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  1. After a strong run in the first four years under coach Mike Rogers, Warren Central took a step back in 2013. The Dragons limped out of the starting gate, losing their first three games for the first time since 1994. Ultimately the Dragons went 6-6 against a difficult schedule that included two state champions and a runner-up, failing to reach the region finals for the first time since 2009. What followed was an offseason that saw the departure of Mike Rogers to Paducah Tilghman – the third straight Central football coach to leave after exactly five seasons – as well as turnover of the entire staff of assistants. In April, Howard Feggins became the ninth head coach in Warren Central history. Coach Feggins comes to Warren Central having spent most of his coaching career in the college ranks, most recently as the offensive coordinator at Norfolk State for three seasons. His career also included stops at Wingate University, Miami of Ohio, Northwestern, Eastern Michigan, and South Carolina State, in addition to his playing career at North Carolina and appearances with the New England Patriots and New York Giants. It’s that experience at the next level that brings excitement to the program, helping to boost numbers on the roster. Coach Feggins has spread the word that he wants what is best for the players – to get them to that next level. But the turnover in coaching leaves us with a lot of uncertainty as to exactly what to expect in the upcoming season. Coach Feggins is installing an entirely new offensive scheme. Out is the Wing-T attack that is a hallmark of Mike Rogers, and in is the more and more popular spread offense. Coach Feggins expressed a desire to run a flavor of the offense in the vein of the Oregon Ducks, with focus on the no-huddle and up tempo to leverage the athleticism and speed that the Dragons typically possess. They’ll be running it without the services of three of their best offensive weapons from last year, the graduated QB Chris Porter-Bunton, RB Rondell Green, and TE Byron Carver. We may not know who will be the replacement at QB until the start of the season, with a battle of up to 4 players currently taking place for the position. Last year’s backup Chance Shanklin and newly eligible transfer Tristan Murray are considered the favorites for the position, with sophomores Chauncey Greer and Chance Hunt also seen taking reps at the spot. Aiding the development of whoever wins the job will be incoming transfer Jensen Feggins, the son of HC Howard Feggins. Last year at Highlands, Jensen amassed 51 receptions for 1,100 yards and 15 TDs in a state runner-up season. On the other side of the field will be Sr. Chris Amos, an athletic WR that unfortunately saw his season cut short last year with a broken ankle six games in. With the scheme changes it will be difficult to project other returning starters, but other expected skill position contributors on the offensive side will be track star Jr. Damani Walker, Jr. Malik Peele, and Sr. Colin Burnham. The Dragons will be aided in their efforts by several returning linemen that saw time last season. Defensively Warren Central will run a 3-4 scheme, and any discussion of the defense has to start with Sr. Emmitt Smith. Emmitt is the highest rated prospect to come through Central in quite some time, typically playing MLB. Several sets last season saw Emmitt put a hand on the ground as part of the DL, something he can comfortably do thanks to his 6’1”, 230 lbs frame. He’s expected to serve some time in each spot. The Dragons have a lot returning on the defensive side of the ball, losing only Rondell Green in the secondary from last season, a spot that will be filled by Jensen Feggins. That returning experience will be crucial as last season when they were a young, inexperienced unit, they allowed an average of 40 PPG in their losses, with none of those winning opponents scoring less than 26 in that game. The 2014 schedule is a virtual mirror of last season with the exception of their first two games. They’ll open the season in the Russell Rivals Bowl at Warren Central, hosting Hopkinsville, who the Dragons eliminated in the playoffs last year 48-10. After that they’ll face a tough pair of games back to back against Bourbon County (13-1 3A state semifinalists in 2013) in the Boyle County bowl game and at Louisville DeSales (14-1 2A state champions in 2013). Much like last year, we’ll know pretty quick what Warren Central is made of. Other highlights on the schedule are three big home games in October. They’ll host Owensboro (10-4 4A state semifinalists in 2013) in a rematch of a 28-7 Dragon win at Rash Stadium last season, easily the best win by the 2013 Dragons. Then comes the 1-2 punch of Bowling Green (15-0 5A state champions in 2013) and Highlands (13-2 4A state runners-up in 2013) in two of their last three games. This challenging schedule will likely lead to some losses and bumps and bruises, but will hopefully pay off in Central being battle tested. That’s as opposed to last year, where the bumps and bruises ended up taking their toll and the Dragons limped into the playoffs with a wide swath of injuries. The stated goal remains the same this year as it was in most years previously – Coach Feggins and the Dragons aim to win state. As with all the other years, they must first find their way past the goliath of 5A, their district mates and crosstown rivals Bowling Green. The Purples have won 44 games in a row and five of those wins came over Warren Central. Coach Feggins expressed that he believes they have to become a team that believes in each other as well as become disciplined and fundamentally sound to overtake Bowling Green. Do that, and anything is possible.
  2. The last two years for Allen County-Scottsville have been challenging to say the least. From 2008-2010 the Patriots made three straight region title games, compiled a 33-6 record, all culminating in a run to the 2010 4A state championship game. The past two years have brought no playoff wins and lost more games in each individual year than they did combined in 2008-2010. The 2012 season was not without positives. The Patriots had a strong win against surging 3A South Warren. They battled 2A power Glasgow to the wire and gave another 2A power Monroe County all they wanted in a loss on the road. Most importantly, the Patriots knocked off district rival Franklin-Simpson to gain a home playoff game and moving back up the ladder towards the top spot in the district that they consider their rightful home. Coach Brad Hood will enter his eighth season at the helm, and he will look to 13 seniors that have been in the program for four years to lead the team back to the promised land. The Patriots return five starters on each side of the ball, possibly none more important than senior RB Charlie Trapp. Trapp averaged 5.4 YPC in his junior campaign, gaining 664 yards and 6 TDs along with adding 226 yards and a TD receiving out of the backfield. He’ll be the bell cow, as no other Patriot runner returns that carried the ball more than 22 times. Those 22 rushes came from junior QB Colton Oakes, who will take the helm of the offense from departed seniors Kasey Johnson and Connor Ross. Those two combined for 86% of all passing yards for the Patriots last year, but Oakes did start a pair of crucial district games against Franklin-Simpson and Warren East last year, and threw for 164 yards and a TD on the year. His development will be crucial to Allen County-Scottsville’s success on the year. Protecting Oakes and blocking for Trapp will be a veteran offensive line, the deepest at Allen County-Scottsville since the seminal 2010 season. The Patriots return three starters, RG Michael Burton, RT Gabe Whitney, and LT Elijah Perea. The line was almost even more experienced, but two year starter at LG Jordan Keen was lost to an ACL tear during spring ball. The Patriot aerial attack will be aided by the return of leading receiver senior Jacob Howard. Howard accounted for a little over 25% of all receiving yards for the Patriots a year ago, and nearly half of their receiving TDs with 4. Howard is also the primary playmaker on kickoff and punt returns. Defensively, the Patriots will have the tough task of replacing all-purpose player Austin York, who led the team in tackles in addition to handling punting duties. The Patriots additionally lost their #2 and #3 leaders in tackles from a year ago and return no starters on the defensive line. The Patriots return a pair of linebackers in seniors Tanner Mutter and Wes Cornwell that combined for 101 tackles in 2012. The linebacking corps should also be bolstered by two way player junior OLB/WR Jordan Moss, who is anticipated to have a big impact on the defense. Allen County-Scottsville also returns almost their entire secondary with junior CB Cainan Cox, senior CB Caleb Vernon, and senior S Gage Link. Cainan Cox was co-leader on the team for interceptions in 2012 alongside Tanner Mutter. The Patriot 2013 schedule is a half and half mix of new and old faces. To open the year, Allen County-Scottsville will play Mercer County, a rematch from a year ago in Boyle County’s bowl game. This time, it will take place on the field that every team in Kentucky hopes to be playing on in December, at WKU’s LT Smith Stadium as part of Bowling Green’s Rafferty’s Bowl. They will then meet Greenwood, which returns to the schedule after a two year hiatus that followed a four year stretch where the teams split 2-2 in their matchups. In mid-September comes the customary rivalry game against Glasgow. Outside of a 4 year span from 1999-2002, the two teams have played every year since 1997. Glasgow has won two straight, including last year’s heartbreaker 7-6. The season closes with the same 4 game stretch as 2012, when the Patriots go through the crucial games against their three district foes. The schedule does them no favors there as they will have to travel to the two teams that are their biggest competition in striving for the district title, Franklin-Simpson and district favorite Warren East. Their regular season closes with another staple of the schedule when they host Monroe County. 2001-2004 were the only years in Monroe County’s history that the two schools did not meet, with the Patriots trailing the series 16-8. Players To Watch Charlie Trapp – RB – 5’7”, 200 lbs – Senior - Trapp will be heavily leaned on to carry the offense, especially as the new quarterback develops. He’s a compact but explosive player. Tanner Mutter – OLB – 5’10”, 190 lbs – Senior - Mutter is the leading returning tackler for the Patriots, with 32 solos and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2012. He was also a team leader in INTs with a pair. He’ll be counted on even more this year to marshal the defense. Wes Cornwell – MLB – 6’1”, 225 lbs – Senior - Cornwell looks the part more than some of the other Patriots with a little more typical height and weight for the linebacker position. Last year he did a little bit of everything, forcing two fumbles, blocking a kick, and hauling in one INT to go with 18 solo tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
  3. Class 4A Region 1 Region 1 may be the most competitive among the top teams of any region in the class. Three teams in the top 5 hail from the region, including the defending state champion South Warren Spartans. Coming into the year, the general impression was that South Warren would simply reload and mow down everyone just as they had done the previous season. And they did reload, just not quite to the same level. The Spartans have put up a solid 7-3 record, but the cracks started to appear immediately, with a lackluster first half against an Apollo team that missed the playoffs, and opened into chasms when Greenwood shocked everyone with a 17-16 win over South Warren in Week 3. The Spartans have rebounded to solid wins over Central Hardin and North Hardin, but have failed to win more than three games in a row this season, as well as suffering their first district loss in four years. The team is still led by senior QB Ryder Litten, who has missed some time at QB with various injuries, but still accounts for over 1700 yards of offense on the year on the ground and through the air. Primary weapons for him include RB Kayron Namvong (129 rushes, 686 yards, 10 TDs) and WR CJ Hayes (31 receptions, 526 yards), each of which has also missed time. The defense is not the force they were last year, allowing almost 20 points a game, and appear to have some vulnerability through the air. The region favorite that dealt that district loss to South Warren was Franklin-Simpson. The Wildcats just completed their first undefeated regular season since 1975, and were the only Class 4A team to escape without a blemish. The Wildcats have done it with a strong mix of offense (37.9 PPG) and defense (8.8 PPG). Only Hopkinsville gave up less points than Franklin-Simpson, and that was against a schedule where teams combined for 8 less wins than the teams Franklin faced. Only three teams scored more than 7 points against Franklin-Simpson, and only South Warren did it in Franklin, where the Wildcats will open the first three rounds. They’re paced by a trio of talented RBs, headlined by Saul Brady, a junior who has averaged over 10 yards per carry despite also leading the team in carries, and just went over 1,000 yards. Josiah Robey (51 rushes, 632 yards, 8 TDs) and Carlos McKinney (87 rushes, 416 yards, 6 TDs) complete the three headed monster, which is also added to by QB Jackson Caudill (47 rushes, 243 yards, 5 TDs), who has passed for more this season, adding nearly 1,000 yards. It is that passing dimension that enabled them to beat South Warren in their September meeting, and adds the second dimension that could perhaps take the Wildcats all the way to a state title. Hopkinsville completed their second straight 9-1 season, beating most of their helpless schedule by running clocks. Christian County was the only team the Tigers played that was capable of beating them, and the Colonels went on to take Hopkinsville down, despite being dominated on the stat sheet. The 16 points scored by Hopkinsville were 23 below their next lowest effort, and the 19 points they allowed were the second most on the season. They’ve allowed only 20 points since. The schedule is a reason for concern, but just like last year, they have the crucial dimension that so many 4A teams lack, a passing game. Junior QB Jalen Johnson has continued his stellar play, posting 1,438 yards on 97 completions for a 26:5 TD:INT ratio. Standout Jaxon Janes leads the #1 defense in 4A with over 50 solo tackles, and the Tigers forced 20 turnovers in their first 9 games. The Tigers open with a more dangerous than they look Warren East team, but will have the expected matchup with South Warren in the second round circled. Franklin-Simpson should be waiting on the other side. Projected Regional Final: Franklin-Simpson 22 Hopkinsville 21 Region 2 Just like last year, the story of this region is the best top to bottom district in the class against the titan of District 3, John Hardin. Also like last year, Shelby County opens as the favorite, albeit in slightly different circumstances. The Rockets that unenviable position of replacing a pair of 1,000 yard rushers from last year, and early on, it appeared that they might take a step back from the sterling 12-2 campaign they posted in 2015. An opening loss to solid Garrard County gave way to three straight wins before a mind-boggling 56-31 loss to Bullitt East raised eyebrows (since credited as a Rocket win on forfeit due to an ineligible kicker). At that point their stock was the lowest, but they answered by running through District 4 unbeaten, winning each game by at least 26 points and winning by an average of 31 PPG. They closed the regular season with their best win yet, a 33-32 heartstopping victory over previously unbeaten and 5A ranked South Oldham. They have a ton of momentum, entering the postseason on a 5 game (or 9 game depending on how you view the forfeit) win streak, and will not have to leave their homefield unless it is to play in the state finals. They are ground heavy again, with 2,523 rushing yards as a team, led by Caleb Morehead, who has 912 yards on 103 carries, adding 11 touchdowns. Defensively Sr DB Brandon Davis has done excellent work in the secondary with 5 INTs, but the Rockets have allowed over 2,000 yards on the ground defensively. If there’s a worry for the team, that’s it. Shelby County has allowed more than 31 points in a game four times this year. John Hardin is the most likely team to line up against Shelby County in the region finals, and like usual, has had a strong late season push after a rough go against a tough early season schedule. The Bulldogs began 1-3, with their sole win coming over winless Warren Central. Chief among those losses was a stunning 25-10 loss to North Hardin, in which John Hardin outgained the Trojans by 120 yards, but couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. But they broke out with a strong 14-7 win over Central Hardin in mid-September, and aside from a surprisingly close win over Valley, stabilized right up until Christian County dropped a roof on them in the season finale, a 38-0 road loss. The only consistent thing about John Hardin in recent years is their inconsistency, but also that you can bet on them being ready come the postseason. They won’t see a team like Christian County in their region, and no other team has faced an opponent like Bowling Green. They’re battle tested for certain. As usual, a balanced ground attack leads the Bulldogs. They’ve rushed for over 200 yards per game, with four players amassing more than 200 yards on the year and none more than the 508 yards on 66 carries by Steven Livers. The defense is allowing just over 200 yards per game, but they have allowed 20 or more points in six out of their ten games. They’ll open with Franklin County, just like last year, and likely will host Spencer County in the second round – just like last year. Spencer County is likely the only team to qualify as a dark horse. The Bears have been maddeningly inconsistent. Their opening loss to Bardstown was completely out of nowhere, after defeating the Tigers by 34 a season ago. They followed that with six straight wins, before another surprising loss to Franklin County, which was followed by a 62-31 pasting by Shelby County, albeit in a game that Spencer County actually led at the half. The talent appears to be there, but it doesn’t always produce the sough after results. Brandon Leff has paced the Bears, averaging over 10 yards per carry while racking up 1,378 yards, which leads class 4A. Projected Regional Final: Shelby County 42 John Hardin 28 Region 3 Last year for most of the season Region 3 was a bit rough. Then Wayne County made a late run and acquitted themselves well against Johnson Central to raise its stature. This season will require no such runs for us to think well of them, and the #1 reason is Rockcastle County. The Rockets were a revelation this season, riding the momentum of last season’s surge (winning 4 of last 6) to a 9-1 campaign that included wins over Wayne County and Knox Central, both of which were picked over them. The Rockets enter the postseason on a six game win streak, and will be looking to advance past the second round for the first time in a decade. Like most teams in 4A, a strong ground game leads Rockcastle. They’ve churned up almost 2,500 yards rushing, with three different players carrying for more than 400 yards. Chayse McClure leads the way with 97 rushes for 738 yards, an average of 7.6 YPC. Holdan Barnett leads the team in carries and scores, with 113 rushes for 692 yards and 10 TDs. Rockcastle County went over 26 points in seven of their ten games with that powerful offense. They’ll have a slightly more difficult draw than one would expect, with the winner of Mercer County and Knox Central waiting in that second round that Rockcastle is aching to surpass. If Rockcastle is the A team in the region, Wayne County is the B+ team. Everything was going to plan for the Cardinals, but then they took a 41-34 OT loss to Rockcastle County, on the road, which cost them the district title. It was a back and forth affair that the Cardinals led at both the half and entering the fourth quarter. Then they held on to survive against a tough Knox Central team, 20-16. The defending region champions feature a balanced attack, with about a 60/40 rush/pass split. QB Lorenzo Linsey has thrown for over 1,000 yards and 14 TDs, while adding 54 carries for 200 yards and 5 scores on the ground. Dalton Garner has taken the overwhelming majority of runs for the Cardinals, scoring 16 times on 108 carries for 750 yards. He’s averaging a TD every 6.75 times he carries it – not too shabby. Grant Shoemaker and Stetson Simpson lead the receiving corps with 25 and 23 receptions respectively. The Cardinals defense has been standing strong, allowing 16.6 PPG, holding teams to 6 or less four times on the year. A pair of 7-3 teams in Taylor County and East Jessamine are in their way on the road to the region finals, but with both Rockcastle and Knox Central on the other side, they have to like their chances of at least reaching there. East Jessamine may be a possible dark horse, with a knack for coming through in the clutch – certainly they have competed in tense games more than anyone else in the region. Seven of their ten games were decided by 6 points or less, and the Jaguars went 5-2 in those games. None were more crucial than their 30-27 and 29-28 wins over Mercer County and Taylor County respectively, which gave them the district crown. RB Aaron Fortenbury is an absolute workhorse, with 251 carries, posting 1,385 yards and 16 TDs on those runs. He enters the postseason #2 in class 4A for rushing yards. They likely will be staring across the field against Wayne County in the second round. Projected Regional Final: Wayne County 35 Rockcastle County 27 Region 4 What a difference a year makes. Oh, Johnson Central had a great season by almost any measure a year ago. They went 13-2, with both losses coming to the state champions of 3A (Belfry) and 4A (South Warren). But whoa, those losses. After operating as the favorite for most of the year, the Golden Eagles got planted by Belfry, falling 41-0. By the time they met South Warren in the finals, the Spartans were the heavy favorite, and looked like it, winning 36-6. A 13-2 season with the losses coming by an average of 35.5 PPG was not how the script was supposed to go. Well here they are again, sitting at 9-1, off a loss to Belfry. But this year, the loss was by 5 (21-16), in a game that saw the Golden Eagles squander several great chances in the red zone. That’s not a good thing, but still speaks to the progress Johnson Central has made. The wins are better as well, with a 27 point blasting of LexCath and a 17 point win over Capital, WV headlining the schedule. Johnson Central has scored 30 points or more in eight of their games, and allowed more than 8 points in just three. This year, they appear primed headed into the playoffs. RB Joe Jackson is a huge reason for that success. Operating as the primary back, the sophomore carried the ball 93 times through 9 games, posting 1,186 yards and 17 TDs on those carries. When you average 12.75 YPC, that’s a doggone good stat line. Three other Golden Eagles have topped 300 yards on the season, with two more over 200. They have rushing weapons everywhere, and without a dedicated, lights out run stopper in the way, it seems to indicate positive vibes for Johnson Central’s chances. The fact that they have homefield until the state finals sure doesn’t hurt either. Ashland found life without Quenton Baker a bit challenging early on, and they weren’t really on the rankings radar after an 0-2 start (albeit against good competition), which was part of a 1-5 stretch spanning the end of last season. But they responded with six straight wins, and aside from a blowout loss to Johnson Central, they haven’t fallen again. That includes dealing Russell their only loss of the season, and avenging a surprising loss from last season, entering the playoffs on the right foot with a win over Tates Creek. QB Braxton Ratliff has been the primary offensive weapon, posting just over 1,800 yards combined through eight games, throwing for 12 TDs and running for 8. The team has achieved an even 50/50 split, a perfectly balanced offensive attack. But their 43-6 loss to Johnson Central does throw into sharp relief their chances of actually escaping the region. No other team in the region really qualifies as a dark horse. No team in District 7 posted a better record than 5-5, including district champion Bourbon County, which saw four of their five wins come within the district. It’s the Johnson Central and Ashland show, and let’s be honest – it’s the Johnson Central show. Projected Regional Final: Johnson Central 49 Ashland 14 Projected Semi-Final: Franklin-Simpson 28 Shelby County 21 Projected Semi-Final: Johnson Central 28 Wayne County 14 Projected Class 4A State Championship: Johnson Central 27 Franklin-Simpson 21
  4. 1. Elliott County 2. West Carter 3. Greenup County 4. Boyd County 5. Ashland 6. Rowan County 7. Russell 8. Fairview 9. East Carter 10. Lewis County 1. Korbin Spencer - Elliott County 2. Chase Porter - Elliott County 3. Gage Hughes - Greenup County 4. Ben Jordan - West Carter 5. Haydn Roe - West Carter 6. Hunter Kenser - Boyd County 7. Bobby Hale - Russell 8. Mike Hubbert - Greenup County 9. Dalton Brown - West Carter 10. Dylan Romine - Fairview
  5. For the past two seasons Taylor County has ruled the 5th Region as Taylor County won the 5th Region tournament the last two seasons and in 2016 Taylor County advanced to the quarterfinals of the Sweet Sixteen where they fell to eventual Sweet Sixteen runner-up, Doss. This season brings a fresh start for the entire region as Quentin Goodin has graduated and David Sloan and Coach Gatewood have left Taylor County for new homes this season. North Hardin and Bardstown look to make the trip to Rupp Arena this year but it won't be easy as Adair County and John Hardin both have the goals, determination and talent to make it Rupp Arena as well. Taylor County has a new coach in Maze Stallworth and they look to win their third consecutive 5th Region tournament. The 5th Region should be very exciting this season as North Hardin has a new student and Adair County had a former student come back to Adair County. There are a lot of questions about the 5th Region that will be answered by March. Enjoy the season!!!! Top 10 Teams of the 5th Region 1. North Hardin North Hardin is a co-favorite of the 5th Region and they look to improve upon last year's season where they finished as a semifinalist in the 5th Region tournament. They return Preseason Player of the Year in the 5th Region in senior Tony Jackson. Tony has committed to Coastal Carolina and with his recruitment behind him he looks to focus on leading his teammates to Rupp Arena. Joining Tony this season is senior Trace Young who his back in the state of Kentucky and now a student at North Hardin. Tony and Trace will form a dynamic duo in the 5th Region and along with fellow seniors James Pitre, Trey Peterson and Gavin Root they will be a senior laden team looking to end their high school careers on a high note. Gavin Root will be running the point for North Hardin and has been playing major minutes at the position for 3 years now. Juniors JoJo Dixon and Trevon Cooper along with seniors Trey Peterson and James Pitre will provide athleticism and quickness all over the floor. Freshman newcomer Roger McFarlane will be expected to make an immediate impact and will be seeing major minutes as well. All of the pieces are in place for head coach Mike Cofer to guide North Hardin deep into the region tournament and see the team accomplish the goal of playing in Rupp Arena for a state championship. 1. Bardstown Bardstown is the other co-favorite of the 5th Region this season as they look to make it back to the 5th Region finals and Coach James "Boo" Brewer looks to return to Rupp Arena. Bardstown will have to replace 5 seniors from last year's team and in most cases that could be troubling but not for this year's Bardstown team. Bardstown will be returning two of the top 10 players of the 5th Region in seniors Kel Livers and Santrel Farmer and along with fellow seniors Daydrian Allen and Trajan Walls not only do they return the bulk of their scoring from last year's team but they are also seasoned vets who know what it takes to make it to the region finals. Daydrian Allen hit 86 three pointers last season and will look to continue to make three pointers at the 36% percentage he made them at last season. With the experienced players returning and Coach Boo Brewer's leadership this Bardstown team is poised to make a deep tournament run in March. 3. Adair County Adair County returns four starters from last year's 21-8 team and expectations are high in Adair County this season. Senior Chance Melton returns and is entering his 6th year as a starter for Adair County. Chance is less than 300 points away from becoming Adair County's all time leading scorer and also has over 1,000 career rebounds. Junior Corey Melton was the team's leading scorer last season and he will be bringing back his 19 points and 7 rebounds per game to help lead the Indians. Senior Kel Stotts returns to Adair County for his senior year as Kel was a starter for Adair County as a 7th and 8th grader before transferring to Russell County. Kel is known as a bona fide scorer and looks to join the short list of players who have scored over 1,000 career points at two different schools as Kel is 348 points away in an Adair County uniform from accomplishing that feat. Senior Jordan Lashley returns to the team and brings his 3-1 assist to turnover ratio that he managed to compile last season and will be looked at to duplicate that success along with likely guarding opposing teams best guard. Seniors Dylan Feese and Chris Abston return bringing more valuable experience and will see significant playing time. Sophomore guards Layndon Carter and Anthony Payne played quite a bit last season and will also provide quality time on the court as well. With Chance Melton, Corey Melton, Kel Stotts and Cameron Lashley Adair County boasts a quartet of legitimate scoring options that will be tough for any team to stop on a consistent basis. With all of the focus on North Hardin and Bardstown Coach Deron Breeze looks to lead Adair County deep into the postseason and possibly under the radar. 4. John Hardin John Hardin looks to rebound from a disappointing finish to last year's season as they were bounced in the first round by district foe Central Hardin. Returning one of the top players in the region in junior Mickey Pearson John Hardin looks to have a different ending to this year's season. Returning with Mickey Pearson will be senior Devonta Guillory who many believe is also a top 10 player in the 5th Region. Pearson and Guillory will form a strong 1-2 punch for John Hardin and if junior Anthony Witherspoon is able to recovery from a football injury then John Hardin's 1-2 punch will become a treacherous three. Replacing Matt Miller won't be an easy feat but if these three are able to play up to expectations then not only will they be able to smoothly replace Matt Miller but they will also have a good chance to erase the taste of last year's district tournament disappointment out of their mouths. District 17 is the toughest district and Coach Jared McCurry will have his hands full but has some talented players at John Hardin to help make it through district tournament play and into region tournament play. 5. Taylor County Taylor County has the tall task of not only replacing 2015-16 Mr. Basketball finalist Quentin Goodin but also replacing 2016-17 Mr. Basketball candidate David Sloan who initially transferred to Ballard but is now at a prep school finishing his high school career. New head coach Maze Stallworth will have his hands full but the cupboard isn't bare at Taylor County as seniors Dylan Gaines and Ezra Oliver return to lead Taylor County this season. Led by Gaines and Oliver the Cardinals of Taylor County look to mix their experience and leadership with the new faces at Taylor County expected to step up. Coach Stallworth's success at Casey County helped him become one of the top choices to replace Coach Gatewood and Coach Stallworth looks to bring his coaching prowess to the 5th Region and it is clear his coaching ability is one of the reasons many in the 5th Region feel that Taylor County will be one of the top teams in the region. Taylor County is looking to win their third 5th Region title in a row and now that Goodin, Sloan and Gatewood are no longer there teams will be looking to exact some revenge on Taylor County. 6. Central Hardin Central Hardin faces the same story line as Taylor County as they have some important players to replace and they are also adjusting to a new coach in Matt Nickell. Coach Nickell takes over the Central Hardin program from Coach James Wright and looks to improve upon last year's trip to the semifinals of the 5th Region tournament. Central Hardin boasts a nice mixture of experience, talent and hard workers. Having gone to the semifinals of the region tournament last season the team understands what it takes to be successful and will be expected to do what it takes to win games. In order for Central Hardin to reach their full potential each player will need to do their jobs and the expectation is that they will not only do their job but will work hard to get the job done. Four players return to this year's team with varsity experience. Seniors Mason Rothrock, Stephen Thompson, Reece Iler and Trent Wood all return this season and will provide quality experience to this year's team. New faces expected to make an impact this season are seniors Darius Barbour, Jackson Pawley and LCris Weathers. Sophomore Jacob Hobbs will also be expected to have an impact as well. As mentioned earlier District 17 is an extremely competitive district and likely the toughest one in the 5th Region. Fortunately for Central Hardin they have the experience and mentality to help get them back to the 5th Region tournament. 7. Larue County Larue County returns their entire team from the 2015-16 season which saw their season end in the first round of the district tournament from the hands of Caverna. Larue County went 13-12 last season and having their entire team return is what lands them at #7 in the preseason rankings. Derek Goode brings back his 18 points a game to hopefully lead Larue County to the 5th Region tournament this season. Junior Cameron Dawson, sophomore Shane King and freshman Mark Goode also return with their double digit scoring averages as they all look to improve upon the results of the 2015-16 season. 8. Elizabethtown Elizabethtown will be a team full of upperclassmen as juniors and seniors dominate the roster. Junior Darius Harding shows promise as a talented player who will likely be one of the leaders of Coach James Haire's team this season. Elizabethtown finished 6-20 last season but their roster full of upperclassmen is what leads many to believe that Elizabethtown will be a top 10 team in the 5th Region this season. 9. Marion County Marion County loses strong seniors from last year's team that made it to the 5th Region tournament but lost in their first region tournament game. Returning to Coach Montrelle Irvin's team is senior Isaac Lanham, senior Adarius Means, junior Lez Means and sophomore Travis Wiser. Marion County finished 9-23 last season but with the talent they have returning they have made the radar of many people within the 5th Region. 10. Caverna Josh Davis takes over as Caverna's head coach this season as Caverna expects to compete for a district championship this season. Caverna has more talent coming back than people may realize led by junior Jobby Howard. Jobby is poised to have a breakout season this year and will be a surprise for people have been paying attention to the other more heralded players in the 5th Region. Seniors Travis Hensley and Devon Paul look to provide the stability on the floor that Caverna will need night in and night out and if Caverna can improve defensively then they will be a tough out. Caverna has won the 18th District Tournament the past two seasons and they will be the champs until proven otherwise. Best of the Rest: Nelson County Senior Max Ryan returns with hopes of leading Nelson County back to the 5th Region tournament. Ryan will be the leading scorer returning and Nelson County will look to improve upon last year's 15-13 season. Nelson County is chock full of seniors as they have a total of 9 seniors on their roster. With that kind of experience Nelson County looks to be in a good position to return to the 5th Region tournament. Campbellsville Campbellsville has to replace four starters this year but they return junior Tyrion Taylor who looks to make a name for himself as one of the best guards in the 5th Region. Juniors Ethan Lay, Connor Wilson and Chanson Atkinson should all play meaningful minutes for the Eagles this season as they look to improve upon their 11-18 campaign last season. Junior Logan Cole has a chance to be a force and seniors Micah Corley, Ricky Smith along with freshman Malachi Corley should provide quality depth for the Eagles this season. Lack of size and varsity experience could prove to be an issue for Campbellsville but the will rely on their speed and quickness to win ballgames this year. Malachi Corley should provide depth for the Eagles. Washington County Washington County will be led by senior DT Yocum and sophomores Cameron Willis and Drew Yates. DT Yocum is one of the more underrated players in the 5th Region who some feel is one of the top 10 players in the region. DT will look to lead Washington County to the 5th Region tournament. Hart County Hart County is young and inexperienced and will also have new head coach Josh Henderson returning to the 5th Region. With a new coaching staff in place rebuilding the program is the top priority but the goal for Hart County is to be playing their best ball the latter part of the season with goals to make the region tournament. Sophomore John Shoulders and junior Logan Qualls bring the most experience to the table and Shoulders is a rising star in the 5th Region. Sophomore Jonathan Minton is a good scorer who has a chance at a breakout season. Bethlehem Junior Jacob Taylor and senior Matthew Hagan are the team's leading scorers returning this season as Bethlehem has hopes of improving upon last season's growth and experience gained as they plan to improve enough to be competitive in the 19th District. Any success that Bethlehem has will also come with the aid of seniors John Prescott, Conner Beisler and Sam Talbert. Green County Green County has to replace the 30 points a game that Dominique Compton provided. Senior Isaac Landis looks to lead Green County to another winning season and back to the 5th Region tournament. Fort Knox Fort Knox will be led by junior Joshua DeRivas and senior Camron Gore as they return to a Fort Knox team looking to improve from their 10-19 season from 2015-16. Thomas Nelson Thomas Nelson went 1-30 last season and 2016-17 looks to be another year of building the basketball program at Thomas Nelson. Top 10 Players: 1. Tony Jackson-North Hardin 2. Kel Stotts-Adair County 3. Mickey Pearson-John Hardin 4. Kel Livers-Bardstown 5. Santrel Farmer-Bardstown 6. Trace Young-North Hardin 7. Chance Melton-Adair County 8. Devonta Guillory-John Hardin 9. Dylan Gaines-Taylor County 10. Derek Goode-Larue County Best of the Rest: DT Yocum-Washington County Jobby Howard-Caverna Darius Harding-Elizabethtown Tyrion Taylor-Campbellsville TraJan Walls-Bardstown
  6. This time last year we still believed in the infallibility of a single titan in 4A – South Warren. The Spartans had completely leveled the landscape in 2015, and most believed they would do the same again. But along the way, they stumbled and the veneer cracked, and Johnson Central – the powerhouse that was seemingly forever a bridesmaid – picked up the pieces and flexed their might. The Golden Eagles crushed their 4A playoff competition by a combined 259-15, which included a 150-0 run in their final three games, taking home their long-awaited first state title. And they enter this year as the overwhelming favorite, just like South Warren was. So perhaps, there may be some hope for others. Or maybe Johnson Central will be able to back it up where the Spartans could not. 1. Johnson Central (2016: 14-1; State Champions) Head Coach: Jim Matney Not to belabor the comparisons between South Warren’s run in 2015 and Johnson Central’s run last year, but the Golden Eagles played like they were trying to erase everyone’s memory of 2015 by obliterating the pace the Spartans set. Johnson Central lost a single game at the hands of 3A champion Belfry, in which they doubled up the Pirates’ offensive yardage total, winning everywhere but the scoreboard. No other team on their schedule played them within 17 points, and no other team in the state of Kentucky came within 27. Twelve of their last 13 games they scored 43 points or more and shut out their opponents four times, with eight others being held to single digits. Their 8.07 PPG allowed was easily the best in 4A, as was their 45.47 PPG scored. Johnson Central utterly dominated. And a whole lot of that dominance returns. Defensively the Golden Eagles will likely take a step back, but offensively, they’re not likely to miss a beat. First and foremost is the return JR RB Joe Jackson, who topped 2000 yards with 31 touchdowns as part of a sophomore campaign that saw him average 13 yards every time he carried the ball. And this guy is back for two seasons! Jackson will be heavily leaned upon again, but he isn’t alone. Alongside him in the rushing attack will be three of the next four highest rushers from a year ago with SO Cody Rice (44/543/4), SR Blake Gamble (58/473/7), and SR Trevor May (69/408/9). Collectively, the four represent over 75% of the ground attack from a season ago for Johnson Central – a team that really likes to run the ball. Trigger man Riley Preece also returns under center to build off his freshman campaign, where he was 62/87 for 1,254 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Plenty of beef on the OL returns, with two starters and four backups returning from a season ago. The only gray cloud in the sky for the Johnson Central offense is the loss of most receiving production from last season, including transcendent athlete Geordan Blanton, who housed just under one out of every two catches en route to ten receiving touchdowns. Replacing his production will be key. Five starters return on the defensive side, but the Golden Eagles will have to adjust to the loss of standouts Josh Ervin, Nathaniel Wilcox, and Devon Patrick, the team’s three leading tacklers a season ago. 4A typically features few pass-heavy offenses, but Johnson Central will also be challenged by the loss of three players in their secondary that accounted for ten of the eighteen interceptions notched by the team in 2016. Matt Horn and Dawson Stalker return to anchor the defensive line while Devin Johnson and Evan Adams will spearhead the linebacking corps. Johnson Central again opens with Capital (WV), which gave them their toughest contest outside of Belfry a season ago, and the schedule by and large tracks the same with a lot of familiar faces. If Johnson Central gets by Capital, it is highly likely that the road trip to Belfry is all that is standing between them and a perfect regular season – and probably a perfect 15-0 record. 2. Wayne County (2016: 11-3; State Semifinalist) Head Coach: Shawn Thompson Wayne County’s 2016 campaign went very much the same way their 2015 campaign did. They took a somewhat surprising loss to 6A Bryan Station in double overtime, which immediately reset expectations for the team. But they buckled down and slowly, and methodically, built back, winning 11 of their next 12 games before bowing out to Johnson Central in the state semifinals. Unlike 2015, their 2016 loss to Johnson Central wasn’t even remotely competitive. But the Cardinals will be favored again to be the one taking their shot at the Region 4 winner in the semifinals, and are considered possibly the only serious thread to a repeat by Johnson Central. The 2017 edition will be a veteran-heavy team that carries experience in two straight state semis in addition to state success in middle school. Only 11 seniors depart from the Cardinals, with leading rusher Dalton Garner the most significant offensive loss. Garner produced 1,059 yards and 20 touchdowns a season ago, leaving SR RB German Ruiz (68/416/8) as the leading returning rusher. QB Lorenzo Linsey is a significant returnee, chipping in 408 yards and 10 touchdowns to go with his 115/214/1,787 and 21 TD passing line. The receiving corps is almost entirely intact with the return of Grant Shoemaker (33/520/5), Aubrey Weaver (22/479/6), and Stetson Simpson (30/394/6). Experienced quarterback, experienced receivers, experienced line, solid experience in the running corps…. the offense is loaded for bear and will look to improve on an already impressive 38.9 PPG a season ago. The defense doesn’t return quite as much, but should see strong contributions in the secondary from Aubrey Weaver and Lane Turner, and return defensive stars in SR Clay Shelton (113 solo tackles) and Chris Dunagan (71 solo tackles), anchoring the linebacking corps. Wayne County will face some challenges early as they have in the past, with their schedule highlighted by a home game against Pulaski County – which has appeared in four straight 5A title games – and a trip to traditional powerhouse Boyle County. Their district appears to have taken a step back, which should make the Cards a solid favorite in their district contests, but with cross bracketing, District 3 power John Hardin and sleeper Western loom in the regional rounds. 3. Collins (2015: 7-5; Second Round) Head Coach: Jerry T. Lucas The Titans have found it difficult to return to the glory of their program’s early years, failing to advance past the second round in any season since their 13-2 4A title campaign in 2013. In each of their past two year’s they found their way blocked by rival Shelby County, bowing out in second round losses. But the Titans proved their mettle in a narrow 24-18 loss last season, and with a host of returnees, look poised to establish as the favorite in District 4 and Region 2. No returning player is as crucial as Coach Lucas’s son, senior quarterback JR Lucas. Lucas is entering his fourth season under center, with a career total of 5,525 yards and 75 touchdowns, including 3,130 yards and 41 TDs a season ago. Collins leans heavily upon their aerial attack offensively, and a player who has seen starting action in four straight years is a luxury most teams never have. While they will have to contend with the loss of their top two receivers from last season, the Titans return virtually everyone else on the offensive side, including running back Nasean Roseberry, a dual threat who posted a combined 1,351 yards between carries and receptions. Roseberry actually did more damage catching out of the backfield, but still averaged a healthy 6.65 YPC on the ground. Four veteran linemen will open lanes for Roseberry and Lucas, while keeping Lucas upright on his dropbacks. Collins had the 7th best offense in per game scoring for 4A a year ago, and will likely challenge for the top spot in this go-round. Defensively Collins was not nearly as stout, allowing over 30 points per game, but like the offense they benefit from the return of most starters. None are more important than linebacker Nick Eades, fresh off of 71 solo tackles a season ago, ready to anchor the defense again. Senior safety Jacob Phillips (52 solo tackles) and senior LB Zach Stucker (33 solo tackles) also return to significant roles. In all, 7 of the top 9 in tackles from a season ago return for Collins, and standout junior corner Cameron Harris (8 interceptions) will provide a boost in coverage. Even without the departure of John Hardin’s District 3 via cross bracketing, Collins would have been the favorite for the region crown coming into the year. Thanks to the changes, in 2017 District 4 will square off against District 5, where Mercer County is expected to be the primary challenger. Collins is currently positioned as the favorite on this side of the bracket to advance to the state finals, and appear almost certain to make a better showing than they have since 2013. Collins opens with Madison Southern, but their schedule is highlighted by a September 1st trip to Ballard, home dates against Boyle County and Pulaski County, and their always difficult district schedule. The Titans will be tested. 