

 

 

District 1

No surprises here, as Owensboro carried the flag of district favorite from the preseason till now, despite losing their two best players to injury. They outscored the other four teams in the district a combined 173-16. Graves County, Grayson County, and Muhlenberg County finished with the two, three, and four seeds, respectively.

 

#4 Muhlenberg County (4-6) at #1 Owensboro (9-1)

Any hopes of an upset here should become dust in the wind shortly after kickoff. The Red Devils smoked the Mustangs 54-0 on October 3rd. Thirteen different players touched the football for Owensboro and they held Muhlenberg to just 31 yards of offense, including -8 rushing. Expect more of the same on Friday.

 

Prediction: Owensboro 49 Muhlenberg County 0

 

#3 Grayson County (7-3) at #2 Graves County (6-4)

The 21-10 Eagles win on October 11th might suggest a competitive rematch is forthcoming, but when you consider that Grayson's lone touchdown was the result of an early pick-six before Graves County took control of the game, a more decisive outcome is more likely this time around. The Eagles got a combined 281 yards rushing from Clint McKee and Cody Goatley that night, while holding the Cougars to just 59 yards of offense. Grayson did an admirable job this year overcoming the transfer loss of their best player, Q'Daryius Jennings, but it ends here.

 

Prediction: Graves County 28 Grayson County 7

 

 

Projected District 1 Championship Game: Graves County at Owensboro

 

Prediction: Owensboro 35 Graves County 8

 

 

 

 

District 2

This is 5A's only four team district, ensuring that everyone made the playoffs, even winless Christian County. Greenwood got off to a 4-0 start and cracked the BGP top 10 before losing five of six down the stretch, but the story of this district was always going to come down to Bowling Green and South Warren. A rematch between the Purples and Spartans for the district championship seems inevitable.

 

#4 Christian County (0-10) at #1 Bowling Green (6-3)

This has been a season that Coach Lovelace and the Colonels would probably just as soon move on from, but they've got at least one more game left before they can turn the page - a first round date with the Purples, the team that handed them a 49-0 beating a couple of weeks ago. Christian County showed signs of life against McCracken County last Friday, but it's a safe assumption that Bowling Green will regroup after the four touchdown setback to Trinity and roll on to the second round.

 

Prediction: Bowling Green 43 Christian County 0

 

#3 Greenwood (5-5) at #2 South Warren (9-1)

The Spartans are the easy pick here, but they might want to avoid another first half malaise like they experienced back in Week 9. They sleep walked to a 9-8 halftime deficit against the Gators before waking up and asserting themselves in the third quarter and eventually winning by three scores. The win streak busting loss to Bowling Green two weeks earlier and the subsequent bye week may have contributed to South Warren's less than stellar showing that night. Winning games in November is a trait that runs in the Smith family. Look for a sharp, focused Spartan squad this Friday.

 

Prediction: South Warren 42 Greenwood 13

 

 

Projected District 2 Championship Game: South Warren at Bowling Green

 

Prediction: Bowling Green 21 South Warren 17

 

 

 

 

District 3

Fairdale raced through the regular season district slate without much resistance, making them 5A's most unlikely #1 seed. Preseason favorite Bullitt Central rallied from a five game losing streak to win three straight in district play to wrap up the two seed. Perennially unpredictable Doss blew out Iroquois and Western to earn the three seed with Iroquois bringing up the rear.

 

#4 Iroquois (2-8) at #1 Fairdale (9-1)

The October 19th meeting between these two resulted in a 55 point outburst from the Bulldogs. A balanced offense featured ten different players contributing evenly to their 485 yards. Iroquois found success through the air, passing for 187 yards and three touchdowns, but were picked off four times. Fairdale's pass defense has been a strength this season, and if they tighten up the secondary, this one shouldn't be close.

 

Prediction: Fairdale 49 Iroquois 14

 

#3 Doss (5-5) at #2 Bullitt Central (4-6)

Based on the regular season score - a 42-39 BC win - this should be one of 5A's most competitive first round games. Both teams have had roller coaster seasons, struggling to find and sustain success. Quarterback Markale Robinson had a huge night against the Cougars on October 3rd, throwing and running for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Bullitt Central leaned on its backfield duo of Warren Coogle and Kylor Close, who combined for the bulk of BC's 304 rushing yards. Each team has been hit or miss on offense, especially Doss, who scored 37+ in six games this season while scoring single digits or being shutout in their other four contests. Give Bullitt Central the edge in strength of schedule, and that might make the difference here.

