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2005 Class 1A Kentucky High School Football Playoff Preview

The Scribe

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Region 1


Favorite: Mayfield


Top challengers: Crittenden County, Metcalfe County


Outlook: Mayfield in the state’s final four is almost an annual rite of fall. The Cardinals have won 25 regional titles in the last 30 seasons, including eight (and a couple of state titles) in 10 seasons since dropping to Class A in 1995.


The Cardinals haven’t quite met their lofty expectations, going 7-3 in the regular season when some were predicting a perfect record over the summer. But two of their losses were to ranked teams in higher classificiations (Marshall County and Hopkinsville) and the other was to archrival Paducah Tilghman, when the Cardinals — ranked fifth by BluegrassPreps.com — had a fumble returned for a touchdown and another score was set up by a bad snap in punt formation.


Mayfield has proven veterans and playmakers in QB Adam Shelton and RBs Blake Rust, Josh Hatchell and Tristan Dumas and WR Fred Brown. The Cardinals’ switch to an unconventional 3-5 defensive alignment to accommodate a lack of proven linemen and a wealth of capable linebackers (led by Hatchell and Brent Simpkins) has had some occasional hiccups.


Nevertheless, Mayfield is always the team to beat in this region. The Cardinals could face a tougher road than usual, though, particularly a potential second-round game with red-hot Crittenden County.


The Rockets (8-2) have destroyed their district competition after a surprising 22-12 loss at Metcalfe County in which their two top players (WR-DB T.K. Guess and RB-LB Blake Gardner) went down with injuries. Both are back in action and fully healthy again, and the Rockets’ shaky run defense has improved since a midseason change in alignment.


Metcalfe County should await the Mayfield-Crittenden winner in the regional finals. The Hornets (9-1), heavy on sophomores and juniors, were thought to be a year or two away, but TB Ryan England and a stingy defense have produced the program’s second district title in three seasons. The running game sets up a big-play passing attack triggered by sophomore QB Will Warf.



Regional finals prediction: Mayfield 21, Metcalfe County 6


Region 2


Favorite: Danville


Top challenger: Bardstown, Louisville Holy Cross


Outlook: Few, if any, teams in Kentucky have more players with championship-level experience than Danville, which won the state title in 2003 and lost last year‘s final to Beechwood. Several players that filled prominent roles on those teams are back for another postseason run.


But, as usual, the Admirals (9-1) — ranked #1by BGP — face a stiff challenge from District 3. Bardstown (10-0 and ranked #2 by BGP)


Danville has a wealth of offensive weapons at veteran head coach Sam Harp’s disposal. Jeffery Guest was moved from QB to RB in midseason, replaced by Rich Witten (15 touchdowns and only one interception) and joining Darren Ross, Darius Baughman and B.J Strode in a deep, talented backfield.


As usual, the Admirals were tested by a solid non-district schedule, which included wins over Class 3A playoff entries Rockcastle County and Southwestern. Their only loss is to archrival Boyle County, another team that has made a regular habit of playing for the state title in Papa John’s Stadium.


Bardstown rolled through District 3 on the strength of a rock-solid defense that has allowed only 37 points all season and less than 120 yards per game and shut out six opponents. The Tigers can put speed all over the field, led by QB Brian Calhoun and RBs Jamehyl Butler and Kwasi Obeng and several other cogs of the school’s back-to-back state team champions in track and field.


Louisvillle Holy Cross (8-2) has given Danville fits in the postseason the last two years and may get another shot at the Admirals in the second round, but Holy Cross would have have to beat both Danville and Bardstown on the road to advance to the semifinals.


Regional finals prediction: Danville 20, Bardstown 14

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Region 3


Favorite: Newport Central Catholic


Top challengers: Beechwood, Lexington Christian, Bellevue


Outlook: Whoever wins this, the strongest of the four regions with four teams ranked in the BGP top 10, looks like a solid bet to advance to the state championship. The emergence of Lexington Christian as a legitimate contender threatens to end northern Kentucky’s stranglehold on the regional title. Bath County’s 1997 club was the last District 6 team to reach the quarterfinals.