4. Franklin-Simpson (2016: 14-1; State Runners-Up) Head Coach: Doug Preston Set aside how it ended for a moment – 2016 was a tremendous success for the Wildcats no matter how you slice it. Franklin-Simpson ran out to a 14-0 record, completing their first unbeaten regular season since 1975. Along the way Franklin avenged 2015 losses to South Warren (twice), Allen County-Scottsville, and Greenwood, posting stellar numbers with the #6 scoring offense and #3 scoring defense in 4A. Their 14 game winning streak is the longest in the history of the program, and it all culminated in their eighth state title appearance in program history. The rest of the story of course is that they fell for the fifth straight time in a state title game, as Johnson Central unleashed a program-lifetime of frustration on the Wildcats and pounded them 48-0. Plenty returns from that strong team, but let’s start with what they’ve lost. Only three starters return on offense, including only one lineman, Jack Randolph. Gone are longtime stalwarts like LT Cole Kirby (Middle Tennessee), RB Josiah Robey (Cinncinnati – 86 rushes for 1,119 yards and 14 TDs), and QB Jackson Caudill (71/130, 1,468 yards, 12 TDs). The receiving corps, line, and half of the backfield are gone. Defensively, the Wildcats will be missing three of their front four from last year, and lose their biggest playmakers in the secondary in Tay Jones and Josiah Robey. Now the good news – RB/LB Saul Brady returns for what feels like his eighth year at Franklin-Simpson. Brady has been an offensive and defensive fixture for the Wildcats, and enters his senior year with 2,788 yards on 299 career rushes for a strong 9.3 YPC. Last season he led the Wildcat rushing attack with 1,389 yards and 20 touchdowns, adding an interception and 36 solo tackles. Brady is the most complete player on the team, and will be counted on even more this year. Carlos McKinney also returns at fullback. A bruising runner, he posted 783 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015. Five backup linemen return from the title game two-deep, and Franklin will be counting on that group to step up and continue the tradition of strong line play. Senior Rylan Thomas does not have much experience, with only nine career passing attempts. The second dimension is a key need for state success, and Thomas will need to be able to throw enough to open the running lanes. One the defensive side, Dion Pearson returns to anchor the line, posting 51 solo tackles a year ago. The news is considerably brighter in the linebacking corps where everyone returns, including standout Cade Harvey (all-state honorable mention, 84 solo tackles) and James Baker (63 solo tackles). They’ll be counted on to step up while the line figures things out. Franklin-Simpson’s schedule looks much the same from a year ago. One notable change is the addition of Elizabethtown in their opening game, which will be a challenging start for the reloading Wildcats against last year’s 3A state semifinalist. South Warren is added as a now out of district opponent while traditional games against Greenwood and Russellville are retained. 5. Ashland (2016: 9-4; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Tony Love Ashland took a step back but yet a step forward last year. The 2015 edition was no-doubt a more highly regarded squad, and Ashland’s ranking entering the year reflected that. An 0-2 start with losses to 1A Raceland and a blowout at the hands of George Washington (WV) did little to dissuade that notion, but the Tomcats closed strong, winning nine of their last 11 games. The two losses were both at the hands of Johnson Central, which was to be expected. The step forward was that they reached the region final for the first time in the six class system, winning two postseason games for the first time since 2004. Reaching at least that level is considered the benchmark for success this season. Junior QB Braxton Ratliff is the most important returnee for the Tomcats. In his sophomore campaign he helped engineer a massive shift in offensive mindset for Ashland, which went from a nearly 90/10 split between rushing and passing production in 2015 to a 50/50 dead heat with a slight lean to aerial attack in 2016. That balance should continue to serve them well, and it is represented in Ratliff, who let the team in rushing in addition to his 2,000+ yards passing. Ashland will likely go as far as Ratliff takes them, and he’ll be the best player on the field most nights. His primary returning receiving threat will be Aroq Colburn, who may also serve as the backup quarterback this season. Colburn had 28 receptions for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns a season ago, alongside 74 carries for 369 yards and 4 TDs on the ground. Ashland is expected to be fast, but there are concerns on the line, which was not a strength a season ago, and lost their expected starting center to a broken hand early in full pad practice. Their upside will rest upon the ability of the line to keep Ratliff from having to scramble. Defensively, Colburn and Marcus Daniels appear to be the standouts, anchoring the linebacking corps, and Gillum and Caines return in the secondary. As on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive line play will be key, as Ashland looks to improve upon their 2016 campaign that saw an average of over 17 PPG allowed. Ashland’s schedule remains difficult as ever, with the usual matchups against Raceland, George Washington, Russell, and Ironton. This year they add their first meeting against Harlan County to the slate, and will take a bye week after their matchup against Johnson Central to regroup right before the playoffs, eschewing their recent trend of taking their bye during Week 0. 6. John Hardin (2016: 9-5; State Semifinalist) Head Coach: Chris Engstrand Each year when we see the mass departures from John Hardin we wonder if this is the year they will drop off. For the past few, they’ve stubbed their toe early (starting 1-3 in 2016), but they continued to perform, reaching the state semifinals yet again – the 8th time in the last 10 years. The Bulldogs are very much a team that gets the benefit of the doubt due to their success, but this offseason they also replaced their coach in addition to the loss of 25 seniors. Chad Lewis stepped down after four years, and Chris Engstrand moves over from Ballard, bringing some offensive intrigue with him. The Wing-T has reigned supreme at John Hardin, and should continue to do so, but may feature some additional wrinkles this time around. On both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs return very little, especially outside the skill positions. Of note, leading rusher Steven Livers (93 rushes, 724 yards, 6 touchdowns) and #3 rusher Lorenzo Reinheimer (71 rushes, 558 yards, 8 touchdowns) both return, as well as dynamic two-way player Anthony Witherspoon, who saw time at receiver a year ago. There has often been chatter of Witherspoon seeing time at QB, this may be when we finally see it. The defensive side is a definite concern with only three returning starters from a unit that allowed 21 points per game a season ago. The schedule has softened slightly, but still features strong programs like Boyle County, Central Hardin, and Meade County. The Bulldogs never really take it easy, and they’ll need to prep work before stepping into the ring with a team like Wayne County in the playoffs. There are a lot of question marks, but a lot of faith in the pedigree of the Bulldog program to figure it out. 7. Hopkinsville (2016: 10-2; Second Round) Head Coach: Craig Clayton The slow climb for the Tigers continues, as they continue to push their way back to the state power that they once were. A big part of that success returned with Craig Clayton coming in to take over for departing Marc Clark. Clayton’s previous tenure of nearly 20 years resulted in the longest tenure and most wins of any Tiger coach in the program’s illustrious history. Since his departure, the Tigers are yet to advance past the region finals, and they haven’t even gone that far since 2006. He inherits a squad that has a sparkling record the last two years, and appeared on the cusp of a title prior to falling to South Warren in a nailbiter last season. One key piece of that success the last few years was Jalen Johnson. With 4,843 yards and 67 passing touchdowns in the last three years, the quarterback position seemed secure heading into his senior year. But just before the start of the season Johnson transferred to Aspire Academy and reclassified to 2019, leaving the Tigers without a huge piece. Enter Javier Bland, a talented, albeit untested sophomore signal caller, who will be expected to shoulder the load. If he can live up to Johnson’s standards, then Hoptown’s ranking is going to jump way up from here. He will have to try without the services of Shorty Cager, who would have been the leading returning receiver with 57 receptions for 953 yards in 2016. He will be foregoing his football season to focus on basketball. Gavin Marschand and Andrew King have been impressive thus far, stepping up to fill Cager's absence. Leading rusher JaTorian Dillard also returns for his junior campaign, looking to build off his 827 yards on the ground in 2016. The offensive and defensive line had significant overlap, and only LT Connor Bohannon returns on the interior of either line. The Tigers had one of the top rated defenses in 4A a season ago, but faced significant departures. Senior JaKevis Bryant (44 solo tackles) will be expected to anchor the linebackers. We will get significant answers right away to questions about Hopkinsville, as their long bemoaned schedule jumps up by a huge factor. South Warren, Mayfield, Caldwell County, and Christian County comprise the first four games and then emerging Greenwood visits the Stadium of Champions in the last tune-up before the playoffs. If Hopkinsville enters the playoffs 5-5 or 6-4, it will not necessarily be an indictment of the very real danger they pose to the teams they face. There is a lot of talent and skill on this Tiger squad, especially in the lower classes -they’re just unproven at this point. 8. Mercer County (2016: 8-5; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: David Buchanan Mercer County played the role of spoilers last year, rebounding from a tough 3-4 start that saw them lose control of the district by winning five games in a row, including a surprise upset in overtime of Rockcastle County in the second round of the playoffs. That pushed Mercer County into a region final for the first time in three years, but they remained unable to solve Wayne County – who had lost to Rockcastle County - falling 30-14 in the finals. 18 seniors depart from that team, but there are great reasons to be optimistic for the Titans. QB Gunnar Gillis returns for his senior season at Mercer County, fresh off a campaign that saw him throw for 1,881 yards and 20 touchdowns, adding a respectable 239 yards and 4 scores on the ground. His receiving corps is depleted somewhat, but Aaron Johnson (23 receptions, 294 yards, 1 TD) and all-around stud Trevon Faulkner (14 receptions, 173 yards, 5 TDs) will be players he can lean on for production. Both players are two-way players and may be called on to do even more. Providing a strong secondary, Faulkner notched 7 interceptions a season ago, in addition to 46 tackles while Johnson added five interceptions. A lot of question marks dot the positions around these players, particularly at the running back position, with Gillis actually serving as the leading returning rusher. Blake Russell and Noah Sheperson return on the offensive line, and Zach and Josh Belding return with experience in the defensive trenches. 9. Rockcastle County (2016: 10-2; Second Round) Head Coach: Scott Parkey 2016 saw Rockcastle County post their most wins in a decade and their first district title in five years. A strong, veteran team enjoyed its greatest achievement with a 41-34 OT win over Wayne County in late September that ultimately clinched the district title for them. But it unraveled with a failed two point conversion in overtime against Mercer County, as the Rockets fell 31-30 and missed out on what would have been their first trip to a region final since 2006. 14 seniors depart from that team, including 11 starters. Both Dakota Bishop and Chayse McClure had seen significant time at QB and were lost to graduation. Brent Lovell is expected to move under center from the RB position, but only threw a single attempt in 2016. Holdan Barnett (126/736/11) and Devon Robinson (107/524/10) return to lead the ground attack. Junior tailback Jaden Payne (49/335/4) should emerge with more touches as well. Rockcastle heavily leans on their running game, and this year will be no exception. The OL will be decently experienced with good size, with returnees including Isaiah Amyx, Peyton Saylor, and Kenyan Stewart. The situation is a bit direr on the defensive side, as the top nine in tackles depart from a season ago. Brent Lovell is a bright spot returning in the secondary, with 4 INTs – including one return for a touchdown – 1 fumble recovery, and 20 solo tackles. Rockcastle County opens with Lincoln County, who they defeated 55-8 in the regular season closer a season ago. The games to circle are their September 29th trip to Wayne County, and the October 20th trip to Knox Central. The former will show what sort of gap there is between the Rockets and contending for the district and region. The latter may be the difference between home and road in the playoffs. 10. Shelby County (2016: 11-2; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Todd Shipley 4A life has been pretty good to Shelby County. After going 8 years in between trips to the region finals (or beyond), Shelby County has been back to back years thanks to a pair of double digit win campaigns. After opening with a loss to Garrard County, Shelby County (officially) reeled off 11 in a row, including two wins over primary rival Collins, before bowing out to John Hardin. Offensively, the Rockets were juggernauts, scoring 31 or more in every game except one, and averaging over 42 PPG. The best news for Rockets fans heading into this season is that they return Caleb Morehead, fresh off of a nearly 1500 yard season with 18 touchdowns. Fellow backfield mate Kyion Stone (52/341/3) will likely take on a larger role with the departure of Brandon Davis, the second major ball carrier from a year ago. The Rockets will be missing Tyler Drane, who combined for just over 1700 yards at the quarterback position. Shelby County employs about an 80/20 split in terms of the running/passing game, but did see a bit more of a pass last year to keep teams honest. Stepping into that role this year will be Collin OHare, who carries a perfect 3/3 passing record into the year from 2016. The line will be retooled, but Daniel Glass and Colten Aldridge return up front. The defensive side was hit harder by graduation, but returns LB Jose Carias (14 solo tackles), ILB Devonte Chandler (12 solo tackles), LB Cameron Armstrong (10 solo tackles) and DE Jordan Nava, all who saw significant time. The defense will have a new coordinator as well in Alex Mathews, which will mix things up even further. Just Outside 11. Greenup County (2016: 7-5; Second Round) Head Coach: Scott Grizzle 11 starters return to a Musketeer squad that has gone on the road and won a playoff game in each of the last two seasons. QB Eli Sammons returns to build on a 1,134 yard freshman campaign, as does fellow QB Chase Hunt. Greenup will have plenty of passing options behind a veteran line, but will face an uphill battle in their chase of district mates Johnson Central and Ashland. 12. Knox Central (2016: 4-6-1; First Round) Head Coach: Fred Hoskins The Panthers fell in their final four contests a year ago, but it wasn’t a lack of competitive drive, as they put scares into both Wayne County and Rockcastle County before bowing out to Mercer County in the first round. Donavan Arthur returns to build on a strong 1,000 yard rushing campaign, but the key to 2017 is Jermel Carton, who is returning from an ACL injury after the third game last season. Carton had rushed for 261 yards on just 34 carries to that point, and could be the boost Knox needs to push for a home playoff game. 13. Bourbon County (2016: 6-6; Second Round) Head Coach: John Hodge The Colonels closed 2016 strong with wins in five of their last six games before falling to Ashland in the playoffs. Their lone loss came to 5A finalist Pulaski County. Bourbon County hopes to ride the passing game to another district title. While they replace 2,000 yard passer Trevor Lucky with senior Kenton Edwards (246 yards on 30/63 passing in spot duty), they do return Titus Ransom, who posted 1,002 yards on 70 receptions – 8 for touchdowns. 14. Franklin County (2016: 4-7; First Round) Head Coach: Eddie James Eddie James inherits a Franklin County program that is still struggling to find its footing since their region final runs in 2012 & 2013. On the positive side, they won’t have to contend with John Hardin, who has put them out of the playoffs in the last two years. As for the team, Franklin County returns more than half of their starters, including most of their linemen and one of their two 2016 quarterbacks, Jerimiah Green. 15. Western (2016: 4-7; First Round) Head Coach: Preston King The Warriors have a treat for new head coach Preston King – almost every starter returns on both sides of the ball. That can only mean growth for a team that still managed a home playoff contest in 2016. They’ll look for big things from back Kenneth Thompson and returning quarterback Tyon Pearson to boost an offense that failed to score over 8 points in six of their 11 contests last season.
  7. Heading into last year, 4A was a completely changed landscape, entirely devoid of the old guard that had dominated the class. It was seen as a time for schools that had long lived in the shadows to step out and finally achieve glory. In a way, that’s what we got, because we basically had to. But the real story of 4A became the coronation of a new state power in the South Warren Spartans, who absolutely pummeled everyone in their way en route to a perfect 15-0 record. No other school in the class finished with even just 1 loss. But relief will soon be on the way for 4A as realignment will take the Spartans to 5A. A pity for all those other teams that they’ll have to wait until 2017 for that to happen…… 1. South Warren (2015: 15-0; State Champions) Head Coach: Brandon Smith Just how impressive was South Warren’s run last year? The Spartans won by an average of 31 PPG while racking up the #4 offense in 4A, and the #1 defense in all classes. South Warren gave up 70 points less than any other team in 4A despite playing at least one more game than every single team. No team got within 21 points of beating the Spartans, and only two teams even got to double digits. It truly was breathtaking dominance. But, as they say, tomorrow is another day. 2015 was built largely upon the backs of a very experienced group, a few of which were three year starters. They’ll be tasked with replacing their entire offensive line plus tight end, their strong linebacking corps, and most of their secondary. In all, they return three starters on each side of the ball, with five players total covering those six positions. A lot of the backups departed as well. All great news for the rest of the class, right? Sure, they won’t have to contend with those players, but the Spartans proved a couple of years ago that they could reload, and this is no different. They return Ryder Litten at the QB position, who will be in his third season under center leading the Spartans. Litten is a dual-threat QB that got a little banged up at times last season, but still accounted for over 2100 yards in combined offense and had his fingerprints on 35 scores. Joining him in returning to the backfield will be RB Kayron Namvong, who rushed for 1,243 yards last season in 12 games, averaging just under 6 YPC. They’re a powerful 1-2 punch in the read option offense, and Litten will also have the services of WR CJ Hayes, a dynamic athlete that recently gave his verbal commitment to Purdue. On the defensive side, the line will be anchored by sophomore Jacob Lacey, a 6’2”, 290 lbs beast at the DT position. Lacey holds offers from the likes of Notre Dame, Tennessee, Louisville, and Kentucky. Next to him will be senior Zach Haynes, a Ball State commit. The Spartans received some transfer help with the arrival of lineman Eddie Graham from Jeffersontown, and LB/WR John Ford moving over from Warren Central (should he be ruled eligible), to go with the next men up they already had. In short, the Spartans may not have all the familiar names you’re used to, but they have D1 athletes and a very talented crew ready to step up. The Spartans open in the Rafferty’s Bowl on August 20th, squaring off with Monroe County. Road trips to Central Hardin and Pope John Paul II (TN) are likely the toughest games on the schedule, but they will be heavily favored to add another 15-0 campaign. 2. Johnson Central (2015: 12-2; State Runners-Up) Head Coach: Jim Matney While the Golden Eagles didn’t get the ultimate prize at the end, 2015 was still an end to years of frustration in the early rounds of the postseason. For four straight years, Johnson Central had languished behind Highlands and Covington Catholic, going out in the second round each time despite sterling regular season records. But last year it was finally time for the Golden Eagles, winning not only their region, but advancing to their first appearance ever in a state final. That they ran into a 36-6 loss at the hands of South Warren in the finals does not diminish the breakthrough, especially when you consider they were down to their final play before a 30 yard TD against Scott in the closing seconds of their region final. The 2016 edition will be without the services of 13 seniors from the state runner-up team, including the bulk of their offensive production in QB Bryce Workman (1,071 yds passing, 422 yds rushing), RB Connor Ratliff (1,033 yds rushing), and RB Bryce Skaggs (703 yds rushing). The Golden Eagles ran a very balanced rushing attack, and while they will be missing those key components, they return almost everyone else, including nearly their entire line. Only LT Daniel Meade departs from last year’s O-Line, and in all, 8 starters return on offense. QB will be a question. WR Geordan Blanton produced almost 80% of all production from the wide receiver corps last year, but also served as backup QB. If he steps into that spot, who moves in to take up the slack out wide? FB Gunner Slone is the leading returning rusher, and should be joined by Joe Jackson, who averaged over 10 YPC in spot work last season, taking almost 1 out of every 4 carries to the house. Defensively, 7 starters return from a unit that allowed a respectable 13.9 PPG on the year, but needs to tighten up late, giving up almost 1 TD per game more than that in the final six games of the year, including both their losses. The key playmaker on that side of the ball from last year was also Geordan Blanton, leading the team in solo tackles from the free safety position. Johnson Central made a couple of changes to their schedule from last year, picking up South Charleston (WV) during their unwanted second bye week, as well as another WV team in Capital (WV). The main games to circle are an early season home contest with Lexington Catholic, and then a revenge quest at home against Belfry, who knocked them off 41-0 last season. An experienced group will be favored to take JC back to the finals, but they’ll have their work cut out for them to make up 30 points from last season against South Warren. 3. Wayne County (2015: 11-3; State Semifinalist) Head Coach: Shawn Thompson It’s been an up and down experience the last three years for the Cardinals, sandwiching a terrifyingly low 2014 season between the dizzying highs of 2013 and 2015. The Cards were off the radar to start last year, and did little to move up it after an early 2-2 start, albeit one that included a respectable 14-10 loss at Bell County. But then came nine straight wins as they clinched homefield advantage through the playoffs, and rode that to a state semifinal finish before coming up short in a 21-14 loss to Johnson Central. But there is strong momentum coming into this season for a team that has won 15 of their last 19 games. Only 12 seniors departed from last season, and the bulk of the team’s offensive production returns. That includes QB Lorenzo Linsey, coming off a sophomore campaign that saw him throw for 1,425 yards and 14 TDs. He’ll have his receiving corps largely intact with his top four targets returning, including leading receivers Grant Shoemaker (23 receptions/435 yards/7 touchdowns) and Stetson Simpson (26 receptions, 351 yards/3 touchdowns). Five of the six leading rushers from last season come back, including bellcow Dalton Garner (176 rushes/1,092 yards/18 touchdowns). They will have to replace the majority of the line in front of him, but the Cardinals have typically reloaded with great size in the trenches. Defensively they’ll miss Nathan Garner’s 61 solo tackles, but return LB Clay Shelton’s 60 solo and 101 tackles, as well as Aubrey Weaver’s 5 INTs from the secondary. In all there are 13 returning starters from both sides of the ball, which should bode well for the Cards’ chances to improve upon last season’s surprisingly successful campaign. Adding to that, in many regards, Wayne County will still be decently young, with a large upcoming junior class that is almost as large as last year’s senior and junior classes combined. Wayne County’s schedule sets up favorably, with their likely toughest challenges coming in a home contest against Bell County, and a crucial road game at Knox Central, considered their primary challenger in the district. 4. John Hardin (2015: 9-4; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Chad Lewis Hopes were sky-high for the Bulldogs entering last season, as they’d finally escaped the shadow of Bowling Green and other 5A frustrations. Considered perhaps the favorites in the west for 4A, that thought came to a sudden and brutal end at the hands of South Warren and a 43-12 loss in the opening game. After a 2-3 start, John Hardin reeled off seven straight wins prior to bowing out in the region finals to Shelby County, salvaging what had a chance to be a mega-disappointment of a season, settling for the minor disappointment of ending a streak of seven straight region titles. And yet, despite two straight years of stumbling out of the starter blocks, we find John Hardin here again, among the contenders. A big reason for that is that despite their rough starts, by playoff time, the Bulldogs have continued to show their potential. Another reason is that John Hardin, which has seemed perpetually young of late, returns almost everyone of significance from last season. This includes a strong RB corps led by Robert Shorter, Steven Livers, and FB Antonio Ayers. Livers in particular showed up strong late last year, rushing for 337 yards on 38 carries in the final regular season game and first two rounds of the playoffs. They’ll run behind an offensive line that loses just two men from the five man + TE front. Exactly who will be at QB is a bit of a question mark. Early speculation was that returning Anthony Witherspoon would replace Shay Stone, but it appears that his athleticism will be used elsewhere. Defensively they’ll have to deal with the loss of their entire secondary, but 4A is a class that is not noted for the proliferation of passing offenses. The entire front four on the D-Line returns as the Bulldogs look to shore up a defense that allowed over 20 points a game, which climbed to 31 PPG in objectively their 8 toughest contests. In other words, they’ll score a lot, but they need to find a way to not have to do that. The Bulldogs face mostly a mirror of last season’s challenging schedule, but on the plus side, they won’t have to play South Warren out of the gate. No, they trade that beast for their old nemesis Bowling Green. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, as it were. The schedule is frontloaded as it was last year, before the Bulldogs coast through district play, wrapping up with a tough road trip to Christian County. John Hardin will be road warriors this year, playing six games away from home. 5. Franklin-Simpson (2015: 8-5; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Doug Preston Speaking of the perpetually young, the Wildcats never do seem to have a huge graduating class, but yet never seem to have a large class come through any of their years. Last year the Wildcats had a very uneven start to the year, alternating wins and losses through their first nine games. It wasn’t until October 30th that they had an actual winning streak, part of a four game run at the end. But when you look at who they were playing, really only their loss to Allen County-Scottsville, a rather stunning 21-20 upset, was a black mark. Their other losses were to 10-3 Caldwell County, 9-3 Greenwood, and two losses to state champion South Warren. Franklin-Simpson managed to stay closer than most to the Spartans, and while the odds are against it, will look to try to overtake South Warren this season. Let’s start with the bad: among the 10 departed seniors were leading rusher Isiah Hall and third leading rusher Nick Groves. The good news is that the Wildcats have typically not had trouble finding rushers in the Wing-T attack, and they return stud junior RB Saul Brady and his 1,012 rushing yards. He led the team in per carry average with just over 9 YPC. A strong downhill runner, they’ll want big things from him. Trigger-man Jackson Caudill also returns for his senior year, with a modest 477 yards on 32/87 passing last season. The strong desire from the fanbase is that they install more passing plays in the offense this fall, to attack South Warren in a different dimension than the rushing attack that has usually been a complete non-starter against the Spartans – the Wildcats rushed for 84 yards total in the two games combined. The offensive line returns an experienced unit, with only center Allen Chandler absent from last year’s unit. The defensive line is mostly intact as well, returning standout Dion Pearson (31 solo tackles, 67 total), and the linebacking corps returns both Tyler Doss and Cade Harvey, the leading tacklers on last year’s team. If experience counts, the Wildcats have it, although they do have a good deal of two way players, making endurance a concern at times. And it is a defense that allowed on average 22 PPG last season. Their schedule is a mirror of last year, setting up difficult road games at Caldwell County, Greenwood, and Russellville, but they do at least get to host South Warren during the regular season. Franklin-Simpson is unlikely to beat South Warren in either the regular season or the postseason, but if they do have tricks up their sleeves, they will have to ask themselves, are they more concerned with a game on September 23rd, or one three weeks into the playoffs? 6. Spencer County (2015: 10-2; Second Round) Head Coach: Mike Marksbury The Bears will look to improve on a stellar 2015 campaign that featured the #1 offense in 4A, but came up a bit short on the promise that had developed. The Bears started 8-0, and jumped on Shelby County 14-0 to open their crucial district game. But they couldn’t hold the lead, and after tying it at 28 all in the 4th, faltered 42-28, and ceding the district crown with it. That put them on a collision course with John Hardin in the second round, where they held a 15-14 lead entering the 4th, and had driven deep into Bulldog territory. But an interception in the end zone followed by a 91 yard touchdown run buried Spencer County and their playoff hopes. But there is a veritable wealth of returning talent for Spencer County. They lost only 8 seniors from last year, and while one of those losses was leading rusher Logan Holbrook, they return Brandon Leff and his 1,611 yards on 129 carries – good enough for a better per carry average than Holbrook – as well as another 1,000 yard rusher in Kadin Smith (1,254 yards on 89 carries). Four starters return on the offensive line to open up gaps for them, and it is conceivable that Spencer County could improve on last year’s eye-popping 4,595 total rushing yards. The defense returns three strong linebackers in Hunter Brown, Austin Ashley, and Dakota Waldridge, their three leading tacklers from a year ago. The Bears rated just 11th in the class in scoring defense, and will likely need to improve upon that to realize their dreams of a region title, and perhaps more. Key games are basically their entire district slate – district 4 is the best district top to bottom in all of 4A. 7. Hopkinsville (2015: 10-2; Second Round) Head Coach: Marc A. Clark The proud Tiger tradition is almost back – almost. The Tigers brought home their first title of any kind since 2005, winning district for the first time in a decade in dominant fashion – no District 1 team got within 31 points of them. Aside from a respectable loss to a good Christian County team, the Tigers ran the regular season table, posting a 9-1 campaign that equaled their most wins since 2005 even before the playoffs. When they notched a tight win over Warren Central for their 10th win, it became their winningest season in 13 years. But despite racking up over 300 yards of offense against Franklin-Simpson, they fell short of advancing and hosting South Warren in a region final, 28-21 in 2OT, in no small part thanks to a trio of turnovers. 16 seniors depart, but Jalen Johnson is not one of them. QB Jalen Johnson enters his junior season for the Tigers coming off a steallar 146/297 for 2,189 yards and 31 TD campaign. It is that stat line that makes the Tigers so intriguing, especially in a region with South Warren. They are practically the only team in all of 4A that looks to pass first, run second. It is that second dimension that is sorely needed to challenge the upper echelon in the class. Two of his top three targets return, including the team’s leading receiver by yardage and primary TD target CJ Henangan, who posted 691 yards on 32 receptions, with 12 of those going for scores. Stephen Cager posted 360 yards receiving out of the backfield to go with 365 yards on the ground, and leading rusher sophomore RB JaTorion Darden (756 yards/7 TDs) returns as well. Four of five hogs up front return to pass protect and open up the lanes, giving the Tigers all the potential that a very experienced and talented offense belies. Three linemen go both ways, which hurts depth, but does mean that the defensive front of the 3-4 returns as well, with team leader for tackles Jaxon Janes (66 solos) returning alongside Andrew King (17 solos) to give the Tigers half of their linebacking corps as well. The Tigers have a lot returning to a team that posted the #2 offense and #2 defense last year, and are the most likely dark horse in the chase to knock off South Warren. The Tigers likely only have Graves County and Christian County (both home) as speed bumps on the way to the playoffs. They’ll have to hope it’ll be enough to test them. 8. Scott (2015: 10-3; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Dan Woolley A great year was oh-so-close to being even better for the Eagles. Scott had already knocked out 10 wins, a district title, and what was considered an upset victory over highly regarded Ashland in the second round. They held a 26-21 lead over Johnson Central, at home, with 7 seconds remaining and the Golden Eagles on the 30. But a touchdown pass on that last play shattered the Scott dreams, and it was Johnson Central that ended up advancing all the way to the final. Still, it’s hard to be disappointed if you’re a Scott fan, considering they lost two games by a combined two points and another to a 6A semifinalist. So Scott enters 2016, less 18 seniors from that stirring playoff run, and a small upcoming senior class behind them. Gone is QB Danny Fitzgerald, with Nelson Perrin the expected replacement having only thrown a single pass all year. Gone is Roberto London and his 1,296 rushing yards, and the second leading rusher? That was QB Nelson Perrin, who averaged over 10 YPC in racking up 746 yards. In fact, Nelson Perrin is the only returning back to rush for over 200 yards, and he led the team in receiving as well – he can’t very well throw it to himself. Which is to say, Scott will need a lot of guys to step up and fill those gaps. They do return the majority of their offensive line, and should have some good size on the defensive line as well. The linebacking corps have been decimated, so the defense will have rebuild aspects. The good news is that the district should be a relative breeze, and only Johnson Central is expected to be a significant power in District 8 this season. Scott will have plenty of time to bring this group up to speed, and while they’ll take their lumps from teams like Newport Central Catholic and Simon Kenton, they should be fine in the 4A playoffs. 9. Knox Central (2015: 8-5; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Scott Russell Last season was a strong statement year for the Panthers, stronger than their 8-5 record might imply. They played a strong out of district schedule, playing two 6A Lexington powers, Southwestern, and notching a win over 3A titan Louisville Central. Two losses to Wayne County are all that prevented them from taking home a title, but the season was a building block to something better. Only 10 seniors departed from the 2015 Knox Central edition, leaving a veteran and experienced group to lead the way in 2016. Four of five offensive linemen return, paving the way for junior RB Donavan Arthur, who will look to improve on his 185/1,274/12 line from last season. Complimenting him in the backfield will be junior RB Jermel Carton (64/584/7), who also excelled on defense, leading the team in takeaways with 3 interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Knox Central is not particularly known for their passing game, but did open it up at times last season as returning Sr. Jaxon Stewart threw for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. Leading receivers Adam Renfro (12/258/3) and Tanner Wells (18/236/5) also return. Renfro in particular is a name you will see over the coming years – he’s just a sophomore. There’s a little less experience returning to a defense that allowed nearly 23 points a game last season. The departures included leading tacklers Jared Hall, Matthew Smith, and Casey Patterson, all from the linebacking corps. Senior defensive ends Tanner Wells and Casey Diamond return, as well as a strong secondary with standouts Jeremy Stewart (43 tackles) and the aforementioned Jermel Carton. The Panthers open with Madison Central this year, another 6A Lexington school, and continue to face challenges from top teams such as Corbin, Henry Clay, and Southwestern. The game to circle is a home match against Wayne County on October 7th which should serve as a de facto district title game. 10. Shelby County (2015: 12-2; State Semifinalist) Head Coach: Todd Shipley The Rockets turned back the clock last season, experiencing success they had not enjoyed in quite some time, especially since the opening of Collins High. Shelby County advanced to their first region final in 8 years, and won their first region final in 22 years. Their 12 wins represented more than their previous two seasons combined, their first double digit win season in nearly 30 years, and quite possibly a school-record win total (certainly is since 1975, the furthest back I could find). Not a bad haul for a school that was coming off a 3-8 season and had won three games or less in four of their previous seven years. They lose only 11 seniors from that team, but it’s who they lost that hurts. Primary among the losses was Malik Manica (176/1,560/17) and Michael Perry (83/1,000/13). Losing those two also means the loss of their defensive impact, where they led the team in tackles. Add Jordy Osorto to that list, and it means replacing the top three leaders in tackles. Four offensive linemen are gone in the trenches as well. So who comes back? Junior Tyler Drane returns at quarterback, where he posted a respectable 40/86 for 785 yards and 12 TDs line last year in a triple option offense that heavily prioritizes the run. He is also the second leading returning rusher behind senior Brandon Davis (71/540/10), who will be expected to shoulder far more of the load than the 71 carries he had last season. Only one lineman returns, although it’s a good one in Hayden Tedford, who checks in at 6’0”, 270 lbs. LB James Bradley (37 solo tackles) and FS KeShawn Catlett (36 solo tackles, 1 INT returned for TD) will be expected to anchor the defense. The Rockets have enough talent to potentially make another run at a district title, but it would be surprising to see them reach their lofty perch from last year. They do have a favorable schedule in-district, with a trip to Spencer County being their only trip outside the county borders in district play. Just Outside 11. Rockcastle County (2015: 5-7; Second Round) Head Coach: Scott Parkey The Rockets were oh-so-close last year to spoiling the Wayne County party. Twice, in fact, playing the Cardinals to a 21-13 decision in early October, before falling in the second round 27-24 in November. The playoff loss was especially bitter, as an 18-6 halftime lead for the Rock went wanting after a bad snap on a punt led to the winning score for Wayne County. But almost literally EVERYONE returns for Rockcastle, with only two seniors listed on last year’s roster. Junior RB Brent Lovell racked up almost 1,000 yards last season to spearhead the rushing attack, while Chayse McClure and Dakota Bishop split time at QB to combine for almost 1,300 yards through the air. Depth is a real problem, but if they can stay healthy, a very experienced team may lead the way to a return to glory for Rockcastle. 12. Franklin County (2015: 7-4; First Round) Head Coach: Nicholas Sheridan The Flyers rolled to a 6-0 start last season, including a win over eventual state semifinalist Shelby County, but crashed from there, dropping three of four in the regular season, and getting crushed by John Hardin 37-7. New coach Nicholas Sheridan has a small senior class (nine) to lead an incredibly youth-oriented team. Senior RB Denzel Vance was the bellcow for the Flyers last season, and is one of the very few skill players coming back. 13. Collins (2015: 5-7; Second Round) Head Coach: Jerry T. Lucas 2013 and the strong early years run by the fledgling school is becoming a bit of a fading memory for the Titans. Last year they fell to rival Shelby County for the first time, and it happened twice, as the Rockets put them out of the playoffs in the second round. Still, Collins turned in a modest improvement in what was a brutal district, and will continue to enjoy the stellar play of junior QB JR Lucas, who enters off a season where he threw for 1,538 yards and 22 touchdowns. Junior RB Nasean Roseberry also returns, turning in 933 yards and a healthy 9.2 YPC average a year ago. Senior WR Dalton Maggard completes the returning skill trifecta, leading the team with 35 receptions for 709 yards and 12 TDs last season. A large junior class means this team may still be a year away, but will be good enough to spoil some goals for a few teams this year. 14. Ashland (2015: 9-3; Second Round) Head Coach: Tony Love 20 seniors departed a strong Ashland team that had a disappointing second round exit a year ago, but none more crucial than Quenton Baker and his nearly 2,000 rushing yards. Second leading rusher Kurtlen Brown also was lost to transfer, leading to a team in a very transitional state. With that comes perhaps a change in focus, as the Tomcats are expected to focus a bit more on the passing game this time around. They were one of the most unbalanced offenses in the state, racking up 4,102 rushing yards against only 539 passing yards. 15. Mercer County (2015: 6-6; Second Round) Head Coach: David Buchanan It was a tale of two halves last season for the Titans. After starting 0-5 against a challenging schedule, Mercer County reeled off six straight wins en route to a district title, narrowly falling to Knox Central in the second round. With only six seniors departing from a small class last year, a lot of experience returns, especially in a large upcoming senior class, though Mercer does have to replace Drew Davis at QB. Leading rusher Donald Smith returns, and they add a strong athlete in Tanner Robbins, who had previously focused only on baseball. Next Five 16. Greenup County (2015: 6-6; Second Round) Head Coach: Scott Grizzle Scott Grizzle takes over a Greenup County program that won its first playoff game since 2007 and won as many games as the previous four years combined. Junior RBs Jake Wright (357 yards) and Caden Warnock (337 yards) will try to lead the Musketeers to their first winning season in 14 years. 17. East Jessamine (2015: 7-4; First Round) Head Coach: Michael Bowlin The Jaguars eclipsed the combined win total of the previous three years with 7 wins last year, grabbing a home game along with their winning season, their first since 2010. Leading rusher Justin McIntylre (667 yards) and expected QB Kyle Gann lead 15 seniors who will look to improve on that, and bring home their first playoff victory since that same 2010 season. 18. North Oldham (2015: 3-7; Missed Playoffs) Head Coach: Joe Gamsky The Mustangs drew the short straw in District 4 last year, ending the season 1-7 after starting 2-0, a sharp decline from their state semifinal appearance the year before. New HC Joe Gamsky will have to replace his QB and top two rushers, but will have services of 17 seniors. 19. Allen County-Scottsville (2015: 6-6; Second Round) Head Coach: Brad Hood The 2015 Patriots had their most wins and first playoff win since their run to the 2010 state finals. Over 90 players have been in practice after the dead period, and returning QB-RB duo Chase Wilson and Jaylon Mcpeak will be looking to put the Pats over .500 and grab a home playoff game. 20. Taylor County (2015: 5-6; First Round) Head Coach: Dudley Hilton The Cards closed a respectable 5-3 after opening the year 0-3. Senior HB Justice Harrison returns, seeking to improve on his 971 yards rushing a season ago. Brother Hunter Harrison also returns at QB, where he threw for 425 yards and rushed for 236 last year.