 

Prediction: Bullitt Central 35 Doss 31

 

 

Projected District 3 Championship Game: Bullitt Central at Fairdale

 

Prediction: Fairdale 35 Bullitt Central 17

 

 

 

 

District 4

This district was all South Oldham, all the time. The gap between the Dragons and the other four teams was gargantuan, as evidenced by the 219-29 aggregate score in SO's district games. There was actually a clear separation amongst the five teams, from the top on down. South Oldham was the runaway one seed, North Bullitt comfortably held its position at #2, Jeffersontown took care of business against the two teams below them, and Atherton soundly defeated Seneca to secure the final playoff spot.

 

#4 Atherton (5-5) at #1 South Oldham (9-1)

Not much to say here. South Oldham should have the clock running by no later than the third quarter. Their beatdown of Central Hardin last week suggests they're peaking at just the right time.

 

Prediction: South Oldham 50 Atherton 13

 

#3 Jeffersontown (4-6) at #2 North Bullitt (6-4)

This game features what should be the best running back showdown in the first round. North Bullitt's Cole Durbin and J'town's Andrae Johnson combined for over 3,000 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns in the regular season. The difference is Durbin's supporting cast. He has more help than Johnson. In the first meeting, Johnson accounted for 92% of his team's yardage, while Durbin made up 22% of his team's offense in the three touchdown Eagle win. Johnson is a great back, but the Chargers are too much of a one man show. That should make the difference again this Friday.

 

Prediction: North Bullitt 41 Jeffersontown 21

 

 

Projected District 4 Championship Game: North Bullitt at South Oldham

 

Prediction: South Oldham 43 North Bullitt 14

 

 

 

 

District 5

CovCath has reigned supreme in District 5 for the past three years and, barring the sudden emergence of Highlands' offense, they look to be in great shape again this season. The Colonels allowed just thirteen points in district play, none by the starters. One of the biggest surprises in 5A occurred on October 4th, when Conner stunned Highlands, paving the way for the Cougars to host a first round game against… Highlands. Cooper earned the 4 seed by way of a 54-0 rout of Boone County.

 

#4 Cooper (5-5) at #1 Covington Catholic (10-0)

The first game was over by halftime. This one should be no different. CovCath smothered Jeremiah Lee back in Week 6, allowing him just 14 yards of offense. For the Jags to have any shot of keeping it interesting beyond the first quarter, Lee has to make something happen - with his legs, his arm, catching the ball, or some combination of all three. If he's silenced again, expect another first half running clock.

 

Prediction: Covington Catholic 43 Cooper 7

 

#3 Highlands (6-4) at #2 Conner (7-3)

Maybe the most anticipated first round game in 5A, if not the state. Neither team has fared how their followers would have hoped in the aftermath of that shocker in Fort Thomas. Instead of triggering a Highlands offensive turnaround, that unit has continued to flounder. They were shutout against CovCath and put in a very uninspiring effort against Cooper. Conner, on the other hand, has failed to use that win as a springboard, barely squeaking past Cooper before getting run off their own field by Covington Catholic and dropping the regular season finale against GRC. Conner will lean on QB Jared Hicks, who accounted for 300+ yards of total offense the last time these teams met. Hicks channelled his inner John Elway in the fourth quarter of that game. Does he have it in him again? One thing Highlands has going for it is a defense that has been consistently outstanding most weeks. Another checkmark in Highlands' column is the return if Joe Buten, who should have fresh legs after missing several weeks through the middle of the season. The Birds have had a week off, while the Cougars endured a disappointing setback last Friday. We'll give the slightest edge right now to Highlands.

 

Prediction: Highlands 21 Conner 17

 

 

Projected District 5 Championship Game: Highlands at Covington Catholic

 

Prediction: Covington Catholic 38 Highlands 10

 

 

 

 

District 6

Easily the most top heavy district in the class, a cavernous divide separates Frederick Douglass and Scott County from the rest. Neither team had any trouble whatsoever putting Montgomery, Grant, and Great Crossing to bed early. You could argue that there's a chasm between the Broncos and Cardinals, as well. Scott County has work to do if they have designs on a playoff reversal of fortunes against Douglass.

