Northern Kentucky Could Place 5 Teams in State Football Finals -- If All Goes Well Friday
Northern Kentucky could make a play for five state football this season as the semifinals unfold Friday night.
Five teams from our part of the state remain in their respective classes. RCN's Bryan Burke previews the games:
Lexington Catholic (11-3) at Highlands (11-2) Class 4A
Highlands comes into this game with its chest out and head high, having not lost to a team in Kentucky this season and fresh off holding off Cov Cath in the previous round, 37-34. Quarterback Beau Hoge is widely regarded as the region's best player and dazzled spectators in their win a week ago. The Bluebirds' ability to attack on the ground or through the air has flummoxed defenses all season long and Lexington Catholic has quite the challenge on its hands in the state semi-finals.
To prevent another Highlands win, Lex Cath must bring Hoge down when they get their hands on him. Hoge is slippery in the pocket and has incredible open-field vision with the foot speed to boot. Perhaps if there is a weakness, it exists within the Highlands secondary as Cov Cath quarterback Adam Wagner was able to go deep for touchdowns on two occasions last week in the furious Colonels comeback attempt late in that game.
Lexington Catholic hit a rough patch on their schedule early in their season, starting the year 1-3, but have bounced back with 10 wins in a row since. They too were the victors in a close game last week, outlasting Boyle County 40-35 in the quarterfinals.
Williamsburg or Raceland await in the finals.
Mayfield (12-1) at Beechwood (11-2) Class 1A
It's the clash of the titans as two of the top teams in Class A look to extend their impressive winning streaks in the semifinal round in Fort Mitchell.
Beechwood has gone beyond simply exceeding expectations this season, as they have pulled off 11 wins in a row and have proven to be a cohesive group of kids who play with a ton of energy and heart. Last week, they thumped Frankfort 46-21 and have yet to be challenged much at all in the postseason, racking up a combined 159-21 point differential in three playoff games. The 21 points they gave up last week were the most the Tigers have surrendered since Week 2.
Mayfield has won 10 in a row itself and has smashed their own way through the playoffs, having walloped Russellville last week 42-14.
The Tigers will look to continue to play their smashmouth style, counting on a stable of smaller but tougher running backs, and big physical pass catchers like Brett Slusher and tight end Jonathon Stokes. The battle for Beechwood is always won in the trenches and should go a long way to determining Friday's outcome.
Ballard (10-4) at Dixie (12-1) Class 6A
It has been a terrific season for Dixie as they have surprised many by becoming on the best teams in the state's largest class. The Colonels have showcased the right system with right players as quarterback Drew Moore and running back Luke Zajac have powered Dixie the final four with their complimentary running styles. Moore is a tremendous playmaker—running or passing—as he exceeded 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air. He is gifted at making big things happen when the play breaks down around him and he is forced to improvise. Zajac is a gritty between the tackles runner and the combination makes the read-option nearly impossible to stop.
For Ballard, it has been an up and down season. The Bruins have four losses against quality teams raising questions about their ability to defeat the upper echelon of the state, and they squeaked out a slug match against Butler, 14-7, last week.
The winner faces either (Louisville) Trinity or Meade County in the finals.
Newport Central Catholic (7-5) at Shelby Valley (11-2) Class 2A
At first glance, the Thoroughbreds don't appear of the same ilk as the rest of the remaining postseason survivors, but their record is deceiving. All of their wins have come against teams in their class, most recently taking down crosstown rival Newport 42-26 last week. They are comfortable within their own ranks, but they face the toughest challenge yet among Class 2A competition. Shelby Valley comes into the game fresh off of beating Prestonburg 20-14 last week—one of the teams they had lost to previously in the season.
Winner gets either Murray or (Louisville) DeSales in the championship game. DeSales beat New Cath in last year's final.
Cooper (9-4) at Pulaski County (11-2) - Class 5A
Cooper has emerged as a powerful force in the postseason, outscoring its first three opponents, 119-27. Pulaski, at 11-2, has also run up the scoreboard in the postseason, outscoring its first three opponents, 121-48. Winner will face either Graves County or John Hardin in the finals.