  8. You might not be aware of it, but Greenwood turned in one of their best seasons in school history last season. The Gators opened up the season 5-0, their best start and longest winning streak in school history. Their 8 wins were the most ever in the regular season for the program, and second most in a complete season despite falling in their first playoff game. The Gators averaged more points per game than any season before. But when you play in the shadow of a team like Bowling Green, a team that you haven't beaten in 21 all-time meetings, you tend to get overlooked. The Gators are annually faced with the challenge of not only overcoming Bowling Green, but Warren Central as well, a team that they are only a marginally better 3-17 against. Their new coach will bring with him a philosophy that begins with the base thought that they must believe they can compete to then move on to beating these two teams. And if they can beat those two, a world of possibilities unlocks. Chris Seabolt takes over as head coach at Greenwood from Greg Cavanaugh, who recently took a coordinator position in Portland (TN). Coach Seabolt comes from a program that knows a thing or two about entering every game believing they can and will win, having coached on the Bowling Green staff for the last three years, the last two as offensive line coach. Seabolt will bring with him two rings that are proof of what happens when you buy in to a program and philosophy. Prior to that he coached at Grayson County for 6 years, the last five as offensive coordinator and two as associate head coach. During that time, Grayson County saw a program renaissance that led to them hosting their first playoff game in 26 years and beating Warren Central twice, so he's no stranger to a program lifting itself to another level. Seabolt's goal for the season is to get the kids to buy into the way the coaches do things and to instill a blue collar, punch the clock atmosphere. Do that, and the wins will come. Greenwood will have to replace several strong players from 2012, chief among them #1 tailback Tanner Thompson and the team’s three leading tacklers, LB Dakota Madison, DL Josh Cavanaugh, and LB Isaiah Thomas Turner. Most of the secondary departs from the previous season as well. The biggest returning weapon is senior QB Josh Dyer, who passed for 2,332 yards and 25 TDs in his first season starting under center. Dyer has had a strong showing in the early 7 on 7s that Greenwood has competed in, and looks to be poised for a big year. Probably the only worry is who will he throw the ball to after the loss of his top 4 receivers. Also returning is two way player RB/LB Joey Hughes, the team’s leading rusher and the second leading returning player in tackles. Other notables include the leading returner in tackles ILB Stewart Windham, who notched 56 tackles in 2012, as well as DL Marquis Cornelius who will help clog the interior in the new 50 defense Seabolt is installing. The Gators have a dedicated but small senior class, which will place some added pressure on the large junior crop to fill some leadership roles on the team. Greenwood’s 2013 schedule is virtually identical to 2012. Their final seven games of the year are against the same opponents in the same weeks. 5A mate Hopkinsville moves from a third week bowl game in 2012 to the season opener in the Rivals Bowl, a bowl game jointly run by Greenwood and Warren Central that will be played at Greenwood this season. The Gators add Allen County-Scottsville back to the schedule after a two year absence, having played them previously from 2007-2010. The most significant addition is ready made rival South Warren, which was formed from roughly 40% of Greenwood’s population in 2010. This will be the first meeting of the two teams, and besides being the most exciting game of Greenwood’s non-district schedule, should prove to be the stiffest test. How serious is this game being taken? These two teams met in South Warren’s 7 on 7 tournament in mid-July and drew a very large, vocal crowd and at times moved from simple two hand touch to unsanctioned full contact. Both programs want that game, very much. The key district games remain a September 27th matchup at Warren Central and an October 25th showdown against Bowling Green at home. The Gators have not hosted a playoff game since 2009 and have had to take to the road in each of their first two years in 5A. If they hope to host one this year and avoid a potential trip to Christian County or Graves County, one of these two games is a must win. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Gator program as we approach the season. Coach Seabolt brings a winning mentality and culture to Greenwood. They are more concerned with the process than the wins and losses right now, but make no mistake, the pattern has shown that with Coach Seabolt involved, the wins will come sooner rather than later. Greenwood has all the tools to start winning at a higher level. Now they just need to do it. Players To Watch Josh Dyer – QB – 6’2”, 185 lbs – Senior – Dyer is the unquestioned leader of this year’s Gators. Dyer posted a 25:11 TD:INT ratio last season, and should continue to flourish in Greenwood’s spread option offense. As Dyer goes, so goes the Gator offense. Joey Hughes – RB/LB – 6’0”, 165 lbs – Senior – Joey had to suffer through a myriad of injuries and setbacks in his first two years that included a fractured back, but it was an injury to lead back Tanner Thompson that finally gave Hughes a chance to become the lead back on offense, posting a 5 YPC mark and leading the team with 8 TDs on the ground. He’s also the leading returning player in receiving yards. Stewart Windham – ILB – Junior – With the departure of Dakota Madison, Windham becomes the de facto leader on the defense, and should continue to establish a significant presence in the interior of the linebacker corps. An added bonus is that he is just a junior, which means the Gators will have a defensive anchor for the following year as well.
  9. Over the past two years, the Dragons have established themselves as arguably one of the top 10 teams in the state regardless of class. They have played in three straight region title games, and have only one loss to a team in those three years that didn't play for a state title. Unfortunately for Warren Central, they have six losses to teams that did, and three of those losses prevented them from winning even a single region title during that time. In the last two years, the prevailing feeling on Morgantown Road is that Bowling Green prevented them from not only winning a region title, but a state title as well. This leaves Warren Central entering 2013 with many questions about what to do moving forward. They've seen a lot of success but they have not gotten to where they feel they are capable of going. They'll have a lot of gaps to fill as well in their quest to achieve those goals. Gone is the advantage of five senior lineman that the Dragons graduated last year. Gone is a three year starter at quarterback. And gone are their top two rushers. But enough about what Warren Central lost, what do they return? Their primary returning offensive weapon in their Wing-T offense is WB Rondell Green who averaged 8.3 YPC last season on 61 rushes. He'll likely be complimented on the opposite wing by junior Daryen Ross who posted 260 yards in limited work last season. The likely quarterback for Warren Central will be senior Chris Porter-Bunton, who has actually generated a fair amount of college interest as a wide receiver, the position he played primarily last season. With Porter-Bunton in the backfield, the Dragons will look more like the team featured in the first season under HC Mike Rogers when he came to Warren Central in 2009. That team threw much more sparingly but confused defenses with three speedy and talented backfield runners in addition to a bruising fullback. Porter-Bunton's mobility may help make up for an inexperienced line, especially in the early part of the season. Defensively the Dragons should return six starters, anchored by junior MLB Emmitt Smith and senior WLB Byron Carver. Of all the players on Warren Central's team, no player passes the eye test more than these two bruisers. They'll be called upon to tighten up a defense that allowed an average of 29.5 points in two games to Bowling Green last year, their only two losses. The Dragons have only once ever beaten Bowling Green when allowing that many points in a game. The 2013 schedule sees a fairly significant uptick in difficulty for the Dragons as they are beginning to experience a taste of what Bowling Green has been dealing with - no one close wants to play them. The Dragons had great difficulty finding a game for Week 10, so they were able to jump at the opportunity to play arguably the most tradition rich program in the state, the Highlands Bluebirds. Warren Central has also added games against 2A Semifinalist Louisville DeSales, traditional powers Owensboro and North Hardin, as well as an appearance against Boyle County in the Rebels' bowl game. This gauntlet may find Warren Central with a few more bumps and bruises as well as more entries in the loss column than the past few years. They're hoping that it will pay off in preparation for where they want to go. In-district the Dragons are the clear #2 team behind Bowling Green, and will be strongly favored in all games except that one. The game against Bowling Green is October 18th, two weeks before their matchup with Highlands. Few teams, if any, can boast of two games that challenging so close to each other. Few teams, if any, would WANT two games that challenging so close to each other. Warren Central remains confident that they can win a state title in 5A, but they will have to find a way to reach even the semifinals before they can truly be seriously considered a threat for the title. Will they ever be able to escape the Purple shadow of their "big brother"? Players To Watch Chris Porter-Bunton - QB/WR/FS - 6'4", 200 lbs - Senior - In a perfect world, Porter-Bunton would be playing in his more natural position of wide receiver rather than throwing the ball, but look for the Dragons to still look for ways to split him out wide. As QB, Central will look to take advantage of his athleticism and the greater opportunities provided by the ball being in his hands on almost every snap. Byron Carver - TE/OLB - 6'2", 230 lbs - Senior - Carver's size gives him a matchup advantage over most teams the Dragons will face, and should be the favorite passing target on the team. Last year he notched 374 yards and 8 TDs in an offense that threw sparingly. Defensively, the Dragons seek ways to get Carver matched 1 on 1 on the edge with offensive lineman, where his size and speed can yield maximum results. Emmitt Smith - MLB/FB - 6'3", 240 lbs - Junior - Emmitt Smith has half the battles won already. He has the frame of a football player, and he has a name synonymous with football. Smith has begun to generate some more interest in recruiting circles, and will be leaned on to continue the strong play he exhibited late last season to lift the Dragon defense. Smith also saw spot work at the fullback position in 2012, and may be called upon to carry the ball more this season. Rondell Green - WB/CB - 6'0", 180 lbs - Senior - After a strong sophomore campaign Green was expected to be the lead wing for the Dragons, but a hand injury kept him from carrying the ball as much as the Dragons would have liked last season. He still put up 507 yards rushing with 8 TDs on the ground, as well as hauling in 4 TD receptions and running one kickoff back for a score. Defensively, Green is the standout in the secondary where he notched 6 interceptions, one of which he took back for a score.
  10. Inside South-Central Kentucky Football (9-2-13) -Bowling Green (1-0) ran into the only thing capable of stopping their powerful offense – Mother Nature. Their Saturday game against Bryan Station at Lexington Catholic was delayed and then canceled due to rain and lightning. Attempts to reschedule for the following day were unsuccessful. This means the Purples will have two weeks between their season opener and their game against the toughest team on their schedule, St. X. -Another game, another shutout for South Warren (2-0). The Spartans have opened the season on an 85-0 tear after knocking off 5A Logan County 50-0. The Cougars managed only 31 yards of offense against the ferocious South Warren D. Joel Iyiegbuniwe was the standout for South Warren with a pick 6 plus a pair of TD runs. -Warren Central (0-2) looked much improved in their 26-16 loss to Boyle County, but it was a loss nonetheless. The Dragons took their first lead of the year 8-7 towards the end of the first half, and were tied midway through the 4th Quarter at 16 apiece before Boyle pulled it out. Of more importance, the Dragons had several injuries during the game that could potentially give them problems if they turn out to be long term. Depth is not a luxury Warren Central enjoys. -Glasgow (2-0) survived a scare before finally waking up to defeat 3A Garrard County 46-22 in a bowl game at Danville. With just under 4 minutes left in the third, Garrard County led 22-12. That was before a 53 yard Milas Norris TD reception that opened the floodgates. In all, Glasgow scored 34 unanswered in a span of 12 minutes. Quarterback Ryan Hinkley was named the offensive MVP for Glasgow. -It took longer to pull away than Warren East (1-1) might have hoped for, but they ultimately got back in the winning column against Barren County (1-1) in a 32-14 home victory. It was the first victory at home over Barren County for the Raiders since 1996, having lost five consecutive to the Trojans there. But the game was just 14-0 with less than 4 minutes left in the game. That’s when Eli Brown ran it in from 13 yards out for the game clinching score, starting offensive fireworks that saw four touchdowns in a 2 minute span. Eli Brown ran for 190 yards on just 15 carries to lead his team to the victory. He was also key in holding the Trojans to just 72 yards offense and forcing 4 first half turnovers. The win was the first at Warren East for new HC Steve Long, and his first as head coach anywhere since a 36-32 victory over Warren Central on October 19th, 2001. -Franklin-Simpson (0-2) battled for a half against 5A #6 Graves County, as Franklin-Simpson briefly enjoyed a 7-6 lead and were tied at 14 all going into the break. That’s when the other shoe dropped and Graves County rattled off 28 unanswered en route to a 42-14 victory. None of the Graves County scores were shorter than 29 yards, and two of them were 50+ yards. -In a battle of teams trying to pick themselves up after ugly losses in Week 1, it was Greenwood (1-1) that dusted themselves off first with a 17-6 win over homestanding Allen County-Scottsville (0-2). The game was a hard fought battle, with a scoreless first quarter and the difference a single Gator TD from the second quarter by the 6 minute mark of the fourth quarter. The second quarter TD was set up via a bad snap on a Patriot punt, the type of miscue the Gators themselves had suffered the previous week. Greenwood put it away with a 53 yard touchdown run by DeMarcus Potter following a turnover on downs by Allen County-Scottsville. Potter was the star of the night with a 210 yard game with two touchdowns. THIS WEEK This week is highlighted by a pair of rivalry games and one of the most anticipated matchups of the year for the entire state. -Bowling Green puts their 31 game winning streak on the line when they travel to state powerhouse St. X. The Purples have knocked off the Tigers the past two years, yet somehow again find themselves the underdogs in many circles. -South Warren hosts Greenwood in the first matchup between the two schools. South Warren was formed mostly out of Greenwood and has quickly found success that eluded the Gators for many, many years. They squared off against each other in a 7 on 7 this summer that quickly became a more physical affair. If you can’t make it to Louisville for the BG game, I highly recommend this one for the area. -Barren County hasn’t beaten Glasgow since 2008 and hasn’t even really been close since, but it’s always a great rivalry game to watch when these two match up. -One of the great sleeper matchups for the state this week might be DeSales at Warren Central. The Dragons are reeling from two straight losses to open up the season, while DeSales announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with when they knocked off 5A power (and higher ranked than Warren Central) John Hardin this past week 25-20. South-Central Kentucky Rankings (9-2-13) 1) Bowling Green at 6A #2 St. Xavier 2) South Warren vs. 5A Greenwood 3) Warren Central vs. 2A DeSales 4) Glasgow at 5A Barren County 5) Warren East at 3A #9 Monroe County 6) Franklin-Simpson at 5A Logan County 7) Greenwood at 3A #7 South Warren 8) Allen County-Scottsville at 6A Marshall County 9) Barren County vs. 2A #3 Glasgow
  11. Inside South-Central Kentucky Football (11-11-13) -Ho-hum, just the usual first round running clock for Bowling Green (10-0) as they began their march to a third straight state title with a 49-7 victory over Apollo. The win was their 40th consecutive and clinched their 22nd double digit win season in the last 26 years. Bowling Green opened the throttle early to gain the necessary 36-0 lead before the end of the first quarter, then used most of the remainder of the game to play reserves and stay healthy moving forward. It was also senior night for Bowling Green, which honored 27 seniors. They’ll have at least one more home game, and may have up to three. -Warren Central (6-5) received a little more fight from their first opponent, but likewise put the running clock on Hopkinsville in a 48-10 victory. The Dragon offense was rarely stopped, gaining 347 yards, but did have some trouble slowing Hopkinsville’s rushing attack at times. The Tigers actually held a brief 7-6 lead near the end of the first quarter and had a couple of red zone possessions where they came up empty due to turnovers. The game’s turning point came on a pair of turnovers on downs in their own territory late in the second quarter, both of which set up short fields for Dragon touchdown drives. -Continuing the running clock theme, South Warren (10-1) received little challenge from Webster County in a 49-7 win that secured the first 10 win season in the short three year history of the Spartans. QB Jay Eblen ran for three scores and threw for two others, all in the first half, and South Warren gained the running clock by going up 42-0 with 9:11 left in the second quarter. On the negative side, the Spartans did give up 64 rushing yards, by far the most on the year they’ve allowed, though most came against the reserves. That raises their average to 9.64 YPG allowed on the ground. Pick it up guys, you’re slacking. -Glasgow (10-1) picked up a milestone win for the program with their 43-0 shutout. It was their 600th in program history, becoming the 15th school in the state to accomplish this feat. They rank 42nd nationally as well with the honor. As for the game itself, the Scotties went up 36-0 with three minutes left in the first half to start the running clock, and cruised to the shutout victory. Marquez Trigg continued to pull away in his role as lead back for Glasgow with 21 carries for 167 yards, accounting for just under 50% of Glasgow’s total offensive output. -What’s that? Another running clock? The first round of the playoffs are great. Franklin-Simpson (6-4) sent Hopkins County Central to their 26th consecutive loss in a 50-0 decision in Franklin. Hopkins County Central made the playoffs due to the contraction of their district from five teams to four with the loss of Lone Oak. The Wildcats totally dominated the Storm, beginning the scoring with a safety and holding them to only 20 yards of offense. It’s irrelevant and coincidental, but next week will be the third straight week Franklin-Simpson plays a team with Hopkins in its name (Hopkinsville, Hopkins County Central, Madisonville-North Hopkins). The first two were wins of 34 or more – they’ll hope for the same then. -The theme was survive and advance for Warren East (7-4), which was playing without stud RB/LB Eli Brown during their ugly 21-0 victory over Calloway County. The game featured three fumbles and a missed field goal in the red zone for the Raiders as they allowed the Lakers to hang around. It was just 7-0 with under 3 minutes left in the third quarter, but a pair of TDs from returning QB Austin Pagel within a 4 minute span put the game away. Pagel broke his collarbone in the first game of the year and was initially though lost for the entirety of the season, but stepped up with a TD through the air and one on the ground to win the day for East. It isn’t known for certain whether Eli Brown will return this week or at all this year for the Raiders. Nothing official has been released regarding his MRI last week. -Three years, three first round matchups with Madisonville-North Hopkins, three losses for Allen County-Scottsville (4-7), which saw its season end in a 52-28 loss to the Maroons. It was a disappointing end for the Patriots, dropping their last four games by an average of 21.25 PPG. AC/S could not slow the Maroon rushing attack which netted 272 yards on the ground, most of it from Ryan Bowman (10/117) who also had 73 yards receiving. The highlight for the Pats as always was senior Charlie Trapp, who rushed for two scores and hauled in a 45 yard TD reception in his final game in the red, white, and blue. The Patriots improved on last year’s record by a game, but will enter next season still looking for their first winning season since 2010. -It’s baby steps for Barren County (4-7), but a move forward nonetheless for the Trojans as the Trojans closed their season with a 26-12 loss at Christian County. The Trojans won their most district games in 12 years and gained their most competitive playoff result since 21-14 at Scott County in 1994. After falling behind 12-0 after one, the Trojans pulled within 12-6 during the second, but the Colonels scored again to move up 19-6 at halftime and hit a 90 yard bomb to go up 26-6 during the third quarter. A mid-4th Quarter TD by Wininger gave the final margin. -Graves County coach Lance Gregory said Greenwood (3-8) was not a typical 4 seed, and they sure didn’t play like one for most of the night Friday in a season-ending 56-42 loss. The Gators took to the air to remain competitive, with outgoing senior QB Josh Dyer throwing for 200 yards and 4 TDs to keep them in it. Greenwood kept it a game throughout the first half, trailing just 21-14 after a Dyer to Bibb TD with 29 seconds left in the half. But the first backbreaker came then, an 85 yard kickoff return by Marshall. That momentum carried over with Graves getting out to leads of 42-14 and 49-21 before Greenwood attempted an unlikely late comeback that saw them draw as close as 49-35 with the ball and less than 3 minutes left in the game. The 42 points for Greenwood is their most ever in postseason play, topping the 40 they posted against Muhlenberg County in 2009. THIS WEEK -The marquee game would seem to be #7 Glasgow hosting #3 DeSales. It represents what the Scotties hope will be the beginning of a brutal march that would likely require them to beat the top 3 teams to reach the state finals. The first two would at least be in Glasgow. -It’s another year where Warren Central will take the long journey west to take on the district champion Graves County Eagles, the former stomping grounds of Dragon HC Mike Rogers. Last year Graves gave Warren Central all they could handle in a 21-14 win, and the Eagles will be looking to advance to the region finals for the first time ever while Central is looking to make it for the fourth straight year. -South Warren got the better of Fort Campbell in the playoffs last year, and will host the Falcons for the first time ever this week. This is the third straight year the two teams have met in the playoffs, splitting the two meetings at Fort Campbell. -Bowling Green will square off against the last team that has beaten them, hosting Christian County. The Colonels completed an unlikely comeback from 10-0 down late in the game to win 14-10 back in 2010. But Christian County has lost their last 6 at El Donaldson Stadium, and haven’t won there since 1977. South-Central Kentucky Rankings (11-11-13) 1) Bowling Green vs. Christian County 2) Warren Central at Graves County 3) South Warren vs. Fort Campbell 4) Glasgow vs. #3 DeSales 5) Franklin-Simpson vs. Madisonville-North Hopkins 6) Warren East at #8 Owensboro 7) Allen County-Scottsville (4-7) 8) Barren County (4-7) 9) Greenwood (3-8)
  12. Inside South-Central Kentucky Football (8-25-13) Week 1 in the area saw a mix of expected results and head turners. -Bowling Green (1-0) was up to their usual dominance in a 48-21 shellacking of highly regarded 4A #4 Lexington Catholic. The Purples gained 461 yards offense and the Hayes to Fant connection accounted for 4 TDs. The Purples look every bit the favorite they are. -Meanwhile Warren Central (0-1) stubbed their toe in their season opener against 4A #7 Madisonville-North Hopkins in a 27-13 loss. The Dragons were undone by 4 turnovers and a pair of blocked punts, with the Maroons scoring 21 points off of those turnovers. -South Warren (1-0) made a statement in a 35-0 victory over Warren East (0-1), the first victory over a Warren County team for the Spartans. All 35 points came in the first half as South Warren took advantage of two bad snaps on punt attempts and absolutely shut down the Warren East offense in the first half. The news for the Raiders got worse from there as their QB Austin Pagel was knocked from the game and may have a broken collarbone. -Glasgow (1-0) won easily 48-0 over Hart County, which was no surprise. Running backs Marquez Trigg and Quentel Bradley combined for 218 yards on just 21 carries as they ran all over the hapless Raiders. -Franklin-Simpson (0-1) had a decent showing in a 25-7 loss to Danville at Campbellsville University. The Wildcats trailed just 13-7 and had possession midway through the 4th Quarter, but a fumble at midfield was returned for the TD to put the game out of reach. -A key interception was the undoing for Allen County-Scottsville (0-1) in their loss to Mercer County in the Rafferty’s Bowl at WKU. Trailing 21-14 just before halftime, Colton Oakes threw an INT that was returned 73 yards for a backbreaking TD. Instead of potentially tying the game, the Patriots were down two TDs and never recovered. -Greenwood (0-1) turned in what may have been the most shocking result of the first week in the area when they were crushed 35-6 by Hopkinsville. It was the largest win for the Tigers since 2009 and least points allowed since 2006. The teams played to a scoreless tie in the first quarter and the Gators led 6-0 in the second quarter, but very little went right from that point on. Greenwood was outgained 308-48 in the second half. -Barren County (1-0) looked to be on their way to a laugher against Metcalfe County as they had a 19-0 halftime lead, but some Trojan turnovers began to make things tough immediately in the third quarter as the Hornets closed the gap to 19-13. Barren County bore down in the fourth, surviving a last ditch drive by Metcalfe County that reached the Barren 26 in the closing seconds. An INT sealed the game. South-Central Kentucky Rankings (8-25-13) 1) Bowling Green vs. 6A Bryan Station at Lexington Catholic (8/24) 2) Warren Central at 4A #5 Boyle County 3) South Warren at 5A Logan County 4) Warren East vs. 5A Barren County 5) Glasgow vs. 3A Garrard County at Danville 6) Franklin-Simpson at 5A #9 Graves County 7) Allen County-Scottsville vs. 5A Greenwood 8) Greenwood at 4A Allen County-Scottsville 9) Barren County at 4A Warren East
  13. Another season, another state semifinal run from a team in the 4th Region. For the second straight year, Warren Central made the run to the final four of the Sweet 16, making it five of the last six seasons the region’s representative made it that far. Six teams reached the 20 win plateau a season ago, though half the region also finished with losing records. Several teams return 4 or more starters, which sets the table for a highly competitive season. Of course, it wouldn’t be the 4th Region without the 14th District serving as favorites, as their state-longest streak is now at 18 consecutive region champions. Preseason 4th Region Rankings 1. Warren Central – Last year served as a stark contrast to the season before for the Dragons. Unlike the 2017/18 season when they set a school record for wins, the Dragons entered the postseason at just 16-10, and needing to make a run just to reach the 20-win plateau. They lost for the first time ever to South Warren. They were swept by Allen County-Scottsville, knocking them out of a 2A Classic run that they were anticipated to compete for a title in. Ultimately, last years Dragon team had the worst record of any region champion in program history. But at Warren Central, as nice as wins are, they measure success in region titles, and they brought home their 15th as they made a run to the Sweet 16 semifinals. Five seniors depart from last year’s squad, including three starters, most significantly Tayshaun Bibb (8.8 PPG) and Jamale Barber (5.1 PPG). What Warren Central does return is their two leading scorers, and a massive senior class. Dre Boyd headlines the class. Last year he was the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 13.8 PPG and making the Sweet 16 all-tournament team. It was there that he really shined, scoring 46 points in three games and willing his team to a victory over favored Madisonville in the quarterfinals. Boyd is long and athletic, with a nose for getting to the rim. He has spent time working on his midrange and three-point shots. If he can develop that aspect of his game, he’ll be a nightmare to matchup with. Kobe Brents returns as well, having led the team in scoring a season ago with 14.8 PPG. The sharpshooter shot 36.7% from three-point range, attempting 286 from behind the arc. He began to shoot more in the midrange in the postseason, and he took over their game against Greenwood in the second half running clearouts and pulling up from the elbow. They are two of 11 seniors on the roster. Tegra Muleka (5.9 PPG) started at times a season ago, but should finally ascend into the starting lineup for good. Geovonni Floyd (3.0 PPG) should also make a leap in his second year in the program – the key word is leap. Floyd can absolutely jump out of the gym. The fifth starter may fluctuate, as Coach Unseld will experiment with the rotation as he did a season ago. Expect a typical Dragon approach to each game, with fast pace of play and depth leveraged to wear out the opponent. Their rotation should go 9-10 deep with ease. They come out firing with a challenging schedule, opening with Wayne County, Owensboro, and Henderson County, each of which should be near the top of their regions, before giving us a strong read on the region with a home game with Glasgow on December 16th. 2. Bowling Green – There are a lot of programs that would be satisfied with six straight district titles, six straight trips to the region finals, and four region titles in that span. Bowling Green probably wouldn’t throw that away entirely, but they are also hungry after dropping the last two region finals to Warren Central, mere days after knocking them off for the district crown. The Purples have split with Warren Central 4-4 in their eight meetings in the last two years, but lost the final game each time. Last year, the team started 15-2, but went through some internal struggles that cost them two senior players, and left them with an incredibly young team. Ultimately, they were a deep three pointer away from winning the region, and will be well served by the return of that talented youth, more experienced and a year older. Kolbe Gray (8.2 PPG) and Jaylen Wardlow (1.9 PPG) are the only departures from the team’s final roster from last season. While their leadership and in Wardlow’s case defensive prowess will be missed, there are four starters returning and depth to back them up. You have to start with Isaiah Mason when looking at the Purples. Mason led the team in scoring with 14.8 PPG as a sophomore, and also in rebounding with 6 RPG. He has great length, and at 6’4” can play both inside and outside. He is judicious with his shot selection from behind the arc, but made 42.4% from outside – he is a very tough matchup. Cobi Huddleston also returns, and is an athletic post player that causes a lot of problems for teams in the region that cannot deal with his height inside. Jordan Dingle gives the Purples a twin tower presence. Dingle has a tight end’s build – he’ll play college football somewhere – and is a thicker body inside than the leaner Huddleston. Between the two of them, they are very difficult to work against inside defensively. Sophomore Turner Buttry also returns. Buttry is one of the best guards in his class statewide, and shot 45.3% from three a season ago. The Purples should go roughly ten deep, with the only seniors on the team Shy Boyd and Dorian Morrison complimenting the talented junior class with Jaxson Banks, Conner Cooper, Trace Flanary, and Dez Wilson. Like the Dragons, Bowling Green will feature a heavily uptempo attack and their trademark full court press. While they likely feel they should have won the last two years, these next two seasons are the years that they have been building towards since the arrival of the current junior class as freshmen two years ago. 3. Glasgow – The Scotties suffered a lot of adversity before the season a year ago. Center Jaden Franklin was lost for the season due to a football injury. Kobe Brents and Kris Horn transferred to Warren Central in the summer, leaving the team down two starters and some depth. Despite that, Glasgow turned in a strong 21-11 campaign, winning the 15th District title, and pushing Warren Central to the brink in overtime in the 4th Region quarterfinals. Eight lead changes and ten ties dotted the game, and you’d forgive supporters for thinking that perhaps the two players in the opposing team’s jersey might have made the difference. The plus of that adversity is that Glasgow returns four of five starters from last season, and with the return of Franklin, they basically get an entire experienced starting five back in action. Nick Sorrell is the unquestioned leader of the Scotties. A first-team all-region selection last season, he led the team with 19.4 PPG, and was also their leading rebounder with 8.8 RPG. He can score at the rim and outside, and gets to the foul line a lot – he attempted 248 a season ago. It would not be a stretch to imagine him getting up to 25 PPG if the team needs him to. Jaden Franklin returns after missing a year with his injury – he averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds as a sophomore two seasons ago, and will provide the team with a post presence they lacked a season ago. Tucker Kirkpatrick is the son of former Monroe County head coach Steve Kirkpatrick. In his first season with the Scotties, the senior guard provided them with by far their most prominent outside threat – he shot 36.2% from three and his 71 makes were more than 50% of those made by the team. Robert Kingery (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Bowen Haney (9 points, 5 rebounds) round out the starting five for Glasgow. In all, there will be seven seniors on a veteran team. Coach Willett expects Landon Frasier to standout from the senior class and emerge as a vocal leader. A workhorse, he is a great on-ball defender that may work his way into the starting lineup. Outside the senior class, Sam Bowling (6’2” sophomore) and Jackson Poland (5’10” sophomore) are players that are expected to improve into contributors. Glasgow won the region’s 2A title a season ago, but drops back into the All-A this year, where they will be favored to bring home the crown. And as they proved last year, they are a real threat to win the regular region crown as well. 4. Greenwood – The Gators continue a recurring theme for the teams behind Warren Central – each return most of their starting lineup and each had reason to think they let a postseason win slip away. None have more of a case for that than Greenwood. The Gators led Central 34-22 midway through the third quarter and 36-26 with 2:21 remaining in the third after a made basket. They would not make another shot for the rest of the game, allowing a 19-1 run and exiting the postseason. That ended an eight-game winning streak that included a win over Warren Central, and left them with a case of “what if”. The team does have to replace second leading scorer and frequent hero Jack Roberts (14.7 PPG), but he is the only starter that departs, along with four other seniors. Ben Carroll was the leading scorer a season ago with 16.4 PPG, a third team all-region selection. At 6’7”, Carroll is one of the taller players in the region, but can drive the ball, shoot midrange, and shot 40.6% from three a season ago, attempting the second most threes for the team. There really aren’t but one or two players in the region that can truly match up with him, and he is in the running for player of the year in the region. Noah Stansbury joins Carroll as a perimeter threat. The junior guard led the Gators with 70 made three pointers a season ago and shot 37.2% from outside. Cade Stinnett’s emergence in his freshman year was a big reason for Greenwood’s surge. His modest 6.6 PPG were fourth on the team, but the 6’1 wing was a big piece in the cohesion of the team once he worked his way into the starting lineup. Playing style for this edition of the Gators is a bit of a mystery, as Will McCoy takes over as head coach after Bob Pels wasn’t retained. The first year HC inherits a team that is more known for their deliberate approach, averaging only 60 PPG last season for a program that is not known for pushing tempo. The Gators are part of the talented 14th District, which means they will have to get by either Warren Central or Bowling Green just to reach the region tournament, but if they can get there, they will emerge as one of the favorites. They remain the last team aside from Warren Central or Bowling Green to win a 4th Region title. Behind Ben Carroll, they are a very legit threat to bookend that 11-year run. 5. Barren County – Last year was a transitional year for the Trojans. After losing five seniors from 2017/18 and seeing their run of six straight region tournaments end that season, only two seniors took the floor Barren County, neither of which were heavily relied upon. That transitional state saw the type of balance that Thanos would be proud of. If Barren County won a game, they lost the next one. If they by chance lost two straight, they’d win two straight. The balance continued throughout the season and sure enough, they ended up 15-15 after a district semifinal exit against Glasgow. But the building blocks for this season were laid, and the Trojans were quite competitive, especially with rival Glasgow who they lost to three times by a combined 12 points. Warren Cunningham is back for his 12th season at the helm of Barren County – the Trojans have been coached by just three men in the last 30 years. He’ll have the services of four returning starters and the team’s six leading scorers from last season. Will Bandy is at the top of that list. A third-team all-region selection, Bandy averaged 15.6 PPG last year and was second on the team with 6.5 RPG. Bandy has a solid build and plays primarily inside, but can shoot from the perimeter if it is called for. He’ll be the senior leader on the team, one of five seniors, but the only one that started a year ago. The player to watch on the team may be sophomore Aden Nyekan. In his freshman year, the 6’4” forward averaged 14.3 PPG and appears to be the future face of the program. Nyekan hit 52.2% of his shots a season ago, and led the team among players who attempted more than 65 shots. His 7.3 rebounds per game were also tops on the team. Sophomore Mason Griggs (4 PPG) also saw starting action as a freshman, along with junior Gavin Withrow (8.6 PPG), who was third leading scorer on the team. Some keys to the success of the team will be the continued development of Withrow as a third scoring option, and an improvement in the perimeter shooting is vital. While the Trojans have a strong inside presence, in the modern game, 28.3% from three point range is just not going to do it. They’ll want to improve outside to open up the inside game, not allowing teams to pack the paint. Withrow was second on the team with 33.3% shooting from outside – if he can knock down a higher percentage moving forward, the Trojans can challenge for the district. 