 

#4 Great Crossing (1-9) at #1 Frederick Douglass (10-0)

Great Crossing might only have one win this season, but it's a win that earned them a playoff berth. But when the prize is Frederick Douglass, did you truly win anything? The first go round was a 50-0 Broncos win. Look for the same result this Friday.

 

Prediction: Frederick Douglass 50 Great Crossing 0

 

#3 Montgomery County (3-7) at #2 Scott County (9-1)

The outcome here will likely mirror the one directly above. Scott County was too much for Montgomery to handle a couple of weeks ago. After two good years, the Indians were unable to overcome the graduation losses of two of the programs' all time best. They couldn't slow down the Cardinals before, and I don't look for that to change this week.

 

Prediction: Scott County 56 Montgomery County 7

 

 

Projected District 6 Championship Game: Scott County at Frederick Douglass

 

Prediction: Frederick Douglass 34 Scott County 20

 

 

 

 

District 7

Based on their performances from a year ago, this had to have been one of the worst districts in the state, on paper, entering the season. The five teams - East and West Jessamine, Madison Southern, Collins, and Woodford County - were a combined 13-42 (23%) in 2018. From top to bottom, this was 5A's most wide open district at the onset of the season, and there was nothing resembling a clear favorite. As the weeks fell from the calendar, East Jessamine began to emerge as the cream of the crop with an improving MadSouth following closely behind. Woodford County rounded out the upward trend of this group of teams with their best win total in eight years. As we enter postseason play, this district is not as wide open as it was eleven weeks ago, though

 

#3 Collins (2-8) at #2 East Jessamine (8-2)

This season has not unfolded the way Coach Jerry Lucas and the Titans would have liked. On the heels of a one win campaign in 2018 (the worst season in their history), Collins was expected to take a big step forward with several starters back on both sides of the ball. Instead, a tough early season schedule put them in a hole they were unable to climb out of due, in part, to an unexpectedly improved district featuring teams like the Jaguars, who took the step forward that Collins was hoping for. East Jessamine boasts a pair of 1,000 yard rushers that helped churn out 475 yards on October 11th, when the Jags punished Collins, 43-13. Coach Lucas knows how to win in November, so overlooking the Titans could prove disastrous, but it's awfully late in the season to suddenly start stopping the run against one of the state's best rushing offenses.

 

Prediction: East Jessamine 42 Collins 20

 

#3 Woodford County (6-4) at #2 Madison Southern (5-5)

MadSouth went through Woodford like a hot knife through butter back in Week 8. Just 22 plays yielded 414 yards of offense and six scores for the Eagles. The Yellow Jackets have made big strides on defense this season, but against a team with the offensive personnel of Madison Southern, they might have to go another year in search of their first playoff win since 2006.

 

Prediction: Madison Southern 34 Woodford County 14

 

 

Projected District 7 Championship Game: Madison Southern at East Jessamine

 

Prediction: East Jessamine 35 Madison Southern 21

 

 

 

 

District 8

The title of 'most competitive district' in 5A resides here. Pulaski did what was necessary to secure the top seed, but they look to be in the worst shape of anyone entering the postseason. A critical injury coupled with consecutive losses has them limping at the worst possible time. Whitley County, North Laurel, and Southwestern engaged in a series of competitive contests to set the final order.

 

#4 Southwestern (5-5) at #1 Pulaski County (7-3)

You'd better believe the joint will be jumpin' when these two get together this Friday. First off, it's an intense rivalry that needs no additional combustible elements to stoke the fire. Secondly, there's a very real possibility of a four seed over one seed upset. Pulaski was rolling along on a seven game winning streak before losing QB Drew Polston in the first half of their first encounter with the Warriors. They've scored one touchdown in the six quarters since. A few key players sat out last week's loss to Tates Creek, but may be back on the field on Friday. Even if they are, though, this game has four quarter war written all over it. The Maroons have a talent edge, but might be lost without Polston, and Southwestern is starting to put something together. The teams' recent trends suggest another Southwestern victory on Pulaski soil.