Newport Central Catholic (8-2) looked like it was destined for a second-place finish in District 5 after a 24-21 loss to Beechwood, but then Bellevue upset Beechwood on Oct. 7. NewCath, which had already made longtime coach Bob Schneider the state’s all-time leader in career wins earlier this season, beat Bellevue 14-0 to force a three-way tie for the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.


The Thoroughbreds could meet Bellevue again in the second round. QB Sam Diehl and WR Josh Canafax comprise one of the best passing combinations in Class A. Two-way lineman Zach Kiernan has been a force on both sides of the ball.


Beechwood (7-3) almost seems to be flying under the radar since its upset loss to Bellevue, and the loss served to make the Tigers‘ road that much tougher, with a potential second-round game at Lexington Christian. Beechwood doesn’t have quite the power running game that produced a state title last season, especially with an all-new offensive line, but RB Eric Sawyer has produced as the featured back.


If Beechwood meets Newport Central Catholic in the final, the Tigers will try to extend their four-game winning streak (three of them were decided by less than a touchdown, however) against the squad that is annually their primary competition.


Lexington Christian (9-1) hired veteran coach Paul Rains to bring its young program along, and an explosive collection of skill-position talent has the Eagles scoring points in bunches. After rebounding from an opening-week thrashing at the hands of Lexington Catholic, they rallied to beat DeSales and Class 2A playoff entries Christian Academy-Louisville and Corbin. Their projected second-round matchup with visiting Beechwood will be that week’s marquee matchup in Class A. Tyrell Hayden ran for over 1,400 yards with 23 TDs and lefty QB Garrie Krueger and an athletic receiver corps gives the Eagles consistent big-play capability against anyone.


Bellevue (8-2) has turned its program around after bringing former Ryle and Carroll County coach Dave Eckstein back to northern Kentucky. Eckstein, who received good reviews for his work at his other two coaching stops, built his offense around RB Lincoln Adams, who has nearly 1,400 yards and 23 TDs. Bellevue has quite a resume for a #3 seed — a win over a defending state champion, and both of its losses are to ranked teams, Newport Central Catholic and Indian Hill from suburban Cincinnati. A win at Raceland would set up a rematch with NewCath.


Regional final prediction: Newport Catholic 14, Beechwood 13


Region 4


Favorite: Somerset


Top challengers: Lynn Camp, Pikeville, Paintsville, Hazard


Outlook: This is clearly the most balanced, wide-open region in Class A, with as many as five teams harboring legitimate shots at winning two games and reaching the regional finals. The toughest road belongs to Hazard, who would have to knock off Lynn Camp and Paintsville (which beat the Bulldogs 63-27) on the road to advance to the quarterfinals. Somerset has home-field advantage for the first three rounds.


Somerset (9-1) has proven itself among the state’s elite — the Briar Jumpers fell 42-26 to Danville in a non-district game earlier this season and were very competitive, leading 26-14 at the half after forcing three early turnovers. Typical of an offensive-minded region, Somerset has a balanced led by RB Scott Newell, QB Ross Deaton and WR John Cole.


Lynn Camp (8-2) features a strong ground game with three RBs — Jimmy Chaffin, Josh Reynolds and Joe Roskopf — combining for more than 2,500 yards. Both of the Tigers’ losses are to ranked teams, including a wild 41-40 defeat at Somerset that decided the district title.


Paintsville (8-2) has had a revival under new coach Bill Mike Runyon (better known as the school’s longtime basketball coach) with a high-octane offense that’s broken the 40-point mark seven times. But the Tigers suffered a big late-season loss when leading rusher Hans Doderer went down with a broken collarbone.


Pikeville (7-3) has played the toughest schedule of the group, falling to #3 Newport Central Catholic in the Pike County Bowl and two-time defending Class 2A state champion Belfry. The Panthers were blitzed by Hazard two weeks ago, but rebounded to beat Paintsville and force a three-way tie for the district title. The #2 seed, Pikeville figures to visit Somerset in the second round.


Hazard (9-1) is always dangerous with an explosive offense (47 points per game) led by QB Durell Olinger, the state leader in passing yardage, and WR Chucky O’Steen, whose numbers also put him among the state leaders.


Regional final prediction: Somerset 34, Lynn Camp 28


Semifinal predictions

Danville 23, Mayfield 21

Newport Catholic 35, Somerset 14


Championship prediction:

Danville 20, Newport Catholic 19

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