6. Logan County – The 2018/19 season was a historic one for Logan County. The Cougars grabbed their most wins in a season since their state title run in 1984. Their 72-70 overtime win over Metcalfe County in the 4th Region quarterfinals may have been closer than desired, but when Anthony Woodard dropped in a floater with just seconds remaining, it gave Logan County their first region tournament victory since 1998. It was a banner year, but unlike the teams above them on this list, they lost quite a bit from last season. Four of the top six players depart to graduation, with Kelby Epley (Thomas More) and Tommy Krohn (Brescia) moving on to play college ball. Anthony Woodard is a legit stud player returning for his junior season. Woodard averaged 12.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG a season ago. Woodard is a pure athlete, a star at wide receiver on the gridiron as well as on the court. He possesses great length, and can drive the ball very effectively as well. His game winning shot against Metcalfe saw him dribbling the ball at the halfcourt corner before driving into the lane to drop in the winning score. Dalton Thompson is also a returning starter, averaging 6.5 PPG and 3.5 RPG last season. Nathaniel Vick is a player coach Tinsley expects to make an impact, averaging 8.5 PPG and 5.0 RPG before getting injured midway through last season. Logan County was 14-2 at the time, and saw a slight dip to 11-5 afterwards. Coach Tinsley expects Dylan Basham and Jay Hardison to be potential impact players to emerge. He feels the team could improve their defense from last year when they averaged giving up only 55 PPG, and the stated goal of the team is to improve as the year goes on to be in position to make a run at titles in the postseason. 7. Franklin-Simpson – The Wildcats success a season ago cannot be measured just by their 16-13 record. First, that record reflects an 0-3 start and an 0-2 finish – a strong 16-8 in between. Second, the young team developed as the year went along, as evidenced by turning around a 15 point loss to Logan County on December 7th into a five point win over them in January. And third, by young, I mean YOUNG. Franklin-Simpson didn’t have a single senior on last year’s team. Not ONE. That means essentially the whole team is back, though third leading scorer Dayveon Harris is no longer with the program, denying them one of their best rebounders. The returning players are headlined by DeMarco Chatman. Chatman, one of four seniors on the current Wildcat team, was a third-team all-region selection last season. A 6’1” guard, he led the team with 15.9 PPG and 6.7 PPG. Junior guard Andreyous Miller also averaged in double digits with 11.6 PPG, and was one of the leading free throw shooters on the team, gong 77/112 from the line for the season. With such a young team, Franklin-Simpson really struggled to score last season, and like Barren County, will need to improve from behind the arc, hitting on just 114/387 (29.5%) of attempts from three. Dawson Knight led the team in that regard, knocking down 40/111 attempts for 36% field goal percentage, and he should figure to improve on that this season. As a team, the Wildcats averaged only 55.45 PPG last year, more than 11 points off the pace they set in Tavin Lovan’s senior season. The team should be a virtual lock for the region tournament as neither Russellville nor Todd County Central appear ready to challenge them in the district tournament, so they’ll be setting their sights on running down Logan County to take back the district crown. 8. South Warren – Under coach Blane Embry, South Warren had one of their strongest seasons to date. The record isn’t as sparkling as their inaugural year, but for the first time in several years, they made a real push for the region tournament, and closed with one of their best January/February slates in the program’s history. The team went 10-5 after the new year, narrowly falling against Greenwood and Bowling Green (twice), but also picked up their first ever win over Warren Central. Their 66-60 loss to Bowling Green in the district semifinals marks the second closest result they’ve had in the semifinal round. Three starters return for the Spartans, but they do have to figure out how to replace all-time leading scorer Tyler Martin, who had 36 of their 60 points in the district semifinals. Emerging star Jace Carver enters his sophomore year off an 18/19 campaign that saw him post 12.3 PPG and hit 39.1% from behind the arc. Tayshaun Jones (6.7 PPG) and Isaac Young (1.1 PPG) also saw time in the starting lineup a season ago. Sophomore Caden Veltkamp (8.6 PPG in 24 games) should be a boost to the lineup as he should be fully healed from a broken wrist midway through the football season. Veltkamp was the best three point shooter on the team a year ago, hitting 42% of his attempts. South Warren proved much more willing to push the pace of play last season, and their total points and points per game were second highest in the program’s nine seasons. The Spartans open with seven straight region opponents, so we’ll find out how they truly measure up right away. Highlights of the stretch include a district home game against rival Greenwood and road trip to Barren County and Logan County. Coach Embry is one of the most respected coaches in the region, and has already proven that he can take South Warren to places they haven’t been before. With only three seniors on the roster, this may not be the year they run down the top of District 14 to reach the region tournament, but with continuity, it will happen soon. 9. Clinton County – The Bulldogs brought home their second district title in three years last season, and their 24-8 record was good enough for third best in the region. Clinton County won their second straight 4th Region All “A” title, and advanced to the 4th Region semifinals with a dominating win over an impressive Allen County-Scottsville team. It was a strong showing, but now they must find a way to regroup after the loss of player of the year and WKU signee Jackson Harlan (23.9 PPG) and Campbellsville signee Seth Stockton (14.3 PPG and 9.5 RPG). While they lack the top of the line individual scoring coming back, Clinton County does return two starters and four of their top seven players, looking to make it up in the aggregate. Coach Messer believes this is his deepest group he has had in his tenure at Clinton County. 6’3” junior guard Chase Stines leads the returning starters, averaging 8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists last season, with senior forward Evan Dearborn (6 PPG, 3 RPG) also returning. Each are expected to take on significant leadership roles, along with senior Caleb Guffey and junior Nick Brown. The ceiling for the team lies in a talented sophomore class that coach Messer believes can take them to another level as they develop. Cohen Davis is an eighth grader that may even earn some depth minutes. The Bulldogs should be in the All “A” mix, though not the favorite with Glasgow returning, and they’re easily the favorites in the 16th District again. They should be able to extend their current streak of eight straight region tournament appearances. 10. Allen County-Scottsville – The Patriots brought home their best record in 12 seasons last year, returning to the 20-win plateau with a 23-9 record, and making their first appearance in the region tournament since 2013. Notably, they swept eventual region champion Warren Central in a home and home series, and had a season sweep of Greenwood as well. The season did languish after a 15-2 start, and AC/S failed to win a game at the region tournament for the sixth straight appearance, but the season should be a solid foundation. Coach Brad Bonds returns for his second season after winning coach of the year for the region last year, which right away is a solid base. The previous three coaches had stayed only one year apiece. Five seniors have to be replaced, including leading scorer and team leader Brett Rippy (17.2 PPG). Junior guard Mason Shirley is the name to get most excited about. Shirley was a shooter without a conscience last season, radiating confidence on the floor. As a sophomore, he averaged 14.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 7 assists per game. A well-rounded player, Shirley will be looked upon to carry a lot of the load. Senior forward Owen Stamper also returns, almost averaging double digits last year with 9.5 PPG, and was the leading rebounder with 6.6 per. Coach Bonds expects breakout seasons from Charlie Calvert and Jax Cooper as the team looks to achieve their goal of back to back 20-win seasons. It would be a first for the program since achieving that each year from 2004-2007. 11. Warren East – Last year saw a return to an issue that has plagued the Raiders for almost the entire decade – a strong start in November and December that evaporated after the new year. East is 72-31 in the early months from 2011 on, but just 44-78 after. Last season, East started 8-4, but went just 3-14 the rest of the way, bowing out in the quarterfinal game of district, marking the 22nd consecutive season without a region tournament appearance. The year was not without positives, as the Raiders won their Christmas tournament, and Coach Brandon Combs moved into third all-time on Warren East’s coaching wins list. Injuries played their part in the struggles last season, and certainly the hope will be that the players forced to take on roles during that time will emerge better players for the future thanks to the experience. Two starters return in 6’6” senior post Ryan Carter (7.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 49.1 FG%) and sophomore wing Kaleb Matlock (8.5 PPG). Matlock was one of those players forced to take on a larger role as a freshman, and knocked down 32 three pointers in the latter half of the year. Matlock has added muscle to his frame and will be relied on to develop rapidly. That’s a recurring theme for this Raider edition, and Coach Combs feels that how quickly the youth adapts to varsity will determine their season. 8th grader Ty Price is an impact transfer into the program rated as one of the top players in his class – he’ll run point for the team. Sophomore Brytton Walker moves over from Madisonville as well. Coach Combs noted the 6’7” post has dropped 25 pounds from last year and has looked good in fall workouts and practice. 6’4” sophomore Devaughn Williams should also provide the team with great size, returning after tearing his ACL prior to the season last year. East has the ability to play big this year, which should be an advantage against several of the lineups in their district. Defense and rebounding will be the points of emphasis for the squad, and they’ll look to prepare for every game like it is a postseason elimination game. The battle to return to the region may still be too much for this year, but the Raiders may have some matchup advantages to make things interesting. 12. Monroe County – 2018/19 saw Monroe County’s streak of back to back trips to the region tournament end, in a season that mostly went the wrong direction after the start of the new year. The Falcons began the season 3-0 and 6-2, but managed only five wins in their final 18 games, bowing out against Allen County-Scottsville in the 15th District semifinals. New head coach Ashley Geralds takes over this season to try to guide the Falcons back. Geralds has previously been head coach at Green County for four years, and has spent 17 years coaching at the junior high and high school level. He has the unenviable task of replacing Chandler Clements, who averaged 25.3 PPG for the Falcons last season. Grayson Rich is the leading returning scorer with 12.8 PPG, hitting almost 38% of his three point attempts. Senior guard Jholdi Brooks (8.5 PPG) should be a strong second option, and is the defensive stopper for the Falcons, leading them in steals a season ago. Coach Geralds expects his five seniors (Rich, Brooks, Kale Hagan, Curtis Petett, Wade Thompson) to step up and take leadership roles for the squad. All of them have extensive experience on varsity with the exception of Petett, who is returning from a knee injury. Geralds expects Clayton Biggerstaff, Tucker Glass, Jameson Pruitt, and Brandon Sheffield to log significant minutes as the team pursues the region’s Class A title. 13. Metcalfe County – The Hornets had a fantastic 2018/19 season. They returned to the region tournament for the first time in eight years, and very nearly pulled off a massive upset of Logan County, falling 72-70 in overtime. Their 11 wins gave them their first double digit total in eight years, and in fact it was more wins than their previous four seasons combined. Most notably, the Hornets ended Russell County’s record region tournament run with a 62-58 OT win in the district semifinals. Five seniors are gone from the team, including second leading scorer and leading rebounder Tyler London (14.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG). Boston Devore returns for his junior season, leading the team in scoring with 15.8 PPG last year. An all-region tournament selection, Boston was ranked in the top 30 of the state with an 81.8% clip from the free throw line. Coach Brockman describes Devore as the hardest working player he has, a true gym rat. Braxton Davis is another returning starter, and will be looked upon to be the lockdown defender for the squad. Coach Brockman noted him as a high IQ player who knows when to take shots and when to get it to another guy for the open look. Wyatt Fields is the man in the middle at 6’5”, and his length will be relied on for rebounding and defensive purposes. Peyton Dial will ascend to starting guard and floor general, taking over for graduating Trevor Fields. The Hornets scored over 63 PPG last year, but it is clear that defense is an emphasis for Coach Brockman as they pursue a state goal of gaining the first winning season for the program since 2010/11. In particular he noted Davis, Fields, Dial, sophomore Wyatt Blythe, and football convert Gabe Zurmehly as players who will be relied upon to lock down on defense. The Hornets allowed 60 points or more in 26 of their 32 games last season, going 5-1 when they held their opponent to less. 14. Russell County – The Lakers are still trying to regain their footing as the program endured their third straight losing season last year, and failed to make the region tournament for the first time as a member of the 4th Region. That 13 season streak was the longest in the history of the region. Fortunately, the bulk of the team (and scoring) returns for head coach Billy Carson in his third year with the program. Ben Abrell’s leadership will be the major loss to graduation, but five players return who started at some point. Junior forward Scott Hamm led the team with 14.1 PPG and 7.1 RPG last season, and in Coach Carson’s opinion, is one of the region’s most underrated players. Senior forward Briley Hadley (11.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) will be a starter for the fourth straight year. Ryan Coffey (8.6 PPG), CJ Vonfumetti, and Colby Smith round out the returning starters. Hamm and Coffey should the vocal leaders for the squad while Hadley will be more of a leader by example. 6’5” sophomore wing Jay Milburn is a player to watch outside the starting lineup, a player who is getting better and more aggressive as he understands the aspects of the game outside of shooting. Colton Feese also moves over from Adair County. The freshman started 24 games last season as an 8th grader. The Lakers’ stated goal is to get back to the region tournament with a district title in tow. 15. Cumberland County – The struggle continues for the Panthers, who suffered their tenth consecutive losing season last year. Cumberland County did have a solid stretch of four wins in seven games, and pushed Clinton County in a 62-55 district tournament loss. Coach Kurtis Claywell enters his fourth year with the program, down four seniors from last season. Two of his top three scorers graduated, but leading scorer Dawson Smith returns. Smith averaged 19.4 PPG a year ago, knocking down 47 three pointers for the Panthers. Cameron Owsley also returns, the team’s second leading rebounder a year ago with 6.5 per game and fourth leading scorer with 9 PPG. The team must improve from the line and from three to have a chance to reach their first region tournament this decade. The squad shot 30.8% from three last year, and just 62.7% from the line. Defense is also a focus - their 77.6 points allowed per game was the worst in the region. 16. Russellville – The Panthers were coached by just two men from 1990-2017, but suddenly find themselves with their third coach in four seasons, as Carlos Quarles moves up from assistant to head coach this year. The Panthers struggled to an 8-17 record last season, falling in eight of their last nine games to miss the region tournament for a second consecutive season. Worse than that, first-team all-region selection Jacob Naylor (25.1 PPG) graduates as well as second leading scorer Elijah Kemp (13.3 PPG), and third leading scorer Shawn Steele (4.2 PPG). That representing over half the team’s production a year ago. It’s a tough situation for a squad looking to return to region. Jaquis Todd (4.1 PPG) returns off of starting eight games a season ago. Coach Quarles anticipates Todd along with Xavier Coleman and Chaun Cheaney to emerge as team leaders. 17. Todd County Central – A new old face returns to head up the Rebels this season as Dennis Pardue takes the helm. Pardue was head coach of the Rebels for six seasons from 1998-99 – 2003-04, guiding them to the region final in 2002. He inherits a team that went 5-24 last season, with one of those wins coming by forfeit. Todd County did not win a single game after New Year’s Day, and enter the season on a fifteen game losing streak. Second-team all-region selection John Calvery departs, along with his team leading 17.5 PPG. Austin Rager (8.6 PPG) returns, the team’s leading three point shooter with 40 makes last season. Todd County only lost two seniors and has a large senior class, but seems like an incredibly long shot to be able to climb into contention for the district and region tournament. Top Players in the 4th Region 1. Ben Carroll, F, Sr. (Greenwood) – A difficult matchup for every team, Carroll can play both inside and outside with ease. 2. Dre Boyd, G, Sr. (Warren Central) – Boyd was at his best on the big stage a year ago, and will look to channel that season-long. 3. Isaiah Mason, G, Jr. (Bowling Green) – Mason knocked down 42.4% of his three point attempts a season ago, and shot nearly 55% from the field overall. 4. Nick Sorrell, G, Sr. (Glasgow) – Sorrell is one of the most prolific scorers in the region, and along with Mason one of just two all-region selections returning. 5. Anthony Woodard, F, Jr. (Logan County) – Woodard plays with an intensity that sometimes boils over, but may be the best athlete in the whole region. 6. Kobe Brents, G, Sr. (Warren Central) – Brents is pure from three, but when he switches to midrange, that’s when he really opens things up for the Dragons. 7. Mason Shirley, G, Jr. (Allen County-Scottsville) – Shirley is brash and confident, but he has the game to back it up. 8. Will Bandy, F, Sr. (Barren County) – The Trojans’ leading scorer, Bandy is a better player inside, but can shoot from the perimeter too. 9. Turner Buttry, G, So. (Bowling Green) – Buttry is one of the best players in the state for his class, and is a deadeye shooter. 10. Aden Nyekan, F, So. (Barren County) – It would not be an earth-shattering surprise if Nyekan ended up leading the Trojans in scoring this year. He is the future of the program. Just missed: Jace Carver, South Warren; DeMarco Chatman, Franklin-Simpson, Cobi Huddleston, Bowling Green
  14. Big Time Recruits Dominate Small Class Football Landscape It is not uncommon for Class 2A to have some of the best players in the Bluegrass State, but 2018 seems to be a special year as four different players have spent their summer collecting offers and taking visits to many high-profile Division 1 schools. Newport Central Catholic RB/LB Kyle Kelly exploded with offers to basically a “Who’s Who” of MAC schools. Kelly recently committed to Ohio University, the first school to get on board with an offer, and is expected to play Linebacker at the next level. Christian Academy- Louisville has a pair of blue chip standouts on their roster in Junior Linemen John Young and Senior Athlete Milton Wright. Young has exploded onto the national scene and has already earned a 4 Star ranking in the Class of 2020. Young has already picked up offers from both in-state flagship programs as well as Purdue, Tennessee, Iowa State, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt. Wright may be the early favorite for Mr. Football as he looks to put a capstone on a sensational career. The Wide Receiver/Safety/Swiss Army Knife remains in the All-American discussion and has an All-American offer sheet to match. Among the most prestigious offers are Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan State, and South Carolina. Though Wright has the best chance to capture post season accolades as a skill player, Glasgow’s Tanner Bowles may win the award for most eye-opening offer sheet. The mauler in the trenches is on his way to play for Nick Saban at Alabama, but prior to his commitment he owned an offer sheet filled with teams who have been accustomed to playing at the very top of college football. Notable schools were Florida State, USC, Oklahoma, LSU, Penn State, and Georgia. These four players certainly lead the way entering the 2018 season, but don’t be surprised to see Class 2A produce a few more Division Signees before the end of Winter. The Carousel Finally Comes Around It is becoming an alarming trend how the coaching tree sheds it leaves at the end of every season. For the most part Class 2A has seen stability in recent years while chaos reigns elsewhere, but at the end of the 2017 season three of the Class’ top programs all saw a change at the Head Coach position. John Edge leaves Owensboro Catholic to cross the river to the Hoosier State where he will take over at South Spencer. He will be replaced by Jason Morris. Morris was promoted from within after being an assistant at O’Cath the past two seasons. Prestonsburg has parted ways with John Derossett after 22 seasons at the Blackcat helm. Brandon Brewer led Powell County on a surprise playoff run last season and will take his talents down the Mountain Parkway to take over. Early reports are that his enthusiasm has brought a fresh breath of air to the proud program. At Newport Central Catholic, Dan Wagner departs after a five-year run that was ripe with success. Stephen Lickert will transition from 6A Campbell County where he was responsible for making the often-downtrodden Camels a respectable program in recent years. Expectations will be high at the flagship program for Northern Kentucky success in Class 2A The numbers behind these three departing coaches are staggering: - The three combined to coach in 22 Regional Finals. - The three led their respective teams to 10 Regional Championships. - The three accounted for 7 State Finals appearances. All three coaches will be missed after leaving their mark, but in all three cases the community is excited for the winds of change to blow and for the anticipation of something new. The Rankings: 1. Mayfield Cardinals (13-2, State Runner-Up) It is time to face the realization, if you haven’t done so already, that Joe Morris is just a winner. Much like his legendary father, Joe has proved that no matter how many players graduate off the Mayfield roster, the Cardinals are always going to be a factor in the landscape of winning the State Title in whatever class they are in. It would be unfair to say Mayfield was an afterthought in the Class 2A picture last year, but most considered them to be playing catch up to a loaded pack in an extremely “up” year. When the dust settled Mayfield was playing for a State Title and giving mighty Danville all they wanted before eventually falling 35-21. Mayfield has some work to do to rebuild an Offensive Line that consistently got the job done despite being undersized, but outside of that the Cardinals should be loaded for bear and firmly in contention once again. Jayden Stinson grew up in a hurry at QB and showed a ton of poise and efficiency. Kent Trey Matthews took the keys as the feature back and threw up a 1,000-yard season, while youngsters Travon Halliburton and Kylan Galbreath each shined in their limited action and will be a year stronger, faster, and more explosive joining alongside in the backfield. Matthews was also superb catching the ball and will continue to get opportunities in the passing game. Alonzo Daniel and Diaz Perry will also catch their fair share of targets. Defensively the Cardinals have a true playmaker in DE Brady Smith to build around. It Is an especially strong year for DE’s in Class 2A as the top teams are littered with stars with prototypical size, and Smith may be as good if not better than all of them. Connor Guthrie and Daniel are both exceptional DB’s and Markeacio Jackson should be expected have a breakout year in his Junior Campaign. If 2017 was a bridge year for Mayfield, watch out in 2018. It may take a little time for the Offense to hum as they cycle in new starters on the O-Line, but the Cards should be flying high and will definitely be a tough out once more. 2. Christian Academy- Louisville Centurions (11-3, Lost to Mayfield in Semi-Finals) For a time, last season, the mighty CAL Centurions were starting to be written off. Two times over a three game stretch Christian Academy- Louisville saw another 2A team celebrating after the final horn, one of which was a humbling 21-3 loss to rival DeSales. The Centurions were down a QB, their Offense was sputtering, and their Offensive line was struggling to keep teams from penetrating. Coach LeFors’ squad did not go gently into the night, instead rallying to beat Walton-Verona and Desales on the road before losing an extremely hard-fought game to Mayfield in the Semi-Finals. It was a bittersweet loss for the 2016 Champs, but at the same time far from a disappointing one as CAL had managed to hush doubters who thought they would not even make it to Thanksgiving. As the calendar flips, expectations will once again remain high buoyed by the sheer elite individual talents the Centurions return, if nothing else. John Young should be an All-State contender at Offensive Line and has major FBS programs salivating. Brandt Babin shined as a Freshman and will tote the rock as the primary rusher. Nate Clark will be a solid threat catching the ball along with Luke Leeper. Defensively CAL will be solid if not great. Austin Collins and Luke Paulson make it very difficult for any team to get outside of the tackle box while Jake Taylor patrols the interior from his MLB spot. Braden Hafling is also underrated and routinely can find the football. Elijah Smith barely missed the Top 20 list and is one of the better DB’s in the Class. Oh, and we forgot something. Back for his Senior year is Milton Wright. Wright will open as perhaps the early favorite for Mr. Football and legitimately does it all. Not only is he the top Defensive Back in the State, he may be the top WR, and is a dynamic threat anytime he touches the ball. As rival DeSales learned, even when you can contain the rest of the CAL team, it only takes two or three plays for the Centurions to beat you with their Defensive prowess and Wright’s game breaking ability. CAL will look to fill the shoes of Austin Carr who has transferred to Ballard and will hope to do it without having to move Wright to the spot full-time. If CAL can find a QB, the sky is the limit for their potential. 3. DeSales Colts (12-1, Lost to Christian Academy- Louisville in Regional Finals) For twelve weeks everything was going to plan. DeSales was undefeated, they were in the driver seat in their District, and their Defense was flat wearing teams out. Entering their November 17th game with CAL, DeSales had allowed 9 points in total over a seven week stretch. Then, Milton Wright struck, and after two Offensive TD’s and a Special Teams score, the Colts were sent home with a 24-3 defeat. The Colts have big dreams again and have the depth and weapons to make them come true. QB Aaron Pfaadt returns under center and has several key members from his stable of backs to hand it to. Savion Stivers and Carlos Ordway should pick up where they left off in 2017. Expect the Colts to continue to ground and pound teams. The Colts do have some holes to fill on the line, but by and large it should be expected that the Offense should show certain improvement. Defensively is where a Harold Davis team makes its presence felt, and the 2018 DeSales squad should be right in line with some of the better teams he has had. Demetddri Scott is a physical specimen and will be tough to stop off the edge. Amos Griffith and DeJuan Watkins are both going to be forces to contend with on the line as well. Shawn Kaufman is a solid defender in the back half of the Defense. The biggest question mark will be replacing some big losses at LB, but you can rest assured that DeSales will be clicking with little incident once the temperatures start to fall. We also should learn a lot about the strength of DeSales from the starting block. DeSales opens with powerhouse St. Xavier. 4. Danville Admirals (15-0, State Champions) The Defending Champions lost a superb Senior Class that went to three Semi-Finals appearances, earned a Title and a Runner-Up, and collected a Mr. Football award in the process. Danville will have to replace nearly every top receiver and rusher on the team, while also having to fill major holes throughout a Defense that carried them throughout the playoffs. Coach Clay Clevenger certainly has his work in front of him after a three-year run that has Admiral fans reliving the glory days of Sam Harp and Tom Duffy. With that said, don’t just proclaim Danville lost at sea just yet. There is still plenty of powder in their cannons to go to battle with. Having your QB back is always a great starting point, and Zach Thornton may be the best returning QB in Kentucky small-school football. The Admirals also return a budding superstar in Junior LB Darrian Bell, a lockdown CB in Brennen McGuire, and three strong linemen in Pierce Haines, Jaylon Brashear, and Kishon Bartleson. Danville’s fortunes will turn in the development of their Offensive skill players where they basically must work off a clean slate after losing a veteran crew that racked up yards and TD’s with ease. If Danville can find a "Ying" to Thornton's "Yang" in the running game, and can develop receivers to catch accurate balls, expect Danville to once again be right in the thick of the race to the Finals. 5. Glasgow Scotties (10-4, Lost to Danville in Semi-Finals) There is something to be said for peaking at the right time and Glasgow demonstrated that in 2017 when the young Scotties hit their stride en route to a somewhat surprising Semi-Finals appearance. Glasgow has plenty of punch returning. Nick Mitchell and Donta Oates are both excellent play-makers and will be one of the better 1-2 backfields in the classification. Tanner Abernathy will take over the QB spot full-time and has two things on his side. First of all, it always helps having Alabama Commit Tanner Bowles protecting your best interest up front as well as excellent Guard Peyton Gibbons. Additionally, a QB’s best friend is a tall WR who can go up and get the ball and 6’6 Jaden Franklin and 6’4 Kris Horn are both that prototype. The Scotties will need to improve on Defense. No question about that. Glasgow had some ups and downs against some solid Offenses and will lose some key pieces. Ryan Jones pulled a team high 4 Interceptions and will be a welcome return to build around. 6. Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (6-6, Lost in 2nd Round) It’s a new day in Newport. Dan Wagner stepped down after five seasons following a disappointing finish to 2017 where the Thoroughbreds failed to win the District Title and failed to reach the Regional Finals. Two things that are foreign for the proud program. Stephen Lickert’s pedigree suggests that Newport Central Catholic can see improvement on Offense immediately. He has been especially strong at developing RB’s, and with Kyle Kelly returning this could be a recipe for instant success. The bruising back averaged just shy of 100 yards rushing per game against a stout schedule and will be the focal point of the Offense. The Breds have a backfield stacked with young talent as well to supplement Kelly. Paul Kremer returns at QB and will have one of his favorite targets back in Aubrey Posey. Hunter Cain emerged as one of the most consistent players on a Defense that struggled at times last season. He will get help from Daniel Craig anchoring the LB spot and Tanner Daunt at DE. Expect to see a noticeable Defensive improvement with such a veteran core returning. 