 

Prediction: Southwestern 20 Pulaski County 14

 

#3 North Laurel (5-5) at #2 Whitley County (7-3)

After beating Southwestern on October 4th, North Laurel stood at 5-2 and made the rest of the district take notice, but they proceeded to drop three straight and back their way into the playoffs at .500. Whitley County has gone in the other direction, riding a five game winning streak into this game. When the two teams met in Week 9, the Jaguars held a two touchdown lead at one point in the second half, and a one point lead with the ball with less than two minutes to go, but Whitley recovered a North Laurel fumble and scored the winning touchdown for an unlikely 28-22 victory. Whitley gets the edge playing at home, but this game should go down to the wire again.

 

Prediction: Whitley County 28 North Laurel 27

 

 

Projected District 8 Championship Game: Southwestern at Whitley County

 

Prediction: Whitley County 20 Southwestern 13

 

 

 

 

Projected Third Round Matchups Based On The Above Results

 

East:

Whitley County at Covington Catholic

East Jessamine at Frederick Douglass

 

West:

Fairdale at Owensboro

Bowling Green at South Oldham

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1st team all state LB Gough is now back for Owensboro and had 13 tackles against Henderson.

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If these results come to fruition, does anyone think Fairdale can make noise beyond the district rounds? A third round trip to Owensboro seems likely.

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#3 Highlands (6-4) at #2 Conner (7-3)

Maybe the most anticipated first round game in 5A, if not the state. Neither team has fared how their followers would have hoped in the aftermath of that shocker in Fort Thomas. Instead of triggering a Highlands offensive turnaround, that unit has continued to flounder. They were shutout against CovCath and put in a very uninspiring effort against Cooper. Conner, on the other hand, has failed to use that win as a springboard, barely squeaking past Cooper before getting run off their own field by Covington Catholic and dropping the regular season finale against GRC. Conner will lean on QB Jared Hicks, who accounted for 300+ yards of total offense the last time these teams met. Hicks channelled his inner John Elway in the fourth quarter of that game. Does he have it in him again? One thing Highlands has going for it is a defense that has been consistently outstanding most weeks. Another checkmark in Highlands' column is the return if Joe Buten, who should have fresh legs after missing several weeks through the middle of the season. The Birds have had a week off, while the Cougars endured a disappointing setback last Friday. We'll give the slightest edge right now to Highlands.

 

Prediction: Highlands 21 Conner 17

 

Looking at the regular season in hindsight, Conner is basically as good as Jared Hicks is in any particular game. Hicks is the Conner offense, give or take a little cred for the offensive line. They're decent on defense, but unless Hicks is keeping the offense moving on the field to cut down on the number of minutes the defense is in the game, the defense tires out and things don't go the way they want them to.

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Looking at the regular season in hindsight, Conner is basically as good as Jared Hicks is in any particular game. Hicks is the Conner offense, give or take a little cred for the offensive line. They're decent on defense, but unless Hicks is keeping the offense moving on the field to cut down on the number of minutes the defense is in the game, the defense tires out and things don't go the way they want them to.

 

That is pretty much the way it always is with Conner. Their offense is an RPO, quarterback centric offense.

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So in this scenario and if everything plays out like the rankings, would Fredrick Douglas and Cov Cath play in the semi-finals or are the rankings redone for the semi-finals?

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So in this scenario and if everything plays out like the rankings, would Fredrick Douglas and Cov Cath play in the semi-finals or are the rankings redone for the semi-finals?

 

The RPI is locked in at this point, but the seeds will be reshuffled for the semifinals. Being the #1 and #2 overall seeds means that Covington Catholic and Douglass can't meet until the championship game.

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The Dawgs schedule has not been the toughest, but they have 21 Sr's this year and are very talented especially on offense. A big boost this year was several of their top basketball players Ty Walter and Stephen Moore came out this year and gives them playmakers. Ty Walter was putting up crazy numbers before sitting out several games due to a knee injury. His first game back he had a td. Haven't seen Owensboro play but I feel like this team can compete. Looking forward to it if it happens.

Edited by theguru
Rule 13

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