7. Owensboro Catholic Aces (8-5, Lost to Mayfield in Regional Finals) Speaking of new days, perhaps the biggest mystery in Class 2A for 2018 may be what to expect from Owensboro Catholic. When the Aces take the field against Daviess County, two noticeable pieces will be missing that many expected to see wearing green starting the 2018 season. Coach John Edge will be coaching on the other side of the Ohio River, and Veteran Quarterback Will Warren will be taking the field down the road for Owensboro High School instead. The Aces have talent, depth, and experience to be counted on. Vonn Williams and Drew Hartz will both return as Catholic’s primary bread winners. Hartz did a solid job taking over for Warren early in the season and should show improvement in year two at the trigger position. Williams’ numbers dipped after a superb Sophomore season as he failed to reach the 1,000-yard mark. Expect him to round back in form a bit. The Aces’ have one of the top receiving threats in 2A in Nick Mills back as well. You can argue Mills was their most consistent player in 2017 with 968 yards and 14 scores. Yaya Gray will be called upon to take a bigger role on both sides of the ball after a respectable campaign. Noah Todd will anchor a Front 7 that will miss the graduation of a pair of tackling machines in LB’s Nick Blair and Josh Sloan. 8. Lloyd Memorial Juggernauts (8-4, Lost in 2nd Round) What is the value of a playmaker? The answer to that question may very well decide if Lloyd Memorial can win a District Title for a second consecutive season or if Newport Central Catholic can return to their catbird seat. Travon Mason is dynamite in a small package and hopes to assume the role of this years’ Dmauriae VanCleave. Though Mr. Football aspirations may be a bit of a stretch, there is no denying the dynamic Mason is poised for a monster season after running for a hair below 1,500 yards last season. Jonathan Williams and Keesean Crim both should see their roles and production increase. Anthony Hall is a sleeper prospect at DE with D-1 measurables. These three guys will have to play their supporting roles to perfection as Mason shines. The big question for Lloyd Memorial iremains who will take over at QB after the dynamic dual threat Jordan Fann graduated. If the Juggs look to go to a more traditional QB, Junior Austin Daniels makes the most sense, but if they want to keep the rushing threat in place, which Fann excelled in, then the competition this Late Summer will be vital. 9. Somerset Briarjumpers (7-5, Lost in 2nd Round) If any team was pulling for a reprieve from District Competition with the next alignment, it would have been Somerset. The Jumpers had a team who might have contended for a Regional Title, or even a Finals appearance most years in Class 2A’s Eastern bracket over the past two seasons. Unfortunately, they were stuck with two excellent teams in their District, relinquishing them to a 3rd Seed and early playoff exits. The bad news is they can expect their District to remain intact. The good news is they should pick up a little ground, thanks to graduation at both LCA and Danville. The Jumpers have some graduation issues of their own to address, but returning MLB Peyton Hatcher will keep the stat sheet stuffed on Defense. Joining him to create a formidable unit will be DE Trevor Lipscomb and S Treavor Brock. Offensively Kade Grundy and Chance Stayton will be solid at two of the skill spots, while Junior RB Alex Miller will give them enough firepower to compete in nearly every game. 10. Monroe County Falcons (9-4, Lost to Glasgow in Regional Finals) Monroe County is one of those teams that just seems to come out of nowhere every few years and makes a playoff push as they hit their stride at the right time. Very few people gave the Falcons a shot as they drove all the way to Northern Kentucky to take on red hot Lloyd Memorial last season, but the Falcons took care of business 35-20 to earn a Regional Finals appearance. Much like the Juggernauts mentioned above, Monroe has a major vacancy at the QB spot after losing one of the best dual threat QB’s in the Classification, when Ty Mink accepted his diploma. What Monroe will utilize to fill the void are a pair of “Jack of All Trade” standouts who will make plays all over the field. Braden Murphy can run it, he can catch it, he can tackle it, and he can also disrupt it as Monroe’s leading tackler. Landon Stinson is his running mate at LB and almost equally as dangerous with his nose for the football. Jholdi Brooks should take on an increased role on Offense. Jamison Geralds will be asked to do the same after a solid season on Defense. Lexington Christian Academy Eagles (11-2, Lost to Danville in Regional Finals) Lexington Christian’s Senior Class in 2017 took the Eagles to some significant heights, but in the end LCA fans must be wondering “What might have been”, had their run not coincided with Danville’s phenomenal crop of talent. In the past two years, LCA has only lost to one team, but that team was Danville. The Admirals took down the Eagles three times in total, including a pair of Regional Final losses. LCA regularly exploded scoreboards and will now search to fill nearly all of that Offensive firepower. Between Dillon Wheatley and Logan Nieves, they lose over 4800 yards of Offense alone. LCA will have to start their re-build around Defense this time around. Blane Hardin and Xavier Strothman, as well as Dustin Wheatley, all have prototypical size at their OLB and DE spots. Deairious Smith will be the cornerstone of the secondary. If the Eagles can develop some youth on Offense and can take care of business, they should be able to avoid some of the hangover. However, sharing a District with Danville and hungry Somerset means that LCA will have to grow up VERY fast. Murray Tigers (5-7, Lost in 2nd Round) It is rare to see a Murray team finish with a losing record as the Tigers did in 2017. Murray simply could not stop teams on Defense. The Offense showed promise at times and did their part. The Tigers will welcome RB Chase Merriss and versatile ATH Mark Thompson back after combining for over 2500 all-purpose yards. The only RB in 2A who had more TD’s than Merriss’ 22 was Dillon Wheatley from LCA. Hunter Utley had his ups and downs as a Sophomore under center, but also showed very positive development and will only improve in 2018. At the end of the day though, it will be the Tiger Defense that will have to show monumental improvement. The Tigers gave up an average of 44 points in their 7 losses and will need to cut that number in half to have a shot at making a playoff push. DB Tommy Waldrop returns but by and large, Murray will have a lot of maturing to do. Prestonsburg Blackcats (7-5, Lost in 2nd Round) When you are parting ways with your Head Coach of over twenty seasons it is always a time of both anxiety and anticipation. Returning a star in RB Ethan Varney always helps with that transition. Varney has posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and eclipsed the 1500-yard mark last year. The Blackcats should be the District favorite but will struggle to find the depth needed to compete deep into playoffs. Winning the District will be a must to secure a home playoff game and significantly lighten the First-Round game awaiting them. Walton-Verona Bearcats (9-3, Lost in 2nd Round) Walton-Verona certainly had what most would consider to be a solid season winning 9 games and giving CAL a stiff test before succumbing. The Bearcats lose a strong Senior class including most of their top skill players. FB/LB Micah Alford will have to step up in his role, as will RB/DB Peyton Smith. Walton-Verona should still enter as the favorite in District 5, but the field should make up some ground after the Bearcats made short work of them in 2017. Washington County Commanders (7-5, Lost in 2nd Round) It is a tough gig to share a District with Christian Academy-Louisville and DeSales, a lesson the Commanders learned all too well in 2017. Washington County was still able to move their program forward by going on the road in Round 1 to knock off Owen County. Washington County loses QB John Floyd but returns one of the more underrated players in Class 2A in Jbias Dawson. Dawson is a load to bring down and had a breakout year hitting the Century mark on the ground. Mike Ellery is a promising looking player who made plays as a Freshman and will see his role increase. Miguel Alacantara had a big year at LB and will be asked to play big for a Defense that will be tested often. Others to Watch: Ballard Memorial Bombers (3-8, Lost in 1st Round) The team who may see the greatest improvement in 2018 may be Ballard Memorial. The Bombers really struggled with a young team in 2017 but return most of their key players. QB Erick Marinelli threw for 2802 yards and 33 TD’s, he will return his favorite target Drew Cox who had nearly 1400 receiving yards and a remarkable 19 TD’s. Hunter Bray and Dequin Donlow also return as well as leading rusher Bryce Haynes. There is no doubt that Ballard Memorial will score points, but can they stop a team on Defense? Leslie County Eagles (4-7, Lost in 1st Round) The Eagles have been a team consistently in the running for a 2A home playoff game and have reason for optimism in 2018. Leslie was very young in 2017 and took a step back, but they should rebound led by talented Sophomore LB Preston Spurlock. The big question for Leslie is if QB Darron Whitaker will play football or focus on other sports. If he returns they become a contender for the District Title, without him it may be tough to catch Prestonsburg or Shelby Valley. Shelby Valley Wildcats (6-5, Lost in 1st Round) RB Seth Johnson finished as Class 2A’s leading rusher by over 50 yards per game as he clipped the 2,000-yard mark. The Wildcats have a legit shot at a District Title but will have to get through Prestonsburg. RB Dalton Meade nearly hit the 1,000-yard mark and will have to have a bid season to take the pressure off Johnson. DL Peyton Blackburn had to lead the State in Fumble Recoveries with seven. Todd County Central Rebels (6-5, Lost in 1st Round) Todd County Central was one of the best feel good stories in the State as they went from an extensive losing streak to a competitive 6-5 season and a winning regular season. The Rebels will have some work to do to repeat that accomplishment as they lost their Head Coach and their two top Offensive weapons. QB/DB Asa Young does return after a solid season, specifically on the Defensive side of the ball where he intercepted an impressive seven passes. Pre-Season Class 2A Top 20 Players 1. ATH Milton Wright, Christian Academy- Louisville 2. OL Tanner Bowles, Glasgow 3. RB/LB Kyle Kelly, Newport Central Catholic 4. OL John Young, Christian Academy- Louisville 5. QB Zach Thornton, Danville 6. LB Darrian Bell, Danville 7. RB Vonn Williams, Owensboro Catholic 8. RB Travon Mason, Lloyd Memorial 9. DE Brady Smith, Mayfield 10. ATH Braden Murphy, Monroe County 11. ATH Donta Oates, Glasgow 12. QB Jayden Stinson, Mayfield 13. WR Nick Mills, Owensboro Catholic 14. DE Demetri Scott, DeSales 15. ATH Ethan Varney, Prestonsburg 16. RB Jbias Dawson, Washington County 17. RB Seth Johnson, Shelby Valley 18. DE Austin Collins, Christian Academy- Louisville 19. LB Peyton Hatcher, Somerset 20. LB Landon Stinson, Monroe County
  15. Inside South-Central Kentucky Football (10-21-13) -Friday night provided confirmation of something that everyone knew already, that Bowling Green (7-0) is far and away the best team in the area, truly without peers. Warren Central (4-4) managed to stay in touch with the Purples through 1.5 quarters by matching them score for score. It was 14 all at the 9 minute mark of the second quarter, and just 20-14 BG heading under 5 minutes in the half. But the Purples' powerful offense was stopped only once on the night and very rarely slowed, a clip that the Dragons just could not hope to match. In all, Bowling Green racked up a 467-247 offensive yardage advantage, including a Bowling Green single game record 374 yards passing by QB Devin Hayes. The win wrapped up the 5A District 2 crown for the Purples, and they will face the winner of Friday's Ohio County/Apollo game in the first round. It appears that Warren Central will host Hopkinsville in the first round of the playoffs in three weeks. -South Warren (8-1) let loose the frustration of two years of losses to Monroe County out in a flurry of activity at the end of the second quarter of their 53-8 victory over Monroe County. The first quarter was fairly even with the Spartans up just 7-0, and just 14-0 heading under the 4 minute mark of the second. They would score 20 points via two TD runs and a blocked punt TD on defense in just under 3 minutes of gametime to seize control of the game and take a 34-0 halftime lead. The win clinched the first district title in South Warren history, and gives them homefield for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Spartans were fueled by QB Jay Eblen who ran for five TDs and 149 yards as South Warren held a 346-111 advantage in offensive yardage. Monroe County had won the first three meetings in the series by a combined 83 points. -Glasgow (7-1) clinched a district title of their own, going on the road to take a 48-13 victory over Green County. The Scotties led just 13-6 after one, but would score the next 35 points in the game to put Green County down. Marquez Trigg and Quentel Bradley combined for 307 yards on the ground on just 36 carries, while QB Ryan Hinkley threw for three TDs. The effort put Marquez Trigg right at 1,000 yards rushing on the year. In all, the Scotties were the picture of dominance with over 550 yards of offense. -Franklin-Simpson (4-4) continued their late year push with their fourth win in six games, the latest a 50-7 blowout victory over Breckinridge County. The win puts them just one more district win away from their second district title in three years. The first quarter belonged to Chris Holman, as he ran for scores of 23, 20, and 17 yards on the way to a 28-0 first quarter lead for the Wildcats. Holman accounted for 115 yards on just seven carries as part of a night that saw Franklin-Simpson rush for 414 yards. -Before the bye, Warren East (4-4) were the receivers of a surprising 37-7 beatdown by Franklin-Simpson to lose control of their own destiny in the district. They kept themselves in the hunt for the #1 seed by knocking off visiting Allen County-Scottsville (4-4) 28-14 in a close affair at Jim Ross Field. The Raiders seized control early on a pair of Raymond Green TDs The first was a 46 yard strike from QB Antwan Gilbert, the second a 22 yard sweep. The Patriots rallied in the second quarter to tie it at 14 all in the half, and Charlie Trapp's 77 yard TD rush ultimately accounted for nearly 75% of Allen County-Scottsville's 105 yards of offense on the night. RB Antonio Shields put Warren East up for good late in the third quarter on a 14 yard run, then put the nail in the coffin with another TD run with less than two minutes left in the game for the final margin. The Raiders now have to become Patriot fans, hoping that Allen County-Scottsville can knock off Franklin-Simpson next week to create a three way tie atop the district. -Barren County (3-5) clinched the 3 seed in the district - their highest since 2007 in the first year of 5A - with a 53-13 win over Logan County. The win gave Barren County multiple district wins on the year for the first time since 2001, and sets them up for a likely trip to Christian County when the playoffs begin. Chad Eaton was Mr. Everything for Barren County, scoring two TD receptions in addition to throwing for another. Cole Payne also had a pick six against the winless Cougars. -Greenwood (3-5) got just the opponent they needed in Apollo to snap a two game losing streak in a 24-13 victory. Apollo entered the game with just a single win over the year - that over a winless opponent. The Eagles did make Greenwood work for the win, taking a 7-0 first quarter lead and maintaining a 13-10 advantage at the half. But the defense bore down in the second half, holding Apollo to just 33 yards of offense and turning a fumble into a 23 yard TD return for the final score of the game. THIS WEEK -The game with the most postseason implications will be Allen County-Scottsville at Franklin-Simpson. If Franklin-Simpson wins, they will take the district outright. A Patriot win coupled with an all but certain victory by Warren East over Breckinridge County will send it to a three way tiebreaker. The three teams are very close in potential tiebreaker scenarios currently. -Two weeks after being the only team in the area to play, South Warren will be the only one to sit this one out as they prepare for a date with Russellville in the season closer. -There will be a lot of familiar faces when Greenwood meets Bowling Green on Friday. Several coaches on the Greenwood staff were at Bowling Green last year, including HC Chris Seabolt. They'll get a chance to learn how the other half lives in that series, one in which Bowling Green has won all 21 meetings and most have not been close. The Purples have won the last seven meetings by an average of over 46 PPG, dating back to the last time Greenwood came within a single score, a 31-24 loss in 2004. South-Central Kentucky Rankings (10-21-13) 1) Bowling Green at Greenwood 2) Warren Central vs. Logan County 3) South Warren - OPEN 4) Glasgow vs. Metcalfe County 5) Franklin-Simpson vs. Allen County-Scottsville 6) Warren East at Breckinridge County 7) Allen County-Scottsville at Franklin-Simpson 8) Barren County at 4A Taylor County 9) Greenwood vs. Bowling Green
  16. 4th Region Preview When the season began, I noted that last year the 14th District’s run had nearly come to an end in the 2013 region finals, but Russell County had not been able to break through the glass ceiling. I said that consequently, Warren Central would be favored to take home their 10th title in 13 years. Despite Saturday’s loss to Bowling Green, that really hasn’t changed, although they are less a favorite now than they appeared to be entering the postseason. What also hasn’t changed is the notion that the 14th District runs the region. If it is someone other than Warren Central or Bowling Green cutting down the nets, it will be a surprise. The Favorites Warren Central (22-5) – The Dragons saw their 15 game win streak come to a crashing halt in a 68-53 nightmare loss to Bowling Green in the 14th District finals, but that’s about the only thing that has gone wrong for the Dragons in a long time. They carry a 13-1 record against region 4 opponents into the tournament, winning by an average of 14.5 PPG in those games. In their four games against opponents outside of the 14th District, that average jumps to 20 PPG, with only Barren County coming within 19 of the Dragons, an 84-81 win at Barren County in mid-January. If there’s one knock on the Dragons it’s that after running through most opponents during the season, it’s that they appear vulnerable and sluggish in the postseason thus far, needing a late steal to advance to the district finals before losing there. They had an 8 day layoff prior to their district semifinal game, and will now have a 7 day layoff before their region opener thanks to weather delays. They also drew arguably the toughest first round game they could have gotten in 22 win Clinton County. On the bright side, they would be easily favored in a region semifinal matchup with either Russellville or Monroe County and tournament host Barren County is safely on the other side. Bowling Green (24-6) – The aforementioned 68-53 win over Warren Central brought Bowling Green a district title after missing the region tournament the previous season, and also catapulted them into near-even favorite status with Warren Central. After all, while the Dragons had beaten Bowling Green twice, they were the only region opponent to defeat the Purples, and the BG boys have now proven that they are more than capable of winning against any team in the region. The Purples have found their groove by pairing big men Clay Stivers and Joseph Ayers in their starting lineup, creating a formidable interior presence that is causing defensive problems inside for their opponents. The Purples have also been greatly helped by the emergence of Tucker Sine as their go to scorer. Sine scored from everywhere on the floor against Central, dropping in 22 points with two threes, three scores inside the arc, and 10/12 shooting from the line. All of that is before you get to Nacarius Fant, easily one of the most athletic players in the region and with lightning quick hands, very tough to handle defensively. Bowling Green has a rock solid resume with several quality wins and no bad losses. They got the easiest first round matchup in drawing Franklin-Simpson, but will have a tougher go of it in the semifinal round against either Barren County or Russell County, especially if they have to face Barren County on their home floor. The Contender Clinton County (22-7) – You know the Bulldogs are tired of this by now. For the third straight year they’ve drawn a 20 win team right out of the gate. Twice now that has been their reward for winning their district and in both years they face the favorite for the region crown. But that’s the only thing not to like about Clinton County’s chances in their quest to win the region for the first time in 54 years. Outside of a rough showing in the Christmas tournaments, they’ve been nigh unstoppable. Only a head scratching loss to Monroe County in January (later avenged to the tune of a 35 point victory) and a road loss to BGP Top 20 team Wayne County has kept them from a perfect record in the 2014 calendar year. As with last year they are led by Keifer Dalton and Colby Langford, possibly the best 1-2 combo in the entire region. Dalton was recently voted region POY by the 4th Region coaches as a junior, and Langford has the feel of a sixth year senior. Both can score almost at will and will be a load to slow down. Stopping them both is likely entirely impossible. As was true of Warren Central in this incredible first round matchup, if Clinton County can slay the Dragons they will be easy favorites to advance to the region title game. That alone would be a first for the Bulldogs since they won in 1960. Tough Roads Barren County (21-8) – The Trojans were the beneficiary of one of the biggest boosts a team can get in January. The 4th Region tournament, held at E.A. Diddle Arena for all but five years since 1963 was awarded to Barren County, meaning the Trojans will get a chance to win it on their home floor. While they are not perfect on their home floor this season (an alarmingly pedestrian 4-5 record), it still doesn’t hurt to play on the floor and shoot at the rims that you are more comfortable on than any other team. Barren County finished strong after a midseason swoon, going 9-2 and bringing home their third straight District 15 championship. Their only losses were to Clinton County by 2 in double overtime, and their first round opponent Russell County 79-70. In regard to the latter, Barren County probably isn’t thrilled with their opening draw, and certainly can’t be happy with their draw in general. They received the second toughest opening round game they could have drawn and their reward for winning that would most likely be Bowling Green in the semis. Get past that, they’ll just have to defeat either Warren Central or Clinton County in the finals. They went 0-4 against Russell County, Bowling Green, Warren Central, and Clinton County, and three of those losses were at home. Russell County (18-9) – The Lakers have not been nearly as strong this season, clearly missing graduated senior POY Tyler Robertson. They were swept in three meetings with district foe Clinton County, dropped a road game against 15-15 South Warren, and just altogether had a season below their standards. For the most park, they’ve been on the uptick since late January. Aside from a strange loss to Adair (who they had already beaten by 23), the Lakers performed well in winning 7 of 9 heading into region play. They gained ground on Clinton County each time they played, turning a 13 point road loss in early January into just a 1 point loss on the road in the 16th District finals. The Lakers have 1st team all-region center Nick Coffey, a solid hulk in the middle that hits just about every shot he gets in the post. They feature the second best freshman in the region in transfer Kel Stotts, but the team may still be a year away from really challenging. The region draw doesn’t help, as they’re in the same boat as Barren County. Even if they duplicate their road win from mid-February against Barren County, they’ll have to deal with the same gauntlet of Bowling Green then Warren Central or Clinton County. It’s tough to imagine them cutting down the nets, but if there’s a coach who can do it, it’s Willie Feldhaus. The Dark Horse Monroe County (20-10) – And this is a REAL dark horse. Monroe County gained the #1 seed in the 15th district via tiebreaker, but the biggest win to bring that home seems miles away now. It was all the way back in mid-December when the Falcons knocked off Barren County on the road, four days before they added a second big win over Russell County, and three days before beating Glasgow. After that, they went 2-3 in 15th District play, had their best win of the year in a 61-57 win at Clinton County followed by their worst loss in a 35 point blowout at the hands of the Bulldogs, but stabilized enough to win four games in a row prior to falling in the 15th District final to Barren County. The Falcons are led by Dillon Geralds, a junior guard who averages in the high teens in scoring per game. They got a favorable first round draw with Russellville, the best they could have hoped for. A trip to the region semis seems likely, but not much beyond that seems hopeful. The Longshots Russellville (11-18) – Russellville set a 4th Region record with their 11th straight region tournament appearance, but the good news basically ends there. They’re one of only two teams in the field with a losing record, and the other came from their district. 7 of their 11 wins came over a 13th District lineup that did not have a single team finish above or anywhere near .500. They went 2-8 against 4th Region competition outside their district and 0-4 against teams that made the region field other than Franklin-Simpson. There’s just not enough experience on a team that has only two seniors after losing so much talent to graduation. They got a winnable first round game against Monroe County, but even there they won’t be favored. Anything more than that is not remotely likely. Franklin-Simpson (8-18) – After last year didn’t end well and this year didn’t start well, there wasn’t much positive to say about the Wildcats. Starting with their last 12 games of last year, they lost 23 of 27 games, starting 2013/14 with a record of 2-13. Things improved later on, and they strung together three straight wins before falling to Russellville in the 13th District final. Much of the heavy lifting in those wins was done by freshman Tavin Lovan. The future D1 prospect averaged 33 PPG in the wins, and gets to the line at will. But it would take a Herculean effort by him to lift Franklin-Simpson into competition with Bowling Green in their first round matchup. The Purples already pasted the Wildcats by 20 once this season, and a similar result is likely on Friday night.
  17. If you thought Glasgow would not come close in 2012 to duplicating the success they had in 2011, you were not alone. The Scotties went a sparkling 14-1 in 2011 en route to a state runner-up finish, but lost almost all of their top players and production from that year. On top of that, they only rostered five seniors for the 2012 campaign. But Coach Rick Wood and Glasgow proved their mettle by capturing their district again on the way to an 8-2 regular season, and raised hopes so high that it came as a disappointment when they fell 10-2 to DeSales in the 2A Region 2 finals. Ultimately, Glasgow's only three losses came to teams that reached the state semifinals. And so the yo-yo of expectations swings up again and Glasgow is thinking state finals once again. And this time they'll aim to finish the job they fell short of in 2011. The Scotties will field a veteran and experienced team for the 2013 season. Their roster boasts 31 upperclassmen, 17 of them seniors. They return 15 starters including their starting QB, top four rushers, most of their receiving corps, and six of their seven leading tacklers. In short, these guys have seen plenty of action. Senior QB Ryan Hinkley did not pass often last year, compiling only 782 yards and nine TDs, but will provide a steady hand leading the offense. he'll be greatly aided by a pair of 1,200 yard backs, junior Marquez Trigg and senior Quentel Bradley. Trigg saw 178 carries and Bradley toted it 179 times, by far the most on the team. They are a pair of dangerous runners and give great balance to Glasgow. Protecting Hinkley's dropbacks and opening up the lanes for Trigg and Bradley will be four returning offensive linemen from 2012 that are large and in charge. The Scotties will average at least 260 lbs on the line. Leading the defensive corps will be senior LB Connor Glass, the second leading tackler in 2012 for Glasgow with 51 solos. Three of the front four on the defensive line return, led by senior DT Aaron Witty (44 solo tackles) and senior DE Ben Furlong (41 solo tackles). In all, the defense returns seven starters to a unit that allowed 12 points and less than 200 yards per game in 2012. The 2013 Glasgow schedule is very similar to the edition from the previous two years, featuring 7 games against 2012 opponents. They open the season by hosting Hart County in the TJ Samson Bowl, a bowl game co-hosted with Barren County and played at Glasgow this year. The Scotties also step way up in class, visiting 6A Seneca on October 4th. But 4 games stand out on the schedule the same way they did the past two years. Glasgow will visit long-time rival Allen County-Scottsville on September 13th, always an entertaining game. They'll get another crack at powers 2A Somerset and 3A Monroe County, two of their losses from a year ago, the following two weeks. That all leads to their toughest district game, at Green County on October 18th. Last season the Scotties surprised some by knocking off the Dragons 25-16 in Glasgow. This year the Scotties will not have the advantage of home field, but to them that just means they'll get to crush Green County's district hopes in front of the Dragon crowd this time around. 2013 has very much the same feel as 2011 in Glasgow. A large senior class, tons of returning starters, a better than expected showing the previous year. They'll likely even have the same skepticism they faced in 2011, living in the shadow of a more heralded team to the west, with Caldwell County likely to be the pick of most to reach the state finals. The Scotties may just have a surprise for them come Black Friday. Nothing that comes before should be a surprise to anyone. Players To Watch Marquez Trigg - RB/DB - 5'11", 190 lbs - Junior - Trigg is the co-star of the Scotties for now, and will take full ownership off the star role in 2014 when he's a senior. Trigg amassed a staggering 21 touchdowns in 2012 to add to his 1,212 yards, averaging just shy of 7 yards per carry. Quentel Bradley - RB/DB - 5'10", 165 lbs - Senior - He may be slight in size, but that doesn't mean he's easy to bring down. It's not uncommon to see Bradley drag a defender or two for some extra yards, or simply run them over and continue on his way. Oh, and he's more than fast enough to simply run around them too. Milas Norris - WR/LB - 6'2", 185 lbs - Senior - Norris is the leading returning receiver for the Scotties, leading the team in receptions last year while coming in at #2 in terms of receiving yards. He'll have a large impact on defense too where he notched 34 tackles from his linebacker position, sometimes also lining up as more of a defensive end. Matt Boston - C - 6'2", 270 lbs - Senior - Boston was selected as a 2nd team AP All-State lineman in 2012, and will anchor the veteran Scottie offensive line.
  18. Last year the Purples featured a team that only returned four starters following their triumphant 2011 season. Everyone knew they would still put out a typically strong team, but 2012 was viewed as a window of opportunity, a time when maybe a team's best shot could knock Bowling Green off the mountaintop. The Purples responded with an emphatic "YOU MISSED." Bowling Green ran the table again to push their win streak to 30 straight wins, which included their second win in two years over vaunted St. X. That Bowling Green is the premier program in western Kentucky is a given. But the whispers around the state have now grown much louder that the Purples rather than the Tigers or even a certain program in northern Kentucky might be backing up Trinity for supremacy in Kentucky football. The Purples enter 2013 with 15 returning starters, including 9 on the offensive side of the ball. Four returning senior linemen will protect 2500 yard passer Devin Hayes who will look for All-BluegrassPreps.com WR and recent WKU commit Nacarius Fant. 1,000 yard rusher Blue Tisdale also returns to lead the rushing corps, as will speedster Blake Pillow who supplied last year's highlight on a hook and lateral TD to rescue the Purples against John Hardin. The Purples will have a little more work to do on the defensive side of the ball with 5 starters absent, including the entire D-Line. They'll also be without new Boone County head coach Jeff Griffith, who served as the architect of the Purple defense for the last decade. Veteran coach Mark Spader will step up to fill the defensive coordinator vacancy, and the Purples should still feature that strong "Jungle D" that shows off their talented LB corps, led by All-BluegrassPreps.com LB Lincoln Quick. Bowling Green also returns all but one member of a secondary that led 5A in passing defense last year. For 2013 the Purples beef up an already challenging schedule, and they have proven willing to travel to do so. They have added two games against Tennessee powers, hosting Blackman out of Murfreesboro and traveling to McCallie School in Chatanooga. They also maintain out of district games against Kentucky titans like St. X, Lexington Catholic, and Owensboro. Their visit to St. X on September 6th in particular is a definite “circle the calendar” game for fans of the teams and casual fans alike. The Purples’ schedule features no out of district games against teams that are within 70 miles of Bowling Green. That probably owes to the fact that they've only lost three games since 2004 to teams within that range - only one was out of district and that was in the postseason. Bowling Green’s largest test in-district should come from rival Warren Central, but the Purples have re-asserted their dominance over the Dragons following losses in 2009 & 2010 to the tune of 23 PPG margins of victory in their four meetings of 2011 & 2012. In all, the Purples have won 50 of their last 52 district games. In short, the Purples are poised to take on all-comers this season with a veteran and dominant squad. In the eyes of many it's really less a question of whether they'll be state champions for the third straight year, but rather by how much along the way, and whether they will again be unbeaten. Another 15-0 campaign would take them into the following year with 45 straight wins, staring down history. Players To Watch Nacarius Fant - WR - 5'10", 174 lbs - Senior - Fant is worth the price of admission all by himself. The electrifying wideout is not necessarily the fastest WR you'll ever see, but you may never see one with better hands or that is more elusive. Nacarius has a knack for simply not being there when the defense goes to tackle him. He'll catch virtually everything thrown to him. He notched 1,250 receiving yards and 18 TDs in his junior campaign, but also rushed for a TD and was 2/3 passing. It was good enough to earn him a spot on the All-BluegrassPreps.com team. Devin Hayes - QB - 6'2", 175 lbs - Senior - Hayes compiled an impressive 2,544 yards passing with 38 TDs in his junior campaign, his first as a starter. While not the runner his predecessor Scooter Hollis was, Hayes is a more polished passer that stands in the pocket with confidence and rarely makes an errant throw. Like Hollis, Hayes is being courted by the Ivy League to play football, and was one of 36 players selected to attend the NFL Wharton Sports Leadership Program which recognizes student-athlete success both on the field and in the classroom. Blue Tisdale - RB - 6'1", 185 lbs - Senior - Tisdale is as comfortable running past you as he is running you over. A star on the basketball court as well, he's the old faithful of the BG offense. Hand him the ball, expect to get more than halfway to a first down. His 1,025 yards rushing may seem low, but that is a byproduct of the balanced and powerful Purple offense. If they so desired, he could easily be a 2,000 yard back. Lincoln Quick - LB - 6'2", 205 lbs - Senior - Quick will be a three year starter his senior year, the defensive anchor spanning the talented Class of 2012 with the Class of 2014. Offenses may find themselves thinking there are three of him as he is everywhere on the field. Bowling Green's "Jungle D" is perfectly suited to a linebacker like Quick who shoots through the gaps so that quarterbacks and running backs find themselves facing him before they've even had a chance to think about their next move. Lincoln compiled 69 solo and 27 assisted tackles last year, good enough to be the leading returning player by nearly 40 tackles.
  19. Class 4A District 1 Coming into the season we knew that District 1 would be one of the most competitive at the top of any district in 4A, and that bore out in the form of a three-way tie for the #1 seed. Logan County drew first blood, knocking off Madisonville-North Hopkins with a Hail Mary in a 26-24 victory in September, but fell to Hopkinsville 21-6 just six days later. Madisonville climbed back into the race with a 20-18 win over Hopkinsville on October 11th, and the tiebreak was pretty much sealed. When the dust settled, Hopkinsville’s 17-15 win over Paducah Tilghman in Week 11 vaulted them to the #1 seed, and gave them the coveted matchup with Calloway County, a team they defeated 43-0 on September 27th. The Tigers have spent the entire year in the 4A Top 10, and have run up an impressive 7-3 record against a moderately challenging schedule. As in recent years, they feature a passing-first offensive attack. Javier Bland has thrown for 25 touchdowns against 7 interceptions and 1,842 yards, completing just under 50% of his passes. Reece Jesse has been a stud receiver with 54 receptions for 1,018 yards and 14 touchdowns. Defensively, the Tigers are allowing just over 200 yards per game and 15.7 PPG. They’ve been very stout against the run, giving up just under 75 yards per game on the ground. They probably won’t be the highest ranked team in the district entering the playoffs, but their first round game amounts to a bye, and they’ll get to host the survivor of the Madisonville/Logan County matchup. Logan County slides into the #2 seed with an 8-2 record. The Cougars have continued their program renaissance with another sterling season, but they are not coming into the playoffs with the strongest momentum. They are 2-2 in their last four, and were knocked around in their Week 11 matchup with South Warren, falling 53-6. QB Tyler Ezell has thrown for 2,140 yards, 33 touchdowns, and just 8 interceptions on the year, but had to leave the South Warren game with a leg injury, and appeared on the sideline in an air cast. If he can’t go against Madisonville, it’s a devastating blow to their chances. They’ll have to lean more heavily on Gary Hardy, who has 900 yards on 98 rushes this season with 10 touchdowns. Hardy has run for nearly 4,000 yards in his career for the Cougars. The Cougars were able to run for only 55 yards the last time they met Madisonville but threw for 308 yards. The health of Ezell is going to be crucial. For Madisonville, they are 3-2 in their last five, but their 53-50 loss to Mayfield is a much more solid indicator for the postseason. A win there would have given them the district, but they more than proved their mettle in the contest. Madisonville was the preseason favorite, and at 8-2, they have proven worth that designation, even if the Hail Mary loss ultimately dropped them to #3. When you talk about the Maroons it invariably centers around stud RB Jeriah Hightower. Hightower has run for 2,231 yards on 233 attempts with 23 touchdowns this year. He leads the state in rushing yards and yards per game. He had 301 in the first matchup with Logan County, and figures to be dominant again. Hayden Reynolds doesn’t throw as much as some other quarterbacks because of Hightower’s presence, but he has thrown for 23 scores against just 3 interceptions this year, rolling up 1,409 yards. The Maroon defense is allowing 80.4 yards rushing per game, and 17.5 PPG. In short, they control the clock with their ground attack and they limit the same from the opposing team. Projected District Final: Madisonville-North Hopkins 21 Hopkinsville 14 District 2 District 2 has placed a team in the state championship for four straight seasons, but it appears this will be the year that comes to a close. No one in the district is above .500. Franklin-Simpson appears to still be the dominant force, even moreso as they are getting healthy. Winners of three straight district titles, the Wildcats uncharacteristically started 0-4 as they adjusted to graduation losses and injuries. Once mid-September rolled around the Wildcats appeared closer to their old selves, scoring five straight wins by an average of 30 PPG. Franklin features one of the most balanced rushing attacks you’ll see. No player rushed for more than 67 attempts or 653 yards through 9 games, but the team had nearly 260 yards per game as a unit. Leandre Stutzman was the leader in both categories with 653 yards on 67 attempts, but Omar Harrison (42/406), Tedric Partinger (44/3540, Chase Gooch (46/349), and Malik Carter (64/257) all topped 250 yards for the team. Luke Richardson still passes only when desperately needed, with only 556 yards through the air through 9 games. Stutzman carried the load when they played first round opponent Russell County the first time, with 144 yards on 10 rushes. While the 35-21 result was closer than expected, the Wildcats have appeared much healthier since, culminating in a 28-21 barnburner loss to Glasgow in the season finale. Russell County has strong speed from leading rushers Dylan Bland (140/1,279/16) and Collin Darnell (155/1,186/12), and can give some problems if they can get to the edge. But ultimately, if they couldn’t defeat a diminished Franklin team at home in early October, it makes them a longshot to do so on the road in November. Allen County-Scottsville and Warren East would both also track as longshots to knock off Franklin, with a 10 point loss and 27 point loss to the Wildcats respectively. ACS defeated Warren East for the first time in three years with a 27-10 result on the road on October 18th, and that ultimately brought them their first home playoff game in 7 years. The Patriots started the season with a slightly more pass-oriented attack, but have shifted to the traditional ground game that they are known for in the latter half of the year. Landon Witcher is their speed back and leading rusher, while Jaquez McPeak is a hammer, frequently breaking tackles and dragging players with him. Defensively, the Patriots are a bend don’t break type, but their previous matchup with Warren East marked their best defensive performance of the year. Warren East enters on a three game losing streak that began with the loss to ACS, and are just 3-6 since opening the year with a victory. The Raiders lack the home run threat at running back that they have enjoyed in previous years, and lean heavily on QB Nolan Ford. Ford is their leading rusher with 103 attempts for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is completing just over 50% of his passes and has 1,107 yards passing with 10 touchdowns. Their 10 points against ACS was their second lowest score of the year, and Ford threw two interceptions in the contest, as penalties also derailed the Raiders. Look for a more focused effort this time around from the Raiders, but the Patriot’s field that has been chopped up slightly from weather over the last two weeks may be an equalizer compared to the turf at Warren East. Projected District Final: Franklin-Simpson 42 Warren East 14 District 3 District 3 is a bit of a red-headed stepchild in the “western” half of the bracket. The district is overshadowed this year by District 1 and 4 with their top tier teams, and lacks the historic prestige of District 2. Moore has the 3rd highest RPI of the #1 seeds in the western four districts, and put together a solid 6-4 campaign, closing the year with five straight wins. They climbed to the top by surviving close calls against John Hardin (22-14) and Valley (31-27). The Mustangs slant heavily towards the run with 73% of their yards coming from rushing, with QB Rae Von Vaden accounting for almost as many yards on the ground (748) as through the air (819). Jamari Wilson leads the team with 1,045 yards on 119 attempts with 7 touchdowns. It always sounds common sense that the more you score the more you win, but for the Mustangs, the key number is three touchdowns. They haven’t lost when scoring 22 or more. They haven’t won when scoring less. Their opening game may be the most possible of 4 seed upsets in the entire class as Valley lines up against them. Valley has just two wins on the season, but has lost three games by six points or less. The Vikings are just two years removed from beating Moore, and it will have been just three weeks since their close call when the two meet, albeit this time at Moore. Even less time will separate the rematch between Spencer County and John Hardin that handed Spencer County the 2 seed. The Bears went on the road and came up with a 45-31 victory over John Hardin on October 25th, part of their three-game winning streak heading into the playoffs. The result was a bit surprising given their blowout loss to a Moore team that John Hardin was right there with. In that game, Spencer County threw a single pass, with Jon Smith completing it for 26 yards. Seth Thompson exploded for 233 yards on 20 rushes with three touchdowns, and Lawrence McLemore added 105 yards on 15 rushes, also with three scores. That is right in-line with Spencer County’s offensive attack for the year. 83% of their yards come on the ground, with Thompson turning 143 rushes into 1,015 yards with 9 scores. As a team, Spencer County has completed only 40 passes this year. John Hardin rushed for 236 yards in their matchup with Spencer County on the 25th – a season-high – but could find no success through the air either, as Kadon Wilson was just 4/13 for 35 yards. The Bulldogs are just 4-6 this year, and three of those four wins have come by single digit margins. Offensively, the Bulldogs did not average 200 yards per game through their first nine games, and have topped 14 points only four times on the season. Projected District Final: Moore 28 Spencer County 14 District 4 While the district race shook out cleaner than District 1, this district was almost every bit as competitive. Franklin County emerged as the favorite as the season ran along, and ultimately finished undefeated overall for the first time in seven seasons. In fact, they have won 18 of their last 19 games stretching to last season. They played only two games decided by less than 10 points, the last of which was a thrilling 14-12 victory over Louisville Central to clinch the #1 seed in the district when they turned away a two point conversion for the tie midway through the fourth quarter. Behind QB Nick Broyles, the Flyers live up to their name and let it fly through the air. Broyles completed 64% of his passes this year, throwing for just shy of 2,000 yards through nine games, and sports an impressive 26:3 TD:INT ratio. Broyles leads the team in rushing as well, with 686 yards on 89 attempts with 7 scores. Tariq Lester compliments the rushing attack as the lead back with 80 rushes for 566 yards and 12 scores. No other Flyer has rushed for more than 75 yards. Fred Farrier leads the team with 35 receptions for 602 yards and 7 scores. Franklin County features a 55/45 split in favor of throwing the ball – a modern passing offense. Defensively, the Flyers allowed only 12.7 PPG and forced an average of just shy of 2 turnovers per game. They’ll meet a game Waggener squad that they beat 37-20 in mid-October. Broyles threw for 226 yards and ran for 125 in that contest. Waggener has lost four straight, but was competitive in most of them, with three decided by 12 or less and the 17 point loss to Franklin County the only outlier. They have almost a 50/50 split in terms of passing/rushing, but like Franklin County they rely heavily on their QB. Alijah Sickles has 1,593 yards passing and 645 yards rushing, leading the team in both aspects. The Wildcats allowed no less than 26 points in any of their five losses, and held four of their five opponents in their wins to ten points or less. They will have to find a way to slow down Franklin County’s attack to have a realistic shot. Central, the defending 3A state champions, fell to the #2 seed with their loss to Franklin County, but are still formidable. They are known for their “Dark Side” defense, they have shut out three opponents this year and held three others to 14 points or less. But scoring has proven challenging at times too, as they’ve had six games of 14 points or less as well. Dayshawn Mucker virtually is the offense, with 240 rushes for 1,238 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He has 74% of their rushing total this season and 52% of all offense for the team. The team has forced 22 turnovers, with an impressive 16 interceptions. They have returned three interceptions and one fumble for scores. Their margin of error is going to be very thin because of their extreme reliance on defense, but no team in the district managed more than 14 points against them – if they can score at all, they have a real shot. They won 14-0 against their first round opponent Shelby County, in a game where Dayshawn Mucker had 26 rushes for 134 yards and a score and Shelby County was held to 131 yards of offense. That was the last game Shelby County lost, and they enter on a three-game winning streak, and winners of five of their last seven. It’s easy to see why Central is a bad matchup for them – they almost exclusively run the ball, with 2,417 rushing yards and just 381 yards passing on the season. That sort of one-dimensional offense doesn’t work well against Central. Anthony Bradford leads the team with 683 yards rushing and 13 scores, averaging over 7 yards per carry. That dropped to 28 yards on 10 attempts against Central in their first matchup. Projected District Final: Franklin County 14 Central 6 District 5 It’s not an argument that most would entertain, but there is an argument to be made that Boyle County is the best team in the entire state, regardless of class. They’re averaging 50.7 PPG while allowing only 9.7 PPG. Only two teams all season long have scored more than 13 points against them, and in those two games the Rebels dropped 71 and 64 points. Boyle County has won 35 of their last 36 games and didn’t have a game all year closer than 30 points. They have been purely and simply dominant. QB Reed Lanter has completed 73% of his passes for 2,000 yards through 9 games, throwing only one interception against 24 touchdowns. WR Reese Smith has caught only 36 passes, but has turned that into 1,043 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s a touchdown on just barely every 1.5 catches. No player had more than 500 yards rushing on the season, but the team has put together 1,569 yards on the ground through a diverse rushing attack. Will McDaniel leads the way with 62 rushes for 488 yards and 9 scores. Defensively, they have forced 16 turnovers and returned three for scores. They are an overwhelming favorite in the district and likely only Johnson Central is a team that can conceivably challenge them classwide. They’ll open with Anderson County, who they torched for a 52-7 result on October 18th. Lexington Catholic is the only other team that could conceivably pull a miracle in the district. They fell 64-28 to Boyle County on October 11th, but have otherwise proven their mettle against a difficult schedule to finish 6-4. Those losses include a 39-38 loss to CovCath, 42-31 to Frederick Douglass (who had allowed only 14 points on the season), and 43-42 to Lexington Christian. The Knights can typically score with anyone, but they have also allowed 31.4 PPG. QB Beau Allen is a Mr. Football candidate, possibly the frontrunner. He is 196/285 and 3,025 yards on the season, with 33 touchdowns against just 4 INTs. He also leads the team with 403 yards rushing and 9 scores. He has a pair of 800+ yard receivers in Jackson Corbett (60 receptions, 1,021 yards) and Blake Busson (42 receptions, 874 yards). If they were in virtually any district other than this and perhaps Johnson Central’s, they’d be at worst co-favorites. But it is hard to see them as anything but drawing dead against Boyle County in a final. They open with Bourbon County, who they beat 48-15 on October 18th. Projected District Final: Boyle County 55 Lexington Catholic 21 District 6 Like District 3 on the western half, District 6 in the eastern half is rather overlooked. No team is ranked in this district, and they overturned what we thought we knew when Holmes pulled a surprising 50-38 win on the road against Scott on October 25th to take the #1 seed. Scott had entered that game 6-2 and had blown out their district opponents, while Holmes had nearly lost to Harrison County the week before. Tayquan Calloway was huge in that game, with three touchdowns on 14 rushing attempts for 203 yards and a pick-six – one of two pick-sixes for the Bulldogs. Holmes is 7-3 and winners of five in a row, scoring a combined 103 points in their last two games. Tayquan Calloway has 1,034 yards rushing on the season while brother Quantez has 911 yards passing on 54 completions. The Bulldogs are a run-first team, accounting for 64% of their production on the ground. They’ll open with Harrison County, who despite their 4-6 record lost only 8-7 to Holmes on October 18th. Harrison County opened that game with a score and led 7-0 at the half. Holmes did not take the lead until a Calloway pass to Tate on 4th down for their only score of the game. QB Tyler Hudgins has completed only 16 passes all season – the team has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground. Expect them to run and try to control possession during this one. They have won only two of their previous seven games, and one of those was a 20-17 win over Boyd County that ultimately put them in the postseason. Meanwhile Scott has been licking their wounds since the loss, falling to Dixie Heights a week later to limp into the postseason on a two game losing streak. Quincy Perrin is the start of their offensive attack, rushing 128 times for 1,129 yards and 17 scores. He had 252 yards and four scores on just 16 rushes when they met first round opponent Rowan County in September, keying them in a 54-28 victory. QB Gus Howlett turned in a good performance in that game, going 14/20 for 192 yards and 3 touchdown passes. Scott’s challenge will not be looking ahead to a potential rematch and taking Rowan County for granted. But if they get to that game against Holmes, they should feel confident that if they can take care of the ball better than they did in the first matchup that their offense should be able to carry the day. Projected District Final: Scott 42 Holmes 28 District 7 This district came down to the last week of district play and indeed, the closing seconds of play. Wayne County trailed 16-15 against Corbin with less than a minute left, and lined up to go for two and the district #1 seed. They didn’t get it. Forced to onside kick, they made the most of that opportunity, recovering the ball, driving the field, and kicking a field goal for the win. That win was part of a seven game winning streak entering the postseason, with a 35-27 decision against Pulaski County their only loss on the year. QB Brody Weaver has put up solid numbers with 1,253 yards passing and 14 touchdowns, but he has been called on much less this season that last, when he attempted 6 more passes per game. That’s because RB Braedon Sloan has stepped up to fuel the offense. Sloan has piled up 1,752 yards on 159 rushes, and has 29 scores on the ground. He is also the team’s leading receiver with 413 yards on 17 receptions, with six scores. He was already a 1,000 yard back from the previous season, but he has amped it up to another level. The Cardinals are averaging 46 PPG and have scored less than 41 points only twice – the Corbin game and Pulaski County game. The Cardinals have dropped only two home contests since 2015, and will have the benefit of the first two rounds at home. They’ll open with Lincoln County, who they topped 55-21 on October 11th. Naturally, Corbin is the team that would be expected to seriously challenge Wayne County. Corbin hasn’t closed particularly strong, dropping four of seven games, but has the postseason pedigree, going to the state finals in 3A a season ago. Three of their four losses have come by two points or less, and as detailed before, the margin against Wayne County could scarcely have been closer. The Redhounds score just over 25 PPG while allowing 20 PPG, so they don’t often have room for error. Cameron Combs leads the balanced offensive attack, with 1,076 yards passing and 239 yards on the ground. Nick Yeager leads the team with 639 yards rushing and 8 scores while Jacob Steely serves as the go-to receiver with 38 catches for 568 yards and five scores. The team has forced ten turnovers with 29 tackles for loss on the year, led by Austin Lewis’s 56 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL. They open with Knox Central, who they knocked off by a 38-21 margin on October 11th. That marked their season high score as they racked up 420 yards of offense. Combs threw for a touchdown and ran for two more in that contest. Knox Central started the year with two “quality losses” against Ashland and Bell County, then knocked off Southwestern before promptly losing five games in a row. Their 34-33 OT victory over Lincoln County moved them into the 3 seed to match up with Corbin, but this likely remains a rebuilding year for last year’s state semifinalists. Projected District Final: Wayne County 21 Corbin 13 District 8 Johnson Central has made the state finals in each of the last four seasons, winning one title during that span. While Boyle County has a theoretical peer in Lexington Catholic, Johnson Central has no such peer in what will almost certainly be two blowout rounds against their district mates. The Golden Eagles have numbers almost as gaudy as Boyle County. Their 10.1 PPG allowed to competition is second behind only Boyle County, as are their 46.9 PPG scored. They haven’t allowed more than 16 points against a Kentucky team – only South Charleston (WV) scored more in a 59-29 blowout – and they have held five opponents to less than ten points. They completed their first unbeaten regular season since 2014 after several near misses in the previous four seasons. Their closest margin of victory in district play was 43 points, in a 49-6 win over Perry County Central. Their first-round opponent is Letcher County Central, who they beat 48-0 on the road two weeks ago. By virtue of their RPI, they won’t have to travel away from home for any of the first four rounds of the playoffs, and they haven’t lost at home to a Kentucky team since 2016. The table is set up well for the Golden Eagles, aside from more difficult games in the region final and state semifinal rounds than Boyle County will face. The Golden Eagles do what they normally do, run first, run later, run some more, and then, when you least expect it….. run again. Devin Johnson has 1,074 yards on just 92 rushes for a ridiculous 11.7 YPC, and has 12 scores on the ground. Three other Johnson Central players have 470 yards or more – Bryce Tackett (63/491/7), Cody Rice (59/487/10), and Riley Preece (48/471/11). QB Riley Preece is averaging nearly a first down every carry himself, and has added 711 yards on 26 completions for 12 touchdowns in those extremely rare occasions that they throw the ball. The team has forced 19 turnovers, and Preece shines there too. He has three INTs, and took two of them to the house. Both Cody Rice and Hunter McCloud had two INTs, and they housed all of them. There is no dark horse to this district – Johnson Central will win it. Their district final will be against either Harlan County or Clay County. Harlan County earned the two seed with a 21-7 win over Clay County on September 27th. They have a 7-3 record, and are led by Ben Landis with 122 rushes for 784 yards and 10 scores. Like Johnson Central, they very rarely pass it, with 319 rushing attempts against 54 passing attempts on the season. They attempted only five passes in their first game against Clay County, but rolled to 301 rushing yards in the game, with Landis putting up 151 yards and 2 TDs. Clay County has won four in a row entering the postseason en route to a 7-3 record, a turnaround that hasn’t been noticed much thanks to their prominent district mate. It’s their first winning record since 2010, and they are seeking their first postseason win since that year. Chandler Hibbard is one of the top rushers in the state, with 1,711 yards rushing on 231 attempts with 12 touchdowns, and he went for over 100 in their first matchup with Harlan County. Projected District Final: Johnson Central 56 Harlan County 7 Projecting beyond this isn’t as easy as it was before the RPI, but these are our predictions based on projected results and the matchups those RPIs would create. Projected Region Final Districts 1-4 RPI #1 vs. RPI #4: Franklin County 42 Franklin-Simpson 21 Projected Region Final Districts 1-4 RPI #2 vs. RPI #3: Madisonville-North Hopkins 49 Moore 14 Projected Region Final Districts 5-8 RPI #1 vs. RPI #4: Boyle County 56 Scott 14 Projected Region Final Districts 5-8 RPI #2 vs. RPI #3: Johnson Central 28 Wayne County 14 Projected State Semifinal Remaining RPI #1 vs. RPI #4: Boyle County 49 Madisonville-North Hopkins 20 Projected State Semifinal Remaining RPI #2 vs. RPI #3: Johnson Central 49 Franklin County 28 Projected 4A State Final: Boyle County 35 Johnson Central 21
  20. Class 4A Region 1 Franklin-Simpson has been everything you’d hope for in a defending champion. The Wildcats are 9-1 and their only loss came at the hands of South Warren, one of the top teams in the state regardless of class. Franklin has won seven games in a row, and the last four have come via running clock. They’ve scored 44 points or more in eight games on the way to a 44.6 PPG average and haven’t been held below 47 points since September 14th. Both Tre Bass and Carlos McKinney have rushed for over 1,000 yards on the year. Tre Bass has scored roughly every five times he has ran it, notching 21 touchdowns on 96 attempts while racking up 1,315 yards. That’s nearly 14 yards per carry, which is insanely good. McKinney has 1,150 yards on 130 rushes to key a Wildcat ground attack that is posting over 360 yards per game. All of those stats are prior to a 53-6 win over Russellville where I can guarantee they padded them more. If there is a weakness on the offense, it is the passing attack. A point of emphasis in almost every garbage time snap, the passing game has netted only 534 yards for the team. Luke Richardson is a solid 27/49, but with 4 INTs against his 5 TD throws. The rushing attack is so good that it scarcely matters, but it is something to note that if a team can manage to slow or stop the ground game in the playoffs, Franklin can be had. LB Michael Punzalan leads the defense with 45 solo tackles and 90 total, and they have allowed 14.5 PPG. The lion’s share of that came in the loss to South Warren and garbage time. With respect to the rest of region 1, there isn’t really anyone that is considered a true threat. We have seen what the rest of District 2 has done against Franklin, which leaves Madisonville-North Hopkins and Logan County as the only real possibilities to slow them. Madisonville has bounced back from a 2-2 start to reel off six straight victories, including the last four by 14 points or less. As usual, Madisonville is heavily invested in the run game as well. Bellcow RB Jeriah Hightower has 1,437 yards on 197 rushes – almost more attempts than the rest of the team combined (which also counts sacks, so probably more actual attempts than the team). It’s the second straight year over 1,400 yards for the junior, who is closing in on 3,000 career rushing yards. Aaron Miller has also chipped in 563 yards on 97 attempts, but his pace is well off of last year’s effort where he had nearly 1,000 yards. The Maroons have not seen a ground game like Franklin’s, but are only allowing 79.3 rushing yards per game from their opponents. They would not run into Franklin until the region finals, which would be in Franklin. Meanwhile, Logan County fell just shy of matching last season’s undefeated effort, falling only to Madisonville en route to a 9-1 record. All the big names are making plays again. QB Tyler Ezell is connecting on nearly 62% of his passes with 11 TDs and 1,387 yards, though he has been banged up late this season. RB Gary Hardy has surpassed his rushing total from last year with 1,334 yards, 16 TDs on 153 attempts. The Cougar receiving corps is deep and spreads the ball around. Six different players have 200 yards or more, but none more than 455 yards. Maurice Gordon leads the pack with 31 receptions for 455 yards. The Cougar defense has forced 27 turnovers while allowing just 136 yards of offense per game. They have a tough opening matchup with Allen County-Scottsville, and if they win that, they visit Franklin. Projected Regional Final: Franklin-Simpson 42 Madisonville-North Hopkins 14 Region 2 Region 2 is District 3 & 5 this year, and will feature co-favorites Moore and Taylor County, both in the top ten of the BluegrassPreps.com rankings. Moore is enjoying one of its best season’s ever, racking up nine wins which is good enough for their best regular season since 1980. Their lone loss was to top-ranked Johnson Central on the road, a game where they allowed 49 points which was fully 1/3 of the total their defense has allowed this season. Justin Weaver leads a stout defense that has allowed 14 points or less in eight games. He has 54 solo tackles and 10 sacks. The secondary has 19 interceptions, led by five from Josiah Taylor. The Mustangs are not as prolific offensively with a roughly 67/33 split between rushing and passing. Rae Von Vaden is 52/98 for 16 touchdowns and 884 yards through the air. Larry Johnson (strong RB name) leads the rushing corps with 611 yards on 68 carries. On the other side of the bracket is Taylor County. The Cardinals are also 9-1, and have won seven in a row. Like the Mustangs, they are getting the job done on defense. They have four shutouts this year, and have allowed more than 10 points only three times. Sophomore LB Conner Roney has five sacks and leads the team with 78 tackles. They do give up a lot of yardage (almost 200 yards per game), but they also have scored at a higher clip than Moore. Taylor County is #3 in 4A in points per game with 43, and their average scoring margin of 33.4 PPG is #1 in 4A. Grant McQueary ranks in the top ten for passing yards per game in 4A, with 1,347 yards on 67/106 passing. He carries a 12:3 TD:INT ratio. We Oliver should go over 1,000 yards in their first playoff game. Mercer County seems like the most likely dark horse candidate. The Titans are just 4-6, but rallied once district play began, going 3-2 down the stretch. That included a very narrow 26-21 road loss at Taylor County. The Titans had a better record a year ago (5-5 entering the postseason), but managed to climb to the region finals where they nearly upset Collins. Malachi Yulee took over the lead back role this year, and has run to 914 yards on 101 carries with 12 TDs. With Mercer, you can pretty much know the result if they get over 21 points. All of their wins they have topped that amount, and all their losses they’ve scored less than that. John Hardin is the other possible name. They opened the year with a 20-19 win over that same Mercer County team, and had six straight wins midseason before falling to Moore in the district title game, settling for a 7-3 record. The Bulldogs have held five opponents to less than ten points, but they average a margin of victory of less than 7 PPG – they’re used to close games. Justin Russell is completing 50% of his passes and his TDs and INTs are almost 50% as well – 15:14. The Bulldogs also have the toughest opening game of the home teams, starting with always dangerous East Jessamine. A win there would earn them a trip to Taylor County. But it feels likely that this region comes down to Moore and Taylor County. Projected Regional Final: Moore 27 Taylor County 21 Region 3 Coming into the year Knox Central was tabbed as the favorite for this region, which matches Districts 4 & 6 this year. While Knox is still very much in the mix, it is Franklin County that has emerged as the favorite, thanks to an October 12th 42-20 home win over Knox Central, which propelled them to the #4 ranking. That win was part of a six-game winning streak for the Flyers, and they’ve scored 35 points or more in all six of those games. Their 8-2 record represents their most wins since 2014. Franklin County has one of the top passing attacks in 4A. Nick Broyles is #2 in 4A with 215 yards per game, with 1,936 yards, 19 TDs, and 4 INTs through 9 games. His 64.1% completion percentage is #2 among all eligible quarterbacks as well. He also leads the team in rushing with 728 yards on 107 attempts. He accounted for over 400 yards of offense in the win over Knox Central. The defense can be a little vulnerable, with no shutouts and only one team held to single digits, but have played in a surprisingly low number of games decided by single digits (two). Brady Holleran leads the unit with 87 solo tackles, 37.5 TFL, and 12 sacks. Knox Central is just a step behind them, and enjoyed a 7-3 record, just like 2017. They played a brutal schedule down the stretch, falling to Franklin County and Corbin (28-14) with wins over Wayne County and Rockcastle County. Broyles was #2 in 4A for passing – Knox Central’s Brady Worley is #1. In a class that almost exclusively runs the ball, Worley has gone 131/220 for 2,184 yards while tossing 23 touchdowns, which also leads the class. He also has the benefit of a 1,000 yard back to share the backfield in Ethan Mills. Mills has rushed 157 times for 1,051 yards and 12 scores. While they pass about 60% of the time, the duo provide a nice balance to an offense that averaged 33.1 PPG. Tucker Holland is a name to watch on defense. He had a monster year with 78 solo tackles and 7 sacks. Blevin Campbell leads the secondary with 6 INTs, two of them taken to the house for scores. One reason to place them just a step below Franklin County in addition to the head to head result is their opening round matchup with Collins. Collins is just 1-9 so it looks like a real mismatch on paper, but that’s a team that has played a brutal schedule and has had close results against the likes of Moore and Pulaski County. They were region champions last year, and stranger things have happened…. Wayne County is the likely other possibility from the region. Region champions in 2017, they finished a respectable 7-3 with losses to Frederick Douglass, Boyle County, and Knox Central. They averaged 38.2 PPG and have scored over 50 points four times this season. Brody Weaver has acquitted himself well, throwing 23 touchdowns and 1,668 yards. Braedon Sloan has averaged almost 9 yards per carry in racking up 824 yards rushing. Like Franklin County, they have held teams to single digits only one time and have no shutouts on the season. Their probable second round matchup with Franklin County is likely to be one with the scoreboard getting a workout. Projected Regional Final: Knox Central 35 Franklin County 28 Region 4 It feels highly likely that Johnson Central is on their way to a fourth straight state title game and a third straight against Franklin-Simpson. That was the prediction coming into the year, and began to feel even more likely when they blew the doors off previously undefeated Ashland 47-24 on October 19th. Johnson Central has homefield advantage through the playoffs, and they have not lost to a team there since 2016. They haven’t lost at home to a team from their class since 2014. That all feels problematic for opponents hoping to knock off the Golden Eagles. Johnson Central capped a 9-1 year with a 34-21 win over Belfry, one of 3As top teams. Their low point total for the season was 21 in their opening loss to Capital (WV), and the Belfry win was the only time they’ve been held below 43 points since August. Joe Jackson is back, and averaging 9.3 YPC on his way to 1,388 yards rushing, good enough for #5 in 4A. Jackson is the top guy in the rush first, rush later, then rush more offense. Johnson Central is averaging 338.5 yards per game on the ground, which is second only to Franklin-Simpson in 4A. Alex and Matt Horn anchor the defense from the linebacker position, combining for 15.5 sacks and 154 tackles. Ashland figures to be the only team with a serious hope in the region. Ashland’s loss at Johnson Central ended their run for their first perfect regular season since 1975, but they still had a 9-1 year. The Tomcats averaged 37.6 PPG thanks in large part to the play of Braxton Ratliff, who threw for 1,612 yards while running for 620. His 62.9% completion percentage is fourth in 4A and he’s just outside the top 30 for rushing yards. Keontae Pittman (72 rushes, 694 yards, 9 TDs) and Blake Hester (64 rushes, 475 yards, 15 TDs) also help fuel the rushing attack. Ashland has a very balanced offensive attack, and a defense that has notched three shutouts and three other games holding opponents to single digits. Notable on defense is Caleb Tackett is #4 in 4A with 12 tackles per game, 78 of his 120 tackles solo. Still, they will have to find a way to fix the leak they sprung against Johnson Central, who rushed for fully 1/3 of the total rushing yards Ashland has allowed on the season. Scott and Harrison County are the two teams that would be the likely second round matchups for Johnson Central and Ashland respectively. Harrison County earned the right to likely host Ashland in the second round by pulling an upset on Scott on September 28th, winning 19-18. Devin Lewis has 923 yards rushing and Chase Blanton has 781 for a Thorobred team that has attempted only 35 passes all season. Scott has a feature back in Quincy Perrin who has rushed for 1,015 yards. But frankly, Ashland and Johnson Central are the wrong teams to run up against with predominantly rushing games. Projected Regional Final: Johnson Central 35 Ashland 20 Projected Semi-Final: Franklin-Simpson 49 Moore 14 Projected Semi-Final: Johnson Central 42 Knox Central 21 Projected Class 4A State Championship: Johnson Central 28 Franklin-Simpson 21
  21. 4A was quite possibly the most difficult class to get a handle on a season ago. 18 teams appeared in the top 10. Teams like Knox Central and Logan County weren’t exactly on the radar to begin with, but made incredibly strong runs as the season wore on to make believers of us all. Logan County in particular was a great story. It seemed that just about every time we thought we knew what was going to happen, some curveball was introduced. Late in the season, that curveball was an unexpected Johnson Central loss to Ashland, dethroning the team that had been #1 all year long. One Johnson Central got past Ashland in the rematch as well as their successor at #1 in Wayne County, we thought we knew that the back to back state title was in the bag against a Franklin-Simpson team they’d beaten senseless the season before. But Franklin-Simpson had other ideas. The Wildcats, a team that started 2-3, capped a ten game winning streak with a 35-21 win over the Golden Eagles, giving the new look 4A their fifth different champion in the last five seasons. There isn’t a single team in 4A that has won more than one title in the class since the move to six classes in 2006. But chances are, that is going to change after this year. 1. Johnson Central (2017: 12-3; State Runners-Up) Head Coach: Jim Matney 4A has been very, very good to the Golden Eagles since the departure of Highlands and Covington Catholic after the 2014 season. After so many years of not getting past the second round because of the monsters in their way, they have now been to three straight state title games. It’s a testament to just how good they’ve been that while they are certainly not going to turn their nose up at a title and two runner-up finishes, they likely feel that they have left a title out on the field. Their 12-3 record last year was their worst record since 2012 when they were 9-3. 12-3, their worst record during that time. The Golden Eagles were prolific offensively a year ago, posting 43 PPG. They topped that mark in every one of their last 8 wins, but failed to score more than 21 in any of their three losses. The defense uncharacteristically allowed 17.5 PPG. But enough about what was. The first thing to know is that RB Joe Jackson is back for his senior year. After suffering an injury in the first game of the year last season, it was thought he might return later on, but that never happened. That leaves him with a hunger to get back at it, and he will be a shot of adrenaline. It’s not often you get to re-add the experience of a player whose last full campaign went for over 2,000 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns. They do lose Blake Gamble, who was very good in his own right (1,907 yards and 25 TDs), but so long as he is healthy, Jackson is expected to go right back to being the workhorse. Gamble is the only offensive weapon who doesn’t return. JR QB Riley Preece will return to look to improve on a solid 1,284 yard campaign where he threw for 16 TDs and just 5 INTs. The #2- #4 rushers from last year return. The entire pass catching corps are back, including Seth Dalton, who led the team in receiving yards with 815 yards on 21 catches, 10 of them for TDs. They lose their tackles but return the entire interior of the offensive line. Guards Eddie Patrick, Noah Blankenship, and center Byron Pierce average around 6’3”, 280 lbs. BEEFY. In all, seven starters return on the offensive side of the ball, and they also lost only one backup from the two-deep chart from the state title game. I did mention that this was a team that scored 43 PPG last season – they are going to crush it offensively! Defensively the team took a step back last season, but should return to form this time around. They return 7 starters on that side of the ball as well, and every single backup from the two-deep. They do lose both Marcus Wells and Dawson Stalker off the defensive line, as well as the team’s leading tackler Tyler Tackett, but expect great things out of the linebacking corps which features Devin Johnson (90 tackles) and Matt Horn (Second team all-state, 89 tackles). With so much production coming back on both sides, it is fair to expect the Golden Eagles to absolutely bludgeon the opposition in most games. Johnson Central opens with Capital (WV) as usual, who usually provide a tough test. That’s likely it in the challenging department until they close with Ashland and Belfry – both losses a year ago, but both at home. Home is where Johnson Central will be a lot this season. They feature seven games in front of their partisan crowd, and should they win district, they could conceivably play at home ELEVEN times prior to the state finals. 2. Franklin-Simpson (2017: 12-3; State Champions) Head Coach: Doug Preston The record may not have been quite as pretty as the 14-1 result the previous year, but the end result sure was sweeter for the Wildcats. Counting the loss in the 2016 state title game, Franklin lost four out of six games heading into week six a year ago. That included a frankly stunning three running clocks in those games. They didn’t look like a title contender at that point, but they would not lose again. Franklin reeled off ten wins in a row, averaging 43.2 PPG in those contests while allowing just 11.8 PPG, and were clutch when it was most needed. After falling behind 20-0 after one quarter to Hopkinsville, Franklin scored 35 in a row. After trailing entering the fourth quarter and again with just 2:41 to go, the Wildcats got a kickoff return to the six yard line and punched in the go ahead score against Collins en route to a 42-38 victory in the semifinals. And then in the finals, Franklin made sure you’d forget all about their drubbing in the previous year’s finals, never trailing on their way to leads of 21-0, 28-7, and 35-14 before settling in for a 35-21 win over Johnson Central, and their first state title since 1980. Franklin will have to replace thirteen seniors off of that squad, including QB Rylan Thomas and one of their most versatile players in Saul Brady (1,126 yards rushing, 11 TDs, 3 INTs). Offensively, that’s most of what they lost. They return four offensive linemen, including Louisville commit Jack Randolph. Seven starters return, but the player that you should be most excited about is Tre Bass. Bass enters his senior year as one of the wings in Franklin’s Wing-T attack, after posting 1,457 yards on 104 rushes and 14 TDs last year. Do some quick math and you’ll see Bass averaged 14 yards per carry last year. Fourteen. Counting his receptions, he averaged a touchdown every 6.4 touches. He is absolute lightning on the field, a big play threat literally every time the ball is in his hands. He housed two INTs as well. Joining him in the backfield will be FB Carlos McKinney, who was more of a bruiser to the tune of 1,153 yards and 15 TDs on 181 carries. Experienced line, experienced runners are the best friend of a new QB. The news isn’t quite as friendly on the defensive side as only four starters return to a squad that allowed 17.2 PPG last year. Their top three in tackles from 2017 depart, and senior DE Collin Preston (99 tackles, 61 solo) will be expected to lead the line this time around. A lot of the backups on last year’s team do return, but many of them were already on the offensive side of the ball. Inexperience and depth will be challenging for the defense. They’ll likely take a few hits early on during the toughest part of their schedule, with road trips to Elizabethtown and Meade County (both losses a season ago), with a home game against bitter rival South Warren looming at the end of August. After that the sailing should get considerably smoother, as none of their final five opponents have managed a win over the Wildcats in their last three meetings. 7-3 is probably the floor for Franklin going into the playoffs, 9-1 the ceiling, and as it stands today, they are the favorite to return to a third straight title game. 3. Ashland (2017: 10-3; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Tony Love There was a lot to love last season from the Tomcats. They reached a second straight region final after they had previously failed to ever advance to that round in the six class system. They won their first district title since 2011, and grabbed their first win over Johnson Central since that same year, exorcising some demons of some close failures. Like 2016, you would not necessarily have thought after the first few games that the Tomcats were going to experience that success. A 1-2 start saw Ashland drop as low as 8th in the rankings, but it was a precursor to a nine-game winning streak which included the aforementioned win over Johnson Central as well as some crushing blowouts like a 67-0 win over Boyd County and 71-0 over East Carter (in back to back weeks). Ashland trailed just 35-27 to Johnson Central during the fourth quarter in their rematch before faltering late on their way to a 54-27 result. Still, all things considered, it was a solid year, leading into another expected solid year. Fifteen seniors are gone from last season, none more damaging than Aroq Colburn. He led the team in rushing, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He accounted for over 1/3 of all receiving yards and touchdowns. That’s a big negative for the passing game, but the big positive is QB Braxton Ratliff returns for his third season as a starter. While the team tipped more back to a ground attack last year - as they were before he took the reins as a sophomore – he still posted a solid 1,745 yards through the air, posting a 58% completion percentage with 22 touchdowns and just 6 INTs. He was third on the team in rushing as well, just 11 yards behind Blake Hester, who returns at RB for his junior campaign. TE Russell Rogers (244 yards, 3 TDs) will look to pick up the slack for receiving in Colburn’s absence, as well as that of Isaac Caines (473 yards, 6 TDs), who will be out several weeks with a broken hand. Still, it seems likely this will continue to be the more classic 70/30 rushing split for the Tomcat offense. Defensively, standouts should be Hester in the secondary, defensive ends Caleb Skaggs and Ryan Bryant anchoring the ends of the line for their senior season, and LB Drew Fannin, the lone returner in the linebacking corps. Ashland will look to get off to a better start this year than the past couple, taking their shots again at Harlan County, Raceland, and George Washington. Each has beaten them at least once in the last two seasons. Like most years, they are then expected to run the table until their machup against Johnson Central, though Greenup County gave them a game effort last season. 4. Knox Central (2017: 8-4; Second Round) Head Coach: Fred Hoskins Knox’s second year under Coach Hoskins was a return to form for the Panthers. After a disappointing 4-6-1 campaign in 2016 saw them exit in the first round, Knox rebounded with an 8-4 campaign. That included a regular season where their only losses came to Danville (undefeated 2A champions), Wayne County (12-2 4A state semifinalists), and Corbin (13-2 3A state runners-up). They averaged a strong 33 PPG prior to their last game of the postseason, and had big wins over district rival Rockcastle County and typically strong Franklin County. Knox was knocked from the playoffs in a 12-3 loss to Western that featured their lowest scoring and yardage of the year, but it’s fair to say that there was a good foundation laid. One of the key components of that foundation was Brady Worley. His freshman campaign was a great success, posting 1,706 yards on 105/180 passing with 10 touchdowns. The multisport athlete helped bring almost perfect balance to the Panthers’ attack, with almost the exact same rushing and passing yardage gained (2,272 to 2,281). That contrasts to a 70/30 rushing lean in 2016. Despite splitting time at the position during portions of the season, he still finished 10th in 4A in per game passing. Worley is a cornerstone for the future of the Knox Central offense, and he has plenty around him. Three of the five starting offensive linemen return, and right tackle Brayden Roark is the oldest of that group, meaning the line will likely be intact for two more seasons. Ethan Mills will step up after the loss of Jermel Carton to graduation. Mills put up 644 yards on 91 rushes last season for an average of just over 7 yards per carry. Almost every member of the WR corps returns, headlined by Nick Martin (52 catches, 792 yards). Martin was 11th in 4A for receiving yardage per game in 2017. The corps is deep and experienced, which can be said of much of the team given that they graduated only six seniors. They did take a slight hit on the defensive side, losing three out of their front four on the line. However, they do return six starters to a team that led 4A in defensive yardage allowed. Tucker Holland is chief among those returning, leading the Panthers a year ago with 143 tackles – 110 credited as solo. He had six fumble recoveries on top of that. Dane Imel (7 INTs) and Blevin Campbell (5 INTs) headline a ballhawking secondary. This could be a historic year for Knox Central. They will enter the season as slight favorite to win 4A Region 3, which matches District 4 and District 6 this year. If they were to win that region, it would be their first region title in the history of the school. A trio of games in October should tell a lot of the story as to how likely that is. They’ll host Wayne County on October 5th, in a game that may decide the district’s winner. On October 12th they’ll visit Franklin County, the slight favorite to win District 4. And then they’ll wrap up with a road trip to Rockcastle County in their district closer. Win all three, and they most definitely will enter the playoffs as favorites for a historic title. 5. Hopkinsville (2017: 6-7; Region Runner-Up) Head Coach: Craig Clayton There’s almost certainly no team in the state that has had the adversity that the Tigers have dealt with in the past few years. After tragically having a player die in practice in 2015, promising freshman Elijah Austin died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot at the midpoint of the year. The team at the time was just 1-6, suffering through a difficult schedule and a rocky offseason that saw the transfer of QB Jalen Johnson – the program’s all-time leading passer – and the decision not to play by Shorty Cager, their most dynamic athlete and leading returning receiver. Their loss on the field to Logan County just before Austin’s death condemned them to no better than third in the district, and it is easy to see where they could have simply called it a year. But the Tigers rallied for five straight wins, avenging their loss to Logan County in dominating 43-8 fashion, and led the eventual state champion Franklin-Simpson 20-0 in the second quarter before succumbing to the Wildcat onslaught. They may have had the most successful 6-7 ever with all they endured. When simply considering who returned from last year, this rank may seem a bit premature. 16 seniors are gone from the 2017 campaign, representing 13 starting positions, including three two-way players. It does not seem to be a recipe for a top five ranking, and frankly, their record early on against the same tough schedule as last year may give pause to some. But the Tigers have shown to be closers in the past few years, and only Franklin-Simpson and South Warren have knocked them out of the playoffs during that time. That’s a pretty good pedigree. QB Javier Bland has a pretty good pedigree too, debuting with 2,148 yards passing and 22 touchdowns last year. It would be bold to say that the rising junior made everyone forget about Jalen Johnson, but he certainly eased the pain. The Tigers do lose their top three receivers from last season, but received a big boost in the transfer of Ellis Dunn, who had 42 receptions for 622 yards and 3 touchdowns a season ago at Christian County. Tashaun Barker (13 receptions 122 yards, 1 TD) also moved over from Trigg County. That’s a big boost for the offense which will operate behind an experienced line that replaces only center Wil Hawkins. A big point of focus this season should be to get the running game more established. It was missing in action in 2017, as Degenhardt led the team with just 390 yards. Jordan Hopson is the leading returning rusher with 73 rushes for 286 yards. The defense does not have as much to shout about, gutted to the tune of losing three of their front four, two linebackers (including team leader in tackles JaKevis Bryant), and a few in the secondary. LB Conner Lackey (49 tackles) and DE Denarius Barns are notable returning players. The Tigers are going to have to win some shootouts. The schedule is the exact same as the one that Hopkinsville started 0-4 against last year. They open with South Warren, one of the 5A favorites, move right into Mayfield, the 2A favorites, before matching up with Caldwell County and Christian County, two teams that are expected to be in the top ten of their classes. It’s not an easy road. Following their bye week they’ll travel to Madisonville-North Hopkins, who dealt them a devastating 35-20 loss last season before a circled home game with Logan County that could decide the district. 6. Wayne County (2017: 12-2; State Semifinalist) Head Coach: Shawn Thompson Wayne County remained one of the most consistent programs in 4A in the 2017 season. They have posted double digit victories in five of their last six seasons, and have won their region in four of those six years. Last season’s two losses came to 3A champion Boyle County and 4A runner-up Johnson Central. But it’s that Johnson Central stonewall in the state semifinals that has ailed them the last three seasons. And with the loss of 15 seniors, they may find it difficult to overcome that obstacle, or bring home a fourth straight region title. Offensively, the Cardinals will undergo an identity change. 4A player of the year Lorenzo Linsey is gone, as are their top three rushers. Braedon Sloan returns as leading rusher with 237 yards on 20 carries. Aubrey Weaver would be the team’s leading receiver returning, after posting 64 catches for 1,016 yards with 12 TDs a season ago, but may move over to QB in Linsey’s absence. That would leave the Cardinals replacing their top six receivers from 2017. The Cardinals will be boosted by three of five starters returning on the offensive line as they figure out their attack, but may return to a bit more of a running focus as they were before Linsey. Defensively, the secondary will be a strength. Weaver had three picks a season ago while playing on both sides of the ball, and DB Bryce Howard led the team with six INTs. Howard was also one of two of the team’s top seven tacklers from a year ago to return. The other is senior LB Chris Dunagan, who will be expected to carry even more after a campaign with 72 solo tackles. It’s a year of change for Wayne County, but Thompson has built a winning tradition, and they have an advantage that most teams in their region don’t – they know how to win in the playoffs. They’ll tackle an extremely tough early schedule, matching up against Freerick Douglas, Pulaski County, and Boyle County in three of their first four contests. 7. Logan County (2017: 11-1; Second Round) Head Coach: Todd Adler The greatest season in program history was the greatest story in the entire state last season, and earned Coach Adler coach of the year honors for the state. Logan County had lost 42 games in a row from 2012 through 2016, but after winning their last game of 2016, reeled off 11 in a row before falling to Hopkinsville in the playoffs. It’s frankly one of the most stunning turnarounds this state has ever witnessed, and included heartstopping wins over district rivals Hopkinsville (13-12) and Madisonville-North Hopkins (23-21). And they have the personnel for an encore. A mere nine seniors depart off that transcendent team. The Cougars return every single skill player on offense, with nine starters coming back for a Logan County team that averaged almost 33 PPG. They do lose both their starting guards on the line, but return their anchor Caden McKinnis at the center position. McKinnis is a two-way player that is the returning district player of the year. Tyler Ezell completed 56.5% of his passes last season, posting 1,611 yards, 19 TDs against 11 INTs, and ran for 606 yards with ten scores. He is just a junior, as is his workhorse running mate in the backfield Gary Hardy. Hardy averaged 6 YPC while running for 1,261 yards and 9 TDs. Certainly Logan County can’t make the leap they made from 2016 to 2017, but the improvement this year should continue to be evident. Defensively the news is still good, though not quite as good. They lose a pair in the linebacking corps that were #2 and #4 on the team in tackles, as well as two off the defensive line. McKinnis was the team leader in tackles, and the entire secondary returns, though they were rarely tested. They allowed 17% of their season’s total passing yardage in their loss to Hopkinsville. The schedule remains Charmin-soft, so it is expected that they will have no less than 7 wins. Their games to circle are a home game on September 7th against rival Russellville, and then the critical back to back games in October at Hopkinsville (10/5) and home against Madisonville (10/12). They won’t sneak up on anyone this year, but they may not have to worry about that. 8. Madisonville-North Hopkins (2017: 7-5; Second Round) Head Coach: Jay Burgett In most ways, 2017 was a step in the right direction for Madisonville. They improved by three wins, advanced a round further than 2016, and earned a home game. But there is no doubt they will look back at their loss to Logan County as a missed opportunity for more. A win in that game would have given them a district title and homefield advantage for the entire playoffs. They led 21-14 at home with 5:15 left in the game, and still 21-20 with 3:40 to go. But they allowed an onside kick recovery and a fourth down conversion on the decisive drive in a 23-21 loss, dooming them to run into Franklin-Simpson in the second round. They watched #3 seed Hoptown go to the region title game instead. And they’ll have a battle to get back to the same position this year with both the Tigers and Cougars rated ahead of them. The great news is that Madisonville’s offense remains more or less intact. They were a rushing powerhouse a year ago, averaging 284.75 yards per game on the ground. They should not step back from that at all, returning the duo of Jariah Hightower (1,528 yards, 15 TDs) and Aaron Miller (958 yards, 12 TDs). In all, the top five rushers from a season ago return from a team that dropped only 11 seniors. QB Hayden Reynolds wasn’t asked to throw much, attempting only 104 passes while completing 45 for 648 yards and 9 scores, but it never hurts to have the guy under center back for another campaign. Four starting offensive linemen return, with monster 6’6”, 300 lbs guard Roberto Cruz a standout. This team will make no bones about how they intend to beat you – running straight at you. Defensively, the team needs to improve, having allowed over 22 PPG last season. They’ll have to replace Hernandez and Reed off their defensive line, but return their linebacking corps as well as standout James Gilbert in the secondary. LB Krey Cunningham led the team in tackles last season with 78, and the lone returnee on the D-Line Blacke Moody was second with 67. In all, a majority returns defensively, and their improvement will be the key to how far the Maroons can go. Their schedule sets up slightly more favorably than their district rivals, with Hopkinsville visiting Madisonville after their brutal opening slate, and then a bye week preceding their other crucial district contest against Logan County on October 12th. It is likely that they’d be favored against any District 2 team in the playoffs other than Franklin-Simpson, but a top seed would go a long way towards real success in the postseason. 9. Greenup County (2017: 6-5; First Round) Head Coach: Scott Grizzle Greenup County failed to win a playoff game for the first time since 2014 a season ago, but the program has still continued to trend in the right direction. The Musketeers have had 6 wins or more in each of the last three seasons, after failing to reach that win total every season from 2003-2014. They’re not far removed from a winless season in 2011 and only avoided the same feat in 2012 thanks to a forfeit of what had been a 72-0 loss. And while they’ve struggled to hang with Johnson Central, they have shown great promise in their games against Ashland, giving hope that if things can just bounce their way, they might play up to a 2 seed. There’s a whole lot to like from this Greenup team to continue their progression. Chief among them is Eli Sammons, one of the state’s best quarterbacks, fresh off a 2,432 yard campaign with 27 touchdowns. He’s just a junior entering his third year starting, meaning they’ll have the benefit of him in 2019 as well. He spread the ball out quite a bit a year ago, with five receivers logging 21 or more receptions. Of those, only Isaiah Greene graduated. Patrick Kelly led the team with 55 receptions for 726 yards and 7 TDs, and figures to lead the team again in his senior year. Dalton Halstead also returns at RB, posting 1,189 yards for 13 TDs a season ago. Workhorse running back, mostly intact WR corps, experience at QB – all checks. Offensively Greenup looks set. Defensively there are some holes on the line and in the secondary, but the linebacking corps should be a strength, led by Brecken Thomas. The Musketeers allowed over 22 PPG last season, something they’ll have to tighten up to contend. 10. Scott (2017: 8-4; Second Round) Head Coach: Dan Woolley Since they dropped to 4A for the 2015 season, their playoff runs have had one thing in common – they end whenever they run into Johnson Central. The Eagles suffered a blowout 64-16 loss to end the year at home against Johnson Central, but otherwise much more resembled their 2015 team than the two-win 2016 edition. A perfect 4-0 district record earned them two home games in the playoffs, and after a 2-2 start they won six of their next seven games, laying the foundation for 2018. Scott graduated a relatively modest class of 10 from last season. The linemen on both sides were hardest hit, especially on the offensive line where they lost four of their front six. Defensively the line employed a bit more of a rotation, which should ease the pain of experience lost. Skill-wise they do lose Nelson Perrin, but Quincy Perrin returns at wingback. Likely the best player in the district, he rushed for 1,441 yards and 16 TDs last season, and he will be complimented by the return of David Patrick (67/414/9) at the other wing. Chad Ohmer keeps the backfield steady, passing enough to keep the opposition honest with just over 1,000 yards last season. Jared Kelsay is a standout defensively, with 80 solo tackles in 2017. Roughly half the starters return for Scott on each side of the ball. If the trenches come together, they should be favored to win the district and perhaps put together a region final run if the cards fall right. Just Outside 11. Bourbon County (2017: 7-5; Second Round) Head Coach: John Hodge The Colonels could never manage to string together more than two wins in a row last season, but fell just 29-20 to eventual district champion Scott on the road. They’ll have that crucial game at home this year, which they might parlay into a title. Dalen Landrum returns at QB after posting 2,107 yards and 20 TDs last season, though his best WRs are lost to graduation. Thankfully, he’ll work behind a sizable offensive line to compensate, and he’ll have the services of Camarr Myers, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in 2017. Defensively they must make up for the loss of their top three tacklers, including Dalton Williams. 12. Franklin County (2017: 5-6; First Round) Head Coach: Eddie James Just nine seniors graduate from last season, but quarterback Jesse Thurman will look to have his team in contention for the district title. He threw for 1,419 yards and 13 TDs last season, and led the team in rushing as well with 586 yards and 6 scores. Tre Simmons is a player that the Flyers like to move around, and he combined for 1,263 yards on the ground and receiving. Franklin County will have a tall task in replacing Chad Holleran (147.5 tackles), but six of their top ten tacklers return, including promising sophomore Frank Turner. The linebacker was second on the team to Hollerand with 93 tackles, 58 of them solo. The Flyers were second in the district by a substantial margin last season (both above and below them), but with that experience coming back, it much more likely that they will run down Collins than that another team will catch up behind them. 13. Rockcastle County (2017: 8-4; Second Round) Head Coach: Scott Parkey The Rockets were hit hard by graduation, with 14 seniors departing from a roster that listed only 35 in the sophomore through senior classes. Critically, they return Jaden Payne, their best player on both sides of the ball. Payne posted 1,425 yards and 17 TDs on 198 rushes a season ago, and led the team in tackles with 45 solos. Rockcastle will have to figure out how to deal with the loss of seven starters on the defensive side and roughly half of what was essentially a seven man offensive line. That’s in addition to QB Brent Lovell and Holdan Barnett, the second leading rusher. There are definitely some question marks, but the Rockets have proven able to remain consistent thanks to a steady diet of running power, and they figure to do so again by leaning on Payne. It will be tough for them to catch up to Knox Central or Wayne County. 14. Taylor County (2017: 7-4; First Round) Head Coach: Jason Foley District 5 has somewhat been the red-headed stepchild of 4A, but with their cross bracket matchup with District 3 this season, the opportunity is there for Taylor County to make a run at a region crown. Like Rockcastle County, they graduated a sizable senior class relative to the size of their sophomore and junior classes (14 seniors, 22 combined in sophomore and junior crops). Unlike Rockcastle, they return a lot more at the skill positions on offense. Leading rushers Wes Oliver (1,004 yards, 18 TDs) and Tre Goodin (467 yards, 4 TDs) return, as does Grant McQueary (33/63, 451 yards, 5 TDs), who had the most attempts through the air from a team that had three players attempt more than 23 passes. Cameron Kosid (16 receptions, 282 yards, 2 TDs) and DeJhon Irvin (14 receptions, 224 yards, 2 TDs) are also back in the receiving corps. Logan Parker will anchor the defensive line, where he logged 80 tackles a season ago. The Cardinals have not won a playoff game since 2008 – a decade seems long enough. 15. Shelby County (2017: 7-5; Second Round) Head Coach: Todd Shipley The Rockets never make any secret of their offensive identity – they run the ball. A LOT. Last year they ran for nearly 2,600 yards while throwing for just 689. So it’s a bit of faith in their ability to replace players that the loss of Caleb Morehead’s 1,239 yards doesn’t send Shelby County out of the rankings. William Davis seems the most likely to step up for a Shelby County team that lost their top three rushers. Davis had 315 yards on just 45 rushes last season, posting a strong 7 yards per carry. He was the team’s leading pass catcher as well, with 172 yards and two scores on 15 receptions. With just two departures off the offensive line, the Rockets should remain offensively potent. The early season schedule is favorable to work out youth and inexperience, but Shelby County needs to be ready by September 21st, when they host Franklin County in a crucial district game.
  22. The end of the 14th District’s dominance was right there for the taking. Russell County used an 11-3 run over a 4 minute span to cut Warren Central’s lead from 9 points to 1 single point with 2:21 left in the game. The Dragons were attempting to stall out the clock, but were having a difficult time of managing it. But as has seemed to happen over the last decade plus, the big shot came from the big city boys, as a Nay Walker three pushed it back to 4 points with just over 1 minute left in the game. The Lakers couldn’t recover, and the Dragons brought home their ninth title in 12 years. And guess what? They’re favored to make it ten in 13. Preseason 4th Region Rankings 1. Warren Central – You can call it one long dynasty or two distinct ones, as the Dragons have now won three titles in the last four years to go along with the six straight they won from 2002-2007. Coach William Unseld has guided the Dragons to a 53-16 record in his two years at the helm, and he reached the 50 win milestone faster than any Dragon HC before him. He and his team will be favored to gain even more accolades as he has a veritable embarrassment of riches. Last year the Dragons went 11 deep with regularity and this year should provide a similar approach. They return three starters and have eight seniors on their roster. To put that into perspective, that’s more seniors than they have on their football team. Key losses include leading scorer from last year Nay Walker as well as sharpshooter Kaelon Dickerson, but the two most difficult matchups on the team return in long and athletic Chris Porter-Bunton and Byron Carver, the strong post presence. The two seniors combined for 38 points in last year’s Sweet 16 loss to Montgomery County. A player to watch for is junior guard Jared Savage, who should step in as a starter after playing reserve minutes last year. Savage has an incredible stroke and should pick up the slack left from the departing seniors from beyond the perimeter, alongside senior guard Wayne Baird. 2. Russell County – The first two teams are right back where they ended last year. The Lakers reached their first region final since the 1950’s last season, and will be hungry for more. They’ll have to do it without Tyler Robertson, the graduated Player of the Year in the region who averaged 21.4 PPG a season ago. But the Lakers lost only three seniors from that team and return three starters, senior Alex Turner, senior Blake Ellis, and Nick Coffey. Coffey is one of the best big men in the region and is still just a junior. By this time next year he’ll be one of those proverbial seventh year seniors that seem to have been around forever. Coffey hit on just over 68% of his field goals a year ago and averaged nearly 10 rebounds a game. He’s just a load to handle down low. The Lakers got a boost in their attempt to break through this year with the arrival of freshman guard Kel Stotts. The transfer from Adair County averaged 11.4 PPG as an 8th grader last year for the Indians, and could be the next Tyler Robertson for Russell County. The Lakers, 26-6 a year ago, bring a smallish senior class of four into this season, but will continue to enjoy the advantage of arguably the best coach in the region Willie Feldhaus, who always has the team prepared. Of all the teams outside the 14th District, they are year in and year out the team you’d most expect to win it. 3. Bowling Green – Last year did not exactly go as planned. The Purples were defending region champs and had played in five straight region finals. But they struggled mightily in December as their football players were worked back into the mix, and had a losing record as late as January 28th. But late they were playing ball as well as any team in the region, but had the misfortune of ending up in a district semi game against Warren Central thanks to a three way district tie, and fell 59-55. The good news is that they drop only two seniors from that team, and should return four starters. The jewel continues to be senior Nacarius Fant, the guy who just excels at whatever he does. A player that could make the difference for the Purples is senior center Joseph Ayers. Ayers might be the tallest player in the region and is all but impossible to shoot over without getting the ball returned to sender. He’s improving offensively as well, and if he can get it figured out on that end of the court, the sky is the limit. His brother is another player to watch, sophomore Perry Ayers. He played extremely limited minutes last season, but has exploded on the AAU circuit, and gives the Purples a powerful depth weapon. He may be the best player in the region by the time he’s a senior. Like the Dragons, expect Bowling Green to go 9-11 deep. The Purples finished 18-12 a year ago, ending a string of five straight seasons with 20+ wins. 4. Clinton County – If not for bad luck, the Bulldogs would have none at all. Two years ago Clinton County had the misfortune of drawing region favorite Glasgow in the first round of region, falling by 11 in overtime. Last year, they drew Barren County, which entered the tournament at 24-5, tied for the best record in the region. The Bulldogs fell again, 71-66, finishing their year at 18-12. The good news is that they lost only one player who scored in that game, Ryan Beard. Meanwhile their two bell cows return, senior forward Colby Langford and junior guard Keifer Dalton. They combined for 55 of Clinton County’s points in that game, and are certainly talented enough to score at that clip at any time this year. But what helps is the veteran group around them. In addition to four seniors, Clinton County rosters six juniors, giving them the most upperclassmen in the region this side of Warren Central. Two of the best players in the region plus a whole lot of experience around them? Sounds like a contender to me. 5. South Warren – It couldn’t have been easy for the Spartans last year watching Greenwood do what they thought they’d be doing. South Warren entered the district tournament relegated to the 4/5 game, but were squaring up against Greenwood, a team they’d beaten by 17 and 18 during the regular season. If they got by that, they’d face Warren East, who they’d lost to twice by a combined 6 points, once on a tip-in at the buzzer. The titans of the district were safely on the other side. But the Gators stunned the Spartans 52-50 and then upset Warren East to go to region, leaving South Warren still seeking their first postseason victory. And despite being 5th preseason in the region, they’re still looking up at their 14th District big brothers, Warren Central and Bowling Green. They’ll have four starters returning to try and take those teams down, but it’ll be someone from outside those ranks to lead them. Not a consistent starter a year ago, senior Zach McDaniel had a strong offseason on the AAU circuit, rising through the ranks to now be considered one of the best prospects in the region. He’ll join three other senior starters in Austin Bybee, Brad Logsdon, and Drew Wilken, as well as one of the many talented underclassmen in the region sophomore Bryan Cummings. The Spartans dropped only three seniors from a 16-14 campaign, and coach Derrick Clubb will try to rally his troops to improve on that and a 2-7 district record from a year ago. 6. Barren County – The Trojans are not quite the threat they were last year with the loss of four seniors and three starters, but still return the strong senior duo of Charley McCoy and Barrett Billingsley. McCoy in particular can fill it up from beyond the arc, but they'll need big seasons from both to try to move up ahead of their 14th District and 16th District rivals ahead. They’ll try to improve on last year’s region semifinal loss to Warren Central with the aid of four other seniors. The Trojans were 25-6 last season. 7. Franklin-Simpson – The Wildcats have been one of the younger teams in the region for a few years now, but they’re about to start cashing in on that experience. Still, it’ll be one of the youngest among them to lead them, the uber-talented freshman Tavin Lovan. Lovan’s the son of former WKU player Tony Lovan, and the skills seem to run in the family. Lovan averaged 10 PPG a year ago. Look for the Wildcats to improve significantly on their 15-15 record from a year ago. 8. Greenwood – The Gators made that Cinderella run to the region tournament last year, finishing at 16-16 after a loss to Russell County in the first round. They’ll return three starters including Dylan Dewitt, who seemingly singlehandedly lifted the Gators over Warren East in the district semis with 23 points. Other returning starters are junior Alex Schneller and senior Edin Hasanovic. The most significant loss among their five graduates is guard Antonio Bradley. 9. Monroe County – The Falcons are seeking their first region tourney berth since going back to back in 2010 & 2011, and will turn to junior guard Dillon Geralds to lead them. Geralds led the team in scoring with 15.2 PPG last season and was their leader in field goals as well as 3 pointers made. The Falcons will be dealing with the loss of several seniors from their 16-11 team a year ago, none more important than Chad Wilson and his 12.6 PPG. Monroe will be light on seniors, rostering just one, but may be poised for a real run next year with eight juniors. 10. Glasgow – The Scotties took a step back last year following the departure of a massive senior class, but had several bright spots in a 12-12 campaign. This year they have another large group of six seniors to try to take them back to the region tournament. Senior guard Quentel Bradley is the player to watch, and they also have the services of Anthony Walker, a senior guard transferred from Greenwood. 11. Warren East – East missed their chance to return to the region tournament for the first time since 1997 last year despite gaining the top seed in the district, and they’ll have to cope with the loss of five seniors and four starters. They received more bad news when forward Eli Brown tore his ACL during football season. Key players are Brandon Walker and Mason Lee. Walker is returning from a broken hand that helped derail their postseason hopes last season. 12. Russellville – Seniors Barrett Croslin and Christian Naylor return to lead a Panther team that lost three starters and five seniors. Russellville usually does a good job of reloading and should return to the region tournament from a weak 13th District, but shouldn’t expect much else. 13. Allen County-Scottsville – Jared Walden and Evan Day headline a Patriot team that was gutted by the graduation of four starters. The 15th District is the second toughest district this season, and AC/S will struggle to return to the 4th Region tournament where they haven’t won a game since 2005. 14. Todd County Central – The Rebels put a run into Franklin-Simpson last year, falling by 6 in the district tournament. They have six seniors and 10 upperclassmen returning as they yet again attempt to win their first postseason game since 2003. 15. Logan County – Leading scorer Torin Graham graduated, but his brother Tahmir returns to head up a Cougar team that stumbled to a 6-20 record last season. 16. Cumberland County – It’s seemingly always an uphill battle for the Panthers, but they will have six seniors looking to improve on an 8-20 season last year. 17. Metcalfe County – A young team with only a pair of seniors returning from a 1-29 campaign is not a recipe for success. Top Players in the 4th Region 1. Chris Porter-Bunton, F, Sr. (Warren Central) – Porter-Bunton gives the Dragons their greatest matchup advantage. 2. Nacarius Fant, G, Sr. (Bowling Green) – Fant will look to improve on a disappointing 2012-13 campaign. 3. Byron Carver, F, Sr. (Warren Central) – Carver is not the tallest post player, but has a very solid frame to bang in the blocks. 4. Nick Coffey, C, Jr. (Russell County) – If there’s a rebound to be had Coffey is pulling it down. And he hardly misses any shots. 5. Colby Langford, F, Sr. (Clinton County) – Langford strangely gets overshadowed by his teammate Dalton. Colby scores in bunches. 6. Brandon Walker, G, Sr. (Warren East) – The Raiders were a different team without Walker following his broken hand injury. A 6th man last year, this time he’ll be the team leader. 7. Zach McDaniel, F, Sr. (South Warren) – Tall and athletic, he can shoot from anywhere on the court. 8. Charley McCoy, G, Sr. (Barren County) – The Trojans will need big things from their senior guard to boost themselves into true contention for the region title. 9. Keifer Dalton, G, Jr. (Clinton County) – The other half of a strong scoring duo for the Bulldogs. He can fill it up from deep. 10. Tavin Lovan, G, Fr. (Franklin-Simpson) – A superstar in the making for the Wildcats.
  23. Inside South-Central Kentucky Football During each week of the year, Inside South-Central Kentucky Football will look at some of the teams from the greater Bowling Green area, and will include the following teams: Allen County-Scottsville, Barren County, Bowling Green, Franklin-Simpson, Glasgow, Greenwood, South Warren, Warren Central, and Warren East. The area will provide a healthy mix of teams with high expectations following successful years last year and teams looking to rebound from down seasons. And in one lonely case, a team that continues to struggle to gain a handle on winning. The belle of the ball is obviously Bowling Green. The Purples return 15 starters, all of them one-way players in the two platoon system. They have the longest current win streak in the state at 30, with an eye on taking down the state record of 50 wins next season. They are the dominant favorite in 5A, and may well cause the top spot in the South-Central Kentucky rankings I will release each week to be a mere formality. The loss of five coaches from an always great staff is the only possible concern. Warren Central does not have nearly the amount of returning starters that Bowling Green has, but what they do return should keep them in the mix at the top of 5A. They will have to deal with an all-new offensive line and having to move their best wide receiver into a quarterback, but still return several weapons that will give them the leg up on almost every team they play. The Dragons will more closely resemble their 2009 team which featured more quarterback runs to take advantage of senior QB Chris Porter-Bunton’s athleticism. After those two we find two teams that will immediately tell us which one is better, as they will line up against each other in the opening game. Warren East will be fairly hard to recognize from the team that was a game away from the state title game in 2012. They replace 22 seniors, their head coach, and their previous QB to a transfer. Veteran coach Steve Long will take the reins of the Raiders, and he’ll have arguably the premier player in the area as his ace on the field, junior Vanderbilt commit RB/LB Eli Brown. They’ll visit South Warren to open the 2013 campaign. Last year the Spartans gave Warren East all they could handle in a close 14-10 decision in that season’s opener, and this year’s edition will be the first chance for our rankings to get shaken up. The Spartans have been building to this year since the inception of the program, and like Warren East, they have an ace on the field in every game. That’s large and in charge senior DL Adrian Middleton, a monster on the field and Kentucky commit. The Spartans are a sleeper to make some significant noise on a statewide scale in 3A. Glasgow is two years removed from a state runner-up finish, and they return the type of team that will threaten to go back. With 31 upperclassmen, 17 seniors, and 15 returning starters, the Scotties are locked and loaded as the favorites in their district and region. At this point, Scottie fans are forgiven for peeking westward at what may be their greater challenge in the larger scheme of things, 2A favorite Caldwell County, a potential state semifinal opponent. Following those five, we have a potentially unknown quantity at this point. Greenwood has a new coach, one of the departed Bowling Green staff Chris Seabolt. Seabolt will have the services of senior QB Josh Dyer, a 2300 yard passer a year ago. But with some new wrinkles in the offense and a new defensive scheme, we may not have a read on the Gators until they get a few games under their belt. They do enter the season off of a 2012 campaign that featured their most regular season wins ever. Two teams that are looking to regain the glory of just a few years ago are Franklin-Simpson and Allen County-Scottsville. Franklin-Simpson played for the 4A state championship in 2011, but struggled in 2012 following the loss of most of their weapons from the 2011 edition and their head coach. New HC Doug Preston’s Wildcats limped to a 3-8 record that saw them win only two games against Kentucky competition. That year’s pain was this year’s gain as they return 17 starters in their attempt to climb back into competition. Allen County-Scottsville has experienced similar hardship, rolling to the 2010 4A state finals where they dropped a close 21-14 decision to Boyle County, but turning in only 4 and 3 wins in the last two years en route to a pair of first round losses. The Patriots will look to 13 seniors and 10 returning starters to take them back to the promised land. Which brings us to Barren County. The Trojans began the 2012 season with a 28-0 shutout win against Metcalfe County, but would drop their next 9 games by an average of nearly 30 points per game, only coming within a TD a single time – a 21-20 loss to Logan County that ended their playoff hopes. That ended a run of five straight playoff appearances for the Trojans. They will have a shot at returning to the playoffs, but they will be hard pressed to add their first playoff win since 1992, or their first winning record since 2000. South-Central Kentucky Rankings 1) Bowling Green 2) Warren Central 3) Warren East 4) South Warren 5) Glasgow 6) Greenwood 7) Franklin-Simpson 8) Allen County-Scottsville 9) Barren County
  24. For the past four years, 4A at the top has been extremely predictable. Johnson Central has been perpetually in the top 1-2 teams, and has made four straight 4A title games, winning once. The District 2 representative has been lined up across the field from them in each of those four games, with the last three coming against Franklin-Simpson. The two teams have their very own Clemson-Alabama type rivalry going, with Franklin-Simpson taking the last two titles. Even Wayne County has gotten in on the consistency train, with three semifinal appearances in four years. That means three teams have accounted for 10 of the 16 semifinal appearances in 4A the last four seasons. But just when you thought you knew all you needed to know about 4A, along comes realignment. The class boasts four finalists from last season’s state title games. 4A just went from one of the shallowest classes in terms of quality teams to one of the deepest. It's a new day in 4A. 1. Boyle County (2018: 13-1; 3A State Semifinalists) Head Coach: Chuck Smith The Rebels enter their new home in 4A still smarting from unfinished business in 3A a season ago. After winning the last 12 games of 2017, including capturing the 3A title, they kept it rolling into a 13-0 start, and what was ultimately a 25 game winning streak. But it all came crashing down in a 21-0 loss to eventual state runner-up Corbin. Boyle County entered the game averaging nearly 42 PPG – they were shutout for the first time in seven years and accounted for just 208 yards of offense. Only ten seniors graduated from that 13-1 squad, and the Rebels return almost the entirety of their offensive and defensive production. So, as you can imagine, they’ll be out to finish the job this time. Senior QB Reed Lanter returns to build on his 2018 campaign which saw him throw for 2,949 yards, 39 TDs, and just 6 INTs. He has nearly 6,000 yards and 67 passing TDs for his career entering his third season as a starter. Four of his five linemen from last season return, and he’ll have the services of his primary receivers from a season ago. None are more crucial than Mr. Football candidate and West Virginia commit Reese Smith. Smith hauled in 53 passes for 1,173 yards a season ago, scoring 20 touchdowns on those receptions. That’s roughly two TDs for every five passes caught. He additionally had three interceptions on the defensive side of the ball, including taking one of those to the house. Senior RB Landen Bartleson will look to take over the primary ball carrier role, finishing second on the team in 2018 with 768 yards on 109 rushes, 12 of them for TDs. Defensively, the majority of starters return for a unit that forced 25 turnovers last year. That includes one man wrecking crew Wilson Kelly, pulling double duty on the offensive and defensive line. He posted 25 tackles for loss in matching returning linebacker Ezarious Roller for a team leading 72 solo tackles. Boyle County moves into 4A District 5, which features fellow Top 10 team and traditional rival Lexington Catholic as well as a strong Anderson County team dropping down from 5A. With the new playoff format, that means those teams, along with Bourbon County, are who they will go against in the first two rounds. For the region final round, teams like Johnson Central and Corbin will be in play with the new RPI formula. Boyle County is our favorite, but it will not be an easy road. 2. Johnson Central (2018: 13-2; 4A State Runners-Up) Head Coach: Jim Matney The old 4A was good to Johnson Central, yielding the aforementioned four title game appearances and state title. Their title series with Franklin-Simpson ended with the Wildcats taking the rubber match as Johnson Central fell just short at 14-12. Averaging 46.4 PPG entering the title match, the Golden Eagles could manage only six points until a Joe Jackson TD run with just 57 seconds remaining. They tried a pitch to Jackson for a two point conversion and the tie, but the play never had a chance, losing two yards on the play and the championship. The singular state title is a relative bit of disappointment considering all the appearances, but still – this program has gone 51-8 in the last four seasons. They are a blueprint of success by any measure. 19 seniors depart from last year’s squad, but Johnson Central actually returns quite a bit of production. Six offensive starters and seven defensive starters return. Devin Johnson will be asked to take on a much larger share of the carries and step in for stud graduate Joe Jackson. Johnson ran for 1,218 yards and 14 TDs on just 108 carries, averaging an eye-popping 11.28 YPC. Averaging a first down every time you touch the ball is considered pretty adequate. Riley Preece returns at quarterback, and will be a fourth year starter at the position. He mostly throws to keep teams honest, with a modest 1,039 yards passing a season ago, but was the team’s third leading rusher with 852 yards and 19 scores on 89 carries – almost averaging a first down per carry himself. Bryce Tackett (68 carries, 521 yards, 6 TDs) also returns at fullback to help anchor the rushing attack that is the staple of every Johnson Central team. This is a squad that had rushing account for 84% of their over 6,000 yard output. Expect to see the ground and pound often. They do lose three of five starting linemen, but every backup from last year returned. The news is similar on the defensive side where they lose two of their three down linemen, but return the backups. Devin Johnson will be expected to continue his strong play on that side of the ball as well, notching 107 total tackles, including 21 tackles for loss a season ago from his linebacker position. Hunter McCloud (96 total tackles, 19 TFL) joins Johnson in anchoring the linebacker corps while Braiden Castle (65 total tackles, 14 TFL) is the lone returning lineman, manning the middle at nose guard. The Golden Eagles will open the season with Lafayette, playing on the opening week for the first time in seven years, and play an out of district schedule that includes three teams out of state along with powers Simon Kenton and Belfry. Their chief rival Ashland leaves the district for 3A, leaving Johnson Central as even more of a favorite than they’ve been recently. It should be smooth sailing for them through the first two rounds before the all-important RPI re-seeding takes place. They’ll be strong favorites if they can grab the top seed, but may have to contend with Boyle County or Corbin in the region finals otherwise. 3. Corbin (2018: 13-2; 3A State Runners-Up) Head Coach: Justin Haddix Corbin has been achingly close to ending their now 37 year state title drought in the past two seasons. Coach Haddix guided the Redhounds to the last two 3A state title games, but came up empty in each. Last year was the more heartbreaking, as Corbin lost just 20-19 to Central a week after shutting out the class favorite Boyle County. A failed two point conversion and missed field goal proved to be the difference in that one. Corbin has made the region finals or better in each of their seasons under Haddix, and have made at least the state semifinals in the last four seasons. The Redhounds did lose a very sizable senior class from the 2018 campaign, graduating 20 players. That included three starting offensive linemen and most crucially, QB Chase Estep and his 3,026 yards passing. Sophomore Evan Poore is the only QB on the roster that threw a pass last season, going 2/6 for 44 yards. While they develop that position, freak athlete Treyveon Longmire will be heavily leaned on. He led the team in rushing a season ago, posted 611 yards and 4 scores on just 69 attempts, good enough for 8.85 YPC. Longmire is heavily sought after, commanding offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee, Purdue, and Florida State. He’s a threat in the receiving game as well, scoring once out of every three receptions he had last year while posting 7 TDs and 524 yards. Top receiver Jacob Steely also returns off a season where he had nearly 1,000 yards, settling in at 960 yards on 57 receptions. Expect more of a rushing attack than last year, at least early on. Defensively, they face similar challenges with departures. Four starters return, led by DE Ethan Wine. Wine was #2 on the team last year in solo tackles, posting 36 while recovering 2 fumbles. He also turned in a staggering 21 sacks, so he knows how to get after the QB. Cole Shelton also returns at the rover position, posting 30 solo and 50 assisted tackles a season ago. He picked off four passes, returning one for a touchdown. A great deal of this ranking is taken on faith in the consistency of the Corbin program and their recent performance. They will be extremely battle tested by the time the postseason rolls around, as they will run a veritable gauntlet. They take on Beechwood, Bowling Green, Lafayette, and Pulaski County in non-district play, and will be contending with strong programs like Knox Central and Wayne County in their district. It is fair to say that they and their district-mates may have the hardest road to Lexington, beating up on each other before likely facing either Boyle County or Johnson Central before they even reach the state semifinal round. 4. Franklin-Simpson (2018: 14-1; 4A State Champions) Head Coach: Doug Preston The margins were much closer in the 2018 postseason for Franklin-Simpson, but the end result was the same – a state title over Johnson Central. The numbers for Franklin last year were hugely impressive – 40.1 PPG scored, nearly 28 PPG average margin of victory, and only a loss to 5A state champion South Warren on the resume. It was their defense that ultimately secured the victory against Johnson Central, stonewalling their two point conversion attempt for a tie in the title game, earning a 14-12 victory. A lot changes from that edition, particularly on offense. Three linemen plus the tight end depart off the line, as does a staggering 3,800 yards and 52 touchdowns in rushing production with the graduation of Tree Bass and Carlos McKinney. Tedric Partinger returns as a starter at wingback, turning in a solid 453 yards and 6 scores on just 34 carries. He’s a burner, just like Bass was. Sophomore Luke Richardson returns for another turn at quarterback. Passing has not been a major cog of the Wildcat attack, but Richardson did post 828 yards a season ago, and went 5/7 in the championship game to help keep the Johnson Central defense honest. The pass made a prominent appearance in their smashing of Apollo in their last scrimmage. If that dimension opens up for the Wildcats, there will be few defenses – if any – in 4A that can truly handle them. Malik Carter (33 rushes, 197 yards, 2 TDs) should step into McKinney’s fullback role, while Leandre Stutzman (13 rushes, 130 yards, 2 TDs) should man the other wingback position. Stutzman made an impact a season ago catching passes out of the backfield, with 253 yards on 10 receptions. Defensively, the story is a little better. AJ Burr and Dalton Hunter return on the line, while Connor Rogers returns as an anchor at linebacker. Rogers notched 30 tackles for loss a year ago and 71 solo tackles. Burr and safety Chase Gooch combined for 14 sacks. Partinger will be asked to do his part on the defensive side of the ball as well. He plays weak safety, where he had 56 solo tackles and 2 INTs last season – one returned for a score. Unlike their counterparts on the eastern side of the bracket, the realignment has done little to rock Franklin’s world, at least not early on. Their district adds Russell County, but the Wildcats will remain an overwhelming favorite in district play and the first two rounds of the playoffs. Central is added to the mix as a challenger in the region final round, but Madisonville figures to be their biggest challenge there. Meade County and South Warren appear to be the only true challengers to Franklin in their non-district schedule. There’s every reason to believe Franklin will be no worse than 10-2 when they reach the region finals. 5. Madisonville-North Hopkins (2018: 10-3; 4A Region Runners-Up) Head Coach: Jay Burgett It wasn’t Johnson Central that truly pushed Franklin-Simpson most in their title run, but rather the Maroons of Madisonville-North Hopkins. The champions from District 1 took a 7-0 lead on Franklin early in the second quarter, becoming the first team to take a lead on them in 10 games. They still led 10-0 with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, but fell behind by the final 12-10 margin with 5 minutes left in the game. It was a bit of a surprising result for Madisonville, which stumbled to a 2-2 start which included a blowout loss at Owensboro and a loss to lightly regarded Union County. But they found the key in winning some low scoring games, with four victories scoring 21 points or less in an eight game winning streak. And they have virtually all their production returning. Just nine seniors graduated off of last year’s squad. Jeriah Hightower returns to again lead the Maroon offense. The senior running back averaged 136 yards per game and finished 3rd in total rushing in 4A with 1,769 yards. He is the leading returning rusher in the entire class, and he’ll be running behind an offensive line that returns four of five starters from a season ago. The Maroons don’t attempt many passes, and even fewer down field, so you can expect them to feature their usual heavy ground attack. Especially as leading passer JD Gilbert (857 yards, 10 TDs) graduates, though backup Hayden Reynolds returns with a 31/66/297 stat line a year ago. Marquise Parker is the leading returning receiver, converting his 8 receptions into 273 yards and three scores. The news is good on the defensive side of the ball as well. Krey Cunningham will be back at linebacker after leading the team in tackles a season ago with 114 (51 solos). Blake Moody (52 solos, 6 sacks), Dru Fleener (40 solos, 5 sacks), and Jared Gobin (25 solos) all return on the defensive line. Nick Grant and Gunner Dameron each had four interceptions a season ago and return in the secondary. In all, six of the top eight tacklers return from a unit that pitched two shutouts and allowed just under 15 PPG a season ago. Realignment did not touch District 1 at all, but both Hopkinsville and Logan County remain very dangerous. Grabbing the top seed and staying away from one of those two in the first round will be crucial. That is especially true given that Madisonville’s game the last week of the regular season is against powerhouse Mayfield. The Maroons definitely don’t want to chase that game with anything less than a certain win. Their four regular season games against Hopkinsville and Logan County in the last two years have been decided by a combined total of 35 points. 6. Lexington Catholic (2018: 8-4; 3A Second Round) Head Coach: Nigel Smith Lexington Catholic’s time in 3A began almost perfectly in 2015 – they ran out to an 11-4 record and finished as state runners-up to Belfry. That is to date the last time they have captured a region crown, dropping from the playoffs at the hands of Central, then Boyle County, then Belfry again last year. While they step into a difficult district that they still share with Boyle County, perhaps the change of class will put them back on the track they enjoyed at the start of the 2010s, when they captured five straight region titles. Naturally, the name to know when considering the 2019 Knights is Kentucky commit Beau Allen. Allen enters his third year as the sole starter for the Knights, and the career numbers are impressive. He has thrown for over 7,700 yards in his career while completing 63.4% of his attempts, racking up 89 TDs against just 21 INTs. It may be a stretch to see him getting the 56 TDs that he’d need to pass Elijah Sindelar for the most ever in a KHSAA career, but simply matching last year’s feat would put him in the top 5 all-time. He had the highest yardage per game average in the state a year ago, and his 3,729 yards trailed only Wiley Cain’s 3,987 yards – Allen attempted 144 fewer passes. Allen also led his team in rushing with 740 yards on 99 attempts, scoring eight times. It’s the departure of 22 seniors and most starters that keep Lexington Catholic out of the top five on our list. RB Ryan Nichols returns after a 83/425/4 line a season ago as the second leading rusher behind Allen. The top three receivers from 2018 depart, but they do have junior Jackson Corbett hauled in 27 receptions for 450 yards and 5 TDs last season. The Knights also lost their top five tacklers from a unit that allowed over 28 PPG a season ago. That sounds bad, but simply outscoring opponents has been the strategy at Lexington Catholic for quite some time. They haven’t held opponents to less than a 20 PPG average since 2007, and as recently as 2017 were actually outscored by opponents on the year despite a winning record. So expect the usual high-octane offense and back and forth scoring at LexCath this season. The Knights play an absolutely brutal schedule, featuring non-district games against Frederick Douglass, DeSales, Covington Catholic, Pulaski County, and Indianapolis Howe. A losing record is not out of the question, but with Allen at the reins, they will never be totally out of a game. 7. Central (2018: 13-2; 3A State Champions) Head Coach: Marvin Dantzler Since the advent of the six class system, no program has better represented the growth that the KHSAA hoped for from moving to the format in 2007. Prior to that time, Central had won a region title just twice – in 1995 and 2006 – and had never advanced further than the state semifinals. In 12 seasons of the new 3A, Central won six state titles, finished as runner-up two more times, and won 10 region titles. The last of those came a year ago with a 20-19 win over Corbin, a game that capped a ten game winning streak to boot. The incredible Yellow Jackets defense posted seven shutouts and held five other opponents to single digits. They come to 4A with a championship pedigree and as one of the most established programs of the last decade. It’s that pedigree and trust in the program that has earned this ranking, because there is a staggering amount of production lost from a year ago. Keileon Hathaway moves over to QB having never attempted a pass for Central – in fact, only sophomore Vernon Duncan has. His one attempt was intercepted. Deondre Howard is the only returning player who has caught a pass, with three receptions for 48 yards. Less than 70 yards of production returns from a team that put up 5,049 yards a year ago. LG Chris Pryor and C Daniel Horton return on the offensive line, along with Terrance Crawford at fullback. Still, turnover is nothing new for the program. This will be the fourth straight season that a new player assumes the primary signal caller role. The Dark Side Defense lost most of its personnel as well, but will be anchored by DE Aiden Moore and ILB Ben Bush, both starters a season ago. Moore was second on the team in 2018 with 53 tackles, adding three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception that he took in for a score. Bush posted 50 tackles and forced four fumbles to lead the defense, adding a sack. The defense may be more likely to resemble the 2016 edition that held five opponents to single digits but gave up some big games to inflate the average, but should still be quite a force. The Yellow Jackets move into a district with stalwarts Franklin County and Shelby County, with Franklin County in particular serving as a threat to Central in the first two rounds. For the region final round, Central would be facing the prospect of teams like Franklin-Simpson or Madisonville-North Hopkins. The non-district schedule is the typically difficult fare for a team that is always forged in the fire. St. X, South Warren, and Manual are of particular note. Early returns are promising as they won a scrimmage with 5A power Scott County by a 15-7 score. 8. Franklin County (2018: 10-3; 4A Region Runners-Up) Head Coach: Eddie James By a lot of metrics, 2018 was highly successful for the Flyers. They advanced past the first round for the first time since 2014, and made the region finals for the first time since 2013, posting double digit wins for the first time since that same year. Their eight game win streak included a home win over Knox Central, but the script was flipped on them in a 13-7 overtime loss on the road at Knox Central to end their season a week earlier than expected. It is tough to exit the playoffs against a team you beat by 22 points just over a month earlier, but fortunately, Franklin County has a lot coming back to get over it. 14 seniors graduated from the 2018 Flyers. QB Nick Broyles, junior to be, was not among them. Broyles had a fantastic year, completing 62% of his passes for 2,796 yards, 25 TDs, and just eight interceptions. He was also a rare 2,000+ passer combined with 1,000+ rusher, toting the ball 167 times for 1,113 yards and 13 touchdowns. It would not be an understatement to call him the most important cog in the offense a year ago, and that will certainly continue this season. Junior WR Fred Farrier returns to lead the WR corps. Farrier led the team with 868 yards and 11 TDs on 58 receptions last season, and also was the third leading rusher with 225 yards on 26 carries. Three of the top five receivers are back from last season, and three starting offensive linemen return. That’s a lot coming back from a team that averaged 30.3 PPG – they should be very sound. Defensively, Brady Holleran is the first name to know. He accounted for 13.5 sacks a season ago, notched 121 solo tackles and 48.5 tackles for loss. Just a beast to build around on the line. Andrew Maupin is a strong contributor as well, with 5.5 sacks and 47 solo tackles in 2018. The Flyers allowed over 20 PPG a season ago, holding only one opponent below 10 points. Expect that to continue to be a struggle that may limit the upside of the team, but the offense should be able to score with anyone. Central figures to be the team most likely to fight Franklin County for district supremacy, though Shelby County remains to challenge and Waggener serves as a year to year dark horse. Scheduling was unfortunate this season for the Flyers, as they have to travel to both Shelby County and Central. Collins and Anderson County are the most notable non-district contests, and like Central, Franklin-Simpson and Madisonville-North Hopkins would be most likely teams to contend with in a potential regional final. 9. Knox Central (2018: 10-4; 4A State Semifinalists) Head Coach: Fred Hoskins At long last, it was Knox Central’s time in 2018. For the first time ever, they brought home a region title. In so doing, they avenged a 42-20 loss just five weeks prior, knocking off Franklin County 13-7 in overtime. Nick Martin had three interceptions in the game, including on Franklin County’s final two possessions, and Dane Imel scored the game winning touchdown on Knox’s possession in overtime. Knox fell to Johnson Central big the following week, but a legacy was already cemented. So now it’s encore time. QB Brady Worley is back for his junior year. His sophomore campaign was a great success, completing 181 of 300 attempts for 2,921 yards and 29 touchdowns. That puts him at just over 4,600 yards for his career, and represented a big leap forward from his freshman year. He’ll be joined in the backfield by returning bell cow Ethan Mills. The junior running back had 1,448 yards on 244 attempts with 16 touchdowns a season ago, pushing him over 2,000 yards for his career. Not only are they set at those spots this year, but they’ll be looking good for that in 2020 as well. Four of five linemen return with only center Lucas Lambo departing, and three of those four are juniors, meaning even more consistency for 2020. The only offensive negative entering 2019 is the departure of the team’s top three WRs, with Kevionte Turner’s 24 receptions for 299 yards leading the returnees. Defensively, the four of the top five in tackles return, led by LB Trace Floy. Floyd record 95 solo tackles a season ago. Michael Bays had seven sacks as well from the linebacker corps. Dylan Hoskins is the lone returning player on the line, but there is a strong defensive foundation coming back for a team that had six games where opponents were held to single digits. If not for Corbin moving into the district, Knox would probably open up as district favorites. As it stands, they are part of what is arguably the deepest district in the class, as those two are joined by Wayne County and even newcomer Lincoln County showed strength in 5A last season. Winning the district will be critical to gain home field when those teams beat up on each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs. 10. Wayne County (2018: 8-4; 4A Second Round) Head Coach: Shawn Thompson Wayne County experienced a bit of hard luck last season to have been as good as they were and out after two rounds. Their four losses on the year came to Frederick Douglass, Boyle County, Knox Central, and in the playoffs to Franklin County. Those teams made at least the region finals and/or were considered among the best teams in the state regardless of class. The Cardinals averaged 38 PPG, but could only manage 21 points in poor field conditions in their loss to Franklin County, failing to hold a 21-14 lead entering the fourth quarter. Like district foe Knox Central, the major offensive components return for Wayne. QB Brody Weaver threw for 2,070 yards and completed 29 touchdowns in his sophomore season, ably taking over from the superb Lorenzo Linsey who had graduated after the 2017 season. He’ll be joined by feature back Braedon Sloan. The junior tailback averaged 9.33 YPC last season in posting 1,120 yards and 15 scores. Carson Simpson returns to the backfield as well, contributing 487 yards last season on 102 carries. Tito Ruiz is the leading returning receiver, and will be expected to step up after the departure of 1,000 yard receiver Aubrey Weaver. Two starting offensive linemen return, with junior center William King of particular note with good size at a critical position for the shotgun attack. DT Cody Roysdon anchors the defensive line, with a 2018 stat line including 32 solo tackles and a team-leading 4.5 sacks. Lee Shelton was third on the team with 46 total tackles in his freshman season, and led the team with 4 interceptions, including taking two to the house. He will provide a strong piece to build around in the linebacker corps. Still, with more than half the defense out from a 2018 edition that allowed almost 25 PPG, the pressure may be on the veteran offense to win some games on their own while they settle in. Wayne County should be able to show right away what they’re made of, opening with always tough Shelby County before matching up against a Pulaski County team that always features a potent offense. They will host Knox Central in a crucial district game on October 18th, but will have to hit the road the following week against Corbin. It bears repeating as with those two team’s notes above – winning first and home field in this district may well be the thing that gets you past the second round. Just Outside 11. Anderson County (2018: 10-1; 5A Second Round) Head Coach: Mark Peach The Bearcats had a disappointing end to an unbeaten 2018 campaign in a 14-10 loss to Highlands in the playoffs, but initially were going to return enough that they would have placed several spots higher on this list. That was before nearly 1,500 yard back C.A. Collins transferred to Breathitt County for his senior season, his third team in as many years. Transfer giveth – transfer taketh away. Zach Labhart should return to the lead back role that he vacated after an injury last season – he took three of his 10 rushes in for scores in two games last season. Returning QB Jagger Gillis threw for 1,015 yards in 2018 and had a 15:1 TD:INT ratio. Darian Dearinger is the name to know on the defensive side of the ball. The 6’3” junior defensive end holds offers from Marshall, Bowling Green, and Eastern Kentucky, and posted four sacks on 35 solo tackles last season. They’ll be looking to play spoiler in the Boyle County/Lexington Catholic district. 12. Harlan County (2018: 4-7; 5A Second Round) Head Coach: Warren Creech 2018 was a reset type of season for the Black Bears, a season after they made a run to the 5A state semifinals with three straight road wins. In 2018 they only managed back to back wins once and started 0-4. But almost every starter returns for the squad, including four players who rushed for more than 100 yards on the season with the balanced rushing attack. That crop is led by Ben Landis (118 rushes, 642 yards, 5 TDs) and Tyler Casolari (121 rushes, 562 yards, 5 TDs). Jordan Steele is back on the defensive line after notching five sacks last season, with LB Josh Turner’s 81 tackles good enough for second on the team last season. Their potential to make noise in the playoffs would likely be seen as more promising if not for the presence of Johnson Central in their new district, likely eliminating their chances of advancing past the second round. 13. Hopkinsville (2018: 5-7; 4A Second Round) Head Coach: Craig Clayton The seemingly-perpetual sleeping giant of 4A, the Tigers slumbered once again in 2018, getting hammered on the way to a 1-6 start before rebounding for a second straight year for some late wins to make a second round exit against Madisonville. Health was once again a major factor for the Tigers as they lost QB Javier Bland just five games into the season. He had a tough run against their brutal schedule with just 528 yards on 31 completions, but there is no doubt that he gives the Tigers a much higher ceiling. He’s back to lead the offense while fill-in Ellis Dunn shifts back to wide receiver. Dunn had 239 yards on 12 receptions, and still finished as the team’s second leading receiver despite playing quarterback for more than half their games. Only ten seniors were lost from 2018, and if they can finally stay healthy, they will be a huge threat to Madisonville in the district. At the very least, they could push Logan County back to third in the district. 14. Moore (2018: 11-2; 4A Region Runners-Up) Head Coach: Tombe Thomas Thomas takes over a Moore team that was one of the great 4A success stories a season ago. The Mustangs grabbed a district title, winning every district game by 27 points or more, and made a run to the region finals. That gave them their first playoff victory in eight seasons. They experienced the heartbreak of a go-ahead touchdown scored against them with 23 seconds remaining to stop them from grabbing the region title. Twenty seniors depart from last year’s team, but QB Rae Von Vaden returns. The junior threw for 1,291 yards on 70 completions a season ago, with 21 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions. Horatio Willis (22 rushes, 320 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Kriston McMurray (16 rushes, 100 yards, 1 touchdown) return to compliment him in the backfield. Willis also is the leading returnee on the defensive side of the ball, with 62 tackles a season ago. Spencer County slides over from their former spot in district 4, but they otherwise face the same foes that they rolled up in 2018. John Hardin figures to be their primary challenger. 15. Logan County (2018: 10-2; 4A Second Round) Head Coach: Todd Adler The Cougars remain a great story, with the last two years yielding their all-time leading rusher in Gary Hardy before he even plays his senior year, and a sparkling 21-3 record. But they have not managed to get past the second round in their difficult region, and with the loss of 22 seniors, they face a significant challenge to break through that ceiling this season. QB Tyler Ezell is back again, with a 107/186 for 1,669 yards and 12 touchdown performance last season. Gary Hardy rushed for nearly 1,500 yards, scoring a touchdown on 1 out of every 10 attempts. Leading receiver Maurice Gordon (36/495/4) returns, as does two-sport stud Anthony Woodard. RG Logan Gibson is the only returning offensive lineman, and that will be the biggest question mark for the team entering the year. Zach Yates returns at linebacker after grabbing the second most tackles for the team last season. The Cougars added Warren East and Greenwood to slightly increase schedule difficulty, but it’s their road trip to 5A power South Warren in the last week before the playoffs that they are hoping will prepare them for the postseason the most.
  25. The more things change the more they stay the same in the 7th Region and once again head coach Mike Szabo has a very talented Trinity team this season. Trinity will not only be one of the top teams in the 7th Region but they will be one of the top teams in the state. Ballard and head coach Chris Renner are also looking to be one of the top teams in the 7th Region as Trinity and Ballard have dominated this region for the past several years. Doug Bibby is looking to bring Central back to the limelight and at the top of the 7th Region and St. Xavier and head coach Kevin Klein would love another crack at Trinity in the 7th Region Championship game. If Waggener is able to get Devon Cooper eligible then they too will be come a player and with the plethora of talent in the Louisville area the 7th Region looks to be one of the top regions in the state as they always are. The more things change the more they stay the same. 1. Trinity Trinity returns 4 starters from last year's 7th Region championship team and all signs point them being even better this season. Led by senior PG Jacob King Trinity has a plethora of talent for Coach Szabo as he tries to guide Trinity to Rupp Arena for the 4th time in 6 years. Joining Jacob King will be seniors Lukas Burkman, LJ Harris and David Burton. Burkman is known for his excellent three point shooting and range as well as his defense. Harris is a long athlete who will man the 4/5 position on the court and will do the dirty work that all teams need for success. Burton will play multiple positions and was second on the team in minutes last season. The experience these four seniors bring to the team will be a stabilizing force as sophomore combo guard David Johnson will most likely become a household name this year in the state of KY. Johnson is a major D1 recruit who has interest from Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana, Xavier and Tennessee just to name a few. Johnson can score in many ways and has the ability to impact the game at both ends with his length and athleticism. Other players expected to make a difference on the team include junior Jay Scrubb who is said to be the most athletic player on this year's team and is at his best when driving and finishing at the rim. Senior Brendan King will provide depth and is a strong heady player who will be an asset offensively and defensively. Sophomore Stan Turnier and freshman Justin Powell are two more players that will provide depth and be expected to deliver for Trinity when their number is called. As always Trinity will have a very competitive schedule and they will be playing in the King of the Bluegrass tournament, the Arby's Classic in Bristol, TN and the Louisville Invitational Tournament. Trinity once again looks to not only be the best team in the 7th Region but possibly the best team in the state. 2. Ballard Ballard will be led by the duo of Mr. Basketball candidate Jamil Wilson and Clivonte Patterson as the Bruins strive to improve upon last year's finish as a semifinalist in the 7th Region tournament. Jamil Wilson is one of the premier guards in the state and has flourished in Coach Chris Renner's system throughout his career at Ballard. Many around the 7th Region believe that Ballard is the #2 team in the region and one thing we know is that Coach Renner will ensure that Ballard remains one of the top teams in the 7th Region. Ballard will be replacing 5 seniors from last year's team but returning the duo of Wilson and Patterson is a great building block for Ballard in the 2016-17 season. 3. St. Xavier St. Xavier finished last season as the runner up in the 7th Region tournament and this year's team must replace 7 seniors including 7th Region Player of the Year and All-State point guard, Connor McKim. Junior Pierce Kiesler is expected to step up and assume the role of team leader as he and fellow junior Evan Walker are returning starters and have the most varsity experience on this St. X team. Both are believed to be primed for breakout seasons this year. Freshman James Taylor will see significant time on the court for St. X and is already making a name for himself in the 7th Region and is seen as one of the top freshmen in the state. Seniors Tyler Barnes, Paul Oberst and Chase Westenhofer are all expected to be key contributors this season aand senior Jack Koch will have a chance to stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting. Junior Cameron McDonogh is expected to share point guard duties with freshman James Taylor to add depth and stability to that postion. The Tigers strengths will be team chemistry, size and length and the team has a good mixture of experienced upperclassmen and inexperienced underclassmen. The Tigers have had a productive preseason and their focus is to improve each game with plans to erase the sting from last year's runner-up finish in the 7th Region tournament and advance to the 2017 Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena. 4. Central Coach Doug Bibby says that every year his expectations are high and this season isn't any different. He tries to make his practices harder than games and he says, "I don't want these guys to think about winning championships but I want to have them work like champions everyday." This season Central will be led by seniors Devin Firman, Derron Douglas and Korey Johnson. Senior Dominique Knight has transferred to Central from Eastern and he looks to contribute from the guard position. James Simpson is expected to join the team once football season is complete and his duties as the starting QB have come to an end for the 2016 possibly after the state finals at WKU. Coach Bibby's teams are usually very disciplined and defensive-minded. I expect that to stay true this season as Central has a challenging schedule and will jump right into some tough games as they will face St. X, Eastern and Covington Catholic by December 10. If this team does indeed work like champions as Coach Bibby implores them to do then come March they very well may emerge as champions of the 7th Region. 5. Waggener Waggener is a team that could easily be ranked #2 or #3 as they await the ruling on the appeal of senior Devon Cooper who transferred back to Waggener after spending the 2015-16 season at Findlay Prep in Nevada. Waggener finished 15-13 last season and lost to St. X in the first round of the 7th Region tournament. Waggener must find a way to replace 42 points/game that graduated from last year's team and a lot of that load will be shouldered by seniors Ethan Taylor and Jacquess Hobbs. Taylor and Hobbs look to lead a team that is long in youth and short in experience. With 5 juniors and 6 sophomores this Waggener team is poised to gain some valuable experience for the future this season and if they can manage to receive Devon Cooper back in the fold then things will get very interesting for Waggener. 6. Eastern Eastern will have a completely new look for the 2016-17 season and Coach David Henley wants to try and run a little more than they have in the past. Eastern will be led by a core group of 5 seniors and Caleb Williams is one of those seniors. Williams is considered by some to be one of the top 10 players in the 7th Region as he is a post player who can also shoot the ball fairly well for a post player. Seniors Sugar Ray Wyche and Braxton Johnson are both guards capable of pushing the ball up the court while Javen Rushin does a little bit of everything. Senior Kahlil Garmon joins Caleb Williams in the post so Eastern will boast multiple guards and multiple post players that will also provide valuable varsity experience. Williams, Wyche and Rushin have all been playing varsity basketball for three years and are expected to be the team leaders. Eastern's junior class is unproven at the varsity level as Dixie transfer Nate Jackson, Jordan Lyons, Myles Goodrich, Charles Morris, Scott Humpich and Barnabas Ojo will all fight for playing time. A strong sophomore class that will compete for playing time includes Nick Sparks, Will Clay, Trent Robinson, Jacob Robinson, Isaiah Ross, Connor Noland and Elijah Rice. The opportunity for a new face to make a splash is clearly evident for an Eastern team with a strong senior core and an abundance of unproven juniors and sophomores with the talent to help Eastern improve upon last year's finish as a semifinalist in the 7th Region tournament. 7. Christian Academy-Louisville CAL returns three main cogs of their offense from last season as seniors Parker Jones, Kenneth Purvis and Michael Woodward look to advance to the 7th Region tournament this season. Parker Jones is considered by some to be one of the top 10 players in the 7th Region so CAL will have his talents to lean on in the tough 28th District. CAL finished 14-14 last season and look to improve their standings and will likely go as far as their seniors can take them. 8. Male Coach Willie Feldhaus has his hands full this season but Male will still likely be a strong team this season that not many teams will look forward to playing. Male has the tall task of replacing a total of 8 seniors from last year's 25-6 squad that was led by current Bellarmine Knight, Alex Cook. Hogan Brownley is the leading candidate to replace Alex Cook as Brownley looks to guide Male to another winning season and trip to the 7th Region tournament. 9. Kentucky Country Day Coach James Booker feels he has a talented group returning to KCD this season led by Navy commit Anthony Mathis. Mathis is regarded as one of the best point guards in the state as well as being a true veteran for KCD as he has been a starter since he was in the 8th grade. Coach Booker speaks on the leadership that Mathis has displayed this offseason and he expects Mathis to have another spectacular season scoring, assisting and playing tough defense. Coach Booker praised the offseason work that junior Solomon Mathis did to improve his game and calls him KCD's most improved player. Senior Hayden Kraus brings back his 45% percentage from three point land and junior Wilder Brice brings back his varsity experience to provide stability on both ends of the floor. Seniors Justin Grissom, Connor Widman and Eastern transfer, junior Cedric Cosby will add much needed depth to this year's team is also what Coach Booker had to say. KCD lost to Eastern in the first round of the 28th District Tournament last season and Anthony Mathis is determined to get KCD into the 7th Region tournament this season. Kentucky Country Day is also looking to make it back to the All A Tournament as the 7th Region representative. 10. Manual Noah Hawkins returns for his junior season to lead Manual this season as Manual looks to improve upon last year's 17-13 season that ended with them losing to Eastern in the first round of the 7th Region tournament. Coach James Just has 6 seniors on this year's team and has Manual facing some good competition in the Best of Hoops tournament in Oldham County and the always strong Traditional Bank Tournament held at Lexington Catholic. Add in the Louisville Invitational Tournament and you'll see a seasoned Manual team when February rolls around. Best of the Rest: Shawnee There is a lot of excitement at Shawnee this season as Shawnee returns seniors Nicholas Warf, Amontay Mitchell and Josh Cunningham to lead this year's team. Warf will provide perimeter shooting and ballhandling, Mitchell looks to provide scoring and rebounding and Cunningham looks to provide post play down low as well as rebounding. Sophomore Lajuantre Gray will provide a spark off of the bench and junior Johnathan Heck will also add to the depth of the team with rebounding, inside scoring presence and perimeter shooting. Seneca This will be an exciting season for Seneca as Coach Daniel Hawkins feels this will be his best team since taking over the program. Expectations are high as Seneca returns all of their production from last season as well as the young players that came on towards the end of the season last year. With everyone returning this team is expected to compete and just barely found themselves outside of the top 10 in the 7th Region rankings. Key players returning this year include seniors Keyontez Leach and Dayshawn Chaney as well as junior Tayquan Smith. Chaney had a strong offseason and is said to be much improved from last season. Four sophomores who also showed growth from the end of last season and through the spring and summer are Richard Ninamou, Phillip Armstrong, Carl Parker and Robert Walker. Sophomore Timothy Gordon, junior Myron Malone and junior William Wright are all new to the team this year and will be expected to play huge roles off the bench. Don't be surprised if Seneca fins their way into the top 10 of the 7th Region this season. They look to be much improved and up for the challenge that is the 7th Region. Collegiate Collegiate returns an experienced team that includes 5 seniors as their top 7 players. Their three leading scorers return and they also add three talented newcomers into the fold. Coach Shannon Weaver says that Collegiate is looking to move up in the 7th Region and that this year is their year to make that move. 6'9" senior Ryan McDaniel(Alabama-Huntsville signee) returns as Collegiate's top scorer and joing him will be senior guards Barrett Myers and Alex Hertzman. McDaniel is a very skilled big man who can score inside but is also an excellent three point shooter. Senior guard Parker Duff and senior wing Nayaab Grewal round out this experienced group for Collegiate. Freshman Tyler McDaniel is Ryan McDaniel's brother and he stands at 6'5" and will vie for a starting spot. Junior guard Eli Allen is also a name to keep an eye out for as he is set up to have a break out season. Collegiate hopes to challenge Kentucky Country Day for the 7th Region spot in the All A Tournament. Brown Brown returns leading scorer Jared Fife and Brown looks to their 5 seniors for leadership and stability this season. Brown will hope to position themselves to be competitive in the 7th Region All A tournament. Brown will be led by head coach Erin Spalding. St. Francis Much like Brown, St. Francis is returning a fair amount of talent from last season and also look to position themselves to be competitive in the 7th Region All A Tournament. James Risley returns for St. Francis and he will be the leader on the floor for St. Francis this season. Atherton Atherton looks to improve upon last season's 7-23 record as senior Flynn Calnon returns to lead an Atherton team that gained a lot of experience last season. Atherton is looking to build on that experience gained last season and look to make a deep run in the 27th District Tournament with hopes of making the 7th Region Tournament. Portland Christian Portland Christian recently named Jeremy Niestadt head coach and he looks to take over a roster that doesn't have a single senior on it. Leading scorer sophomore Quincy Dye returns to lead a Portland Christian team that looks to improve from last season, gain even more experience this season and hopefully make a good run in the Kentucky Christian Athletic Athletic Conference Tournament. Top 10 Players in the 7th Region 1.Jamil Wilson-Ballard 2. Anthony Mathis-KCD 3. Jacob King-Trinity 4. David Johnson-Trinity 5. Clivonte Patterson-Ballard 6. Caleb Williams-Eastern 7. Devin Firman-Central 8. Parker Jones-CAL 9. Pierce Kiesler-St. Xavier 10. Jay Scrubb-Trinity * If Devon Cooper of Waggener is ruled eligible he will become one of the top 3 players in the 7th Region. Best of the Rest Lukas Burkman-Trinity Hogan Brownley-Male Noah Hawkins-Manual Keyontez Leach-Seneca Ryan McDaniel-Collegiate James Taylor-St. Xavier Jacquess Hobbs-Waggener
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