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Dan Weber's Just Sayin: Why So Many Teams in Ky. Football Playoffs?

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at dweber3440@aol.com.

AND NOW WE KNOW . . . The KHSAA has released the first-game matchups and our first reaction to a slate of 94 games this weekend where 188 teams make what are officially called the UK Othopaedics State Football Finals is simply, "Why?"

In four-team districts where everybody plays one another in the regular season, why do it all over again and call it the postseason? Why have a regular season if all it decides is who is the home team this weekend?

Why have a playoff that, if the truth be told, many of those teams -- the undermanned ones that worked like heck to get through the year with 20 players who, if they had a choice, would not mind a bit if the season were over now? And they did not have to face a rematch against a district opponent that has already beaten them up pretty badly.

Sure, there's the occasional exception where a Highlands, No. 4 in the highly competitive 5A district race here, gets another shot at top-ranked Cov Cath Friday after the two teams' highly competitive 8-7 win for the Colonels that came down to a blocked field goal in the final minute.

But even then, shouldn't the regular season game count? How about starting by saying if you've had a running clock against you in your district, you do not go on to the playoffs? That would be a start.

As for the actual start this week, that will be Thursday since they need two days to get all the games in. And two Northern Kentucky 1-4 games get it going.

Bellevue (1-9) will travel its way-too-few-Tigers team to 7-3 Newport Central Catholic in a meeting of two programs that lost by a combined total of 120 points last Friday. Yeah, you read that right. Lose by an average of 60 points in your final game and you get to pass GO and go on to Game 11. Oh, and when these teams played a couple of weeks ago, NewCath won by 41, 55-14. So again, why is this game being played?

It's not a lot better matchup in Class 6A. Top dog Ryle (7-3) will host bottom dog Campbell County (1-9), losers of nine straight and a team the Raiders ripped 44-11 in the regular season four weeks ago.

Then it's on to Friday for a full slate of eight games here -- nine if you count Walton-Verona in a non-Northern Kentucky district. Unbeaten Bishop Brossart (10-0) gets into what it hopes to be a postseason to remember Friday in Alexandria with a Class A District 5 matchup hosting Paris (4-6), a team the Mustangs beat 15-6 on the road.

In a Class A District 4 rematch, a 4-6 Dayton team, losers of three straight, has to play a 3-7 Ludlow team that lost six straight before beating Bellevue and Dayton by a combined 89-6.

In 2A, 10-0 Beechwood has to play somebody and in this case it's 4-7 Newport, a team that lost to Beechwood 54-0 two weeks ago. Also in 2A, and also a recent rematch, 3-7 Holy Cross has to trek to 3-6 Lloyd, where it was pounded 40-7 just two weeks ago. Walton-Verona (7-3) gets a home rematch in District 5 with an Owen County (3-8) team it beat 42-12 three weeks ago.

In 4A, 6-4 Scott, after losing 40-0 two weeks ago at home to 8-2 Holmes, has to head down the five-plus miles into Covington and try to do it better this time after a 41-7 beatdown last week at Dixie Heights.    

The other 5A game in a backyard Boone County rivalry has 6-4 Conner headed to 7-3 Cooper again after a 43-7 loss three weeks ago in Union. At 5-5, Highlands comes into the game against 7-3 Cov Cath with that one-point loss to the Colonels and weirdly, a 35-7 win over No. 2 Cooper but a 21-13 loss to No. 3 Conner. Watch this district. This entire crew should have a most interesting postseason do-over.

The final game finishes off Class 6A in a Kenton County rivalry as 2-8 Simon Kenton heads out to Edgewood to face a dangerous Dixie Heights team (6-4) it lost to by a 33-20 score three weeks ago.

Again, not sure having almost everybody make the playoffs in football when you have six classes where everybody already plays everybody is that smart a way to go. This isn't basketball. Football is a tough sport, especially for the small-roster teams . . . JUST SAYIN'.

*** PARK HILLS WENT 1-1 in the Kentucky State High School Soccer Championships Saturday in Lexington. Notre Dame Academy not only won its fourth state title with a 1-0 win over seven-time state champ South Oldham in the nightcap in front of a crowd of 1,573 at Frederick Douglass High School, it finished with a state record 28 wins (28-0-1) and 25 shutouts.

Covington Catholic, meanwhile, fell 2-1 to hometown Paul Laurence Dunbar in the afternoon opener as the Colonels sought their second state championship in soccer.

And while the Pandas score was close, the game was not. NDA recorded 13 shots, seven on goal, while limiting South Oldham (23-3-0) to none. The more aggressive Pandas were also called for nine fouls to South Oldham's one.

The match was scoreless until the 57:58 mark in the second period when NDA's Natalie Bain knocked in the game's lone goal on a follow from Ellie Greenwell's corner kick with Greenwell awarded the assist. That was it. And with the suffocating Panda defense, that's all it took.

Bain was named state finals MVP and she was joined by teammates Kennedy Clark and Amber Branum on the all-tournament team.

In the boys finals, Dunbar, like NDA, was the more aggressive team, outshooting Cov Cath 19-7 with a 13-1 edge in the first half in a match that saw all the scoring in the second period. Dunbar's Isaac Cano got the scoring going just 2:11 after intermission with an assist to Ryan O'Hara.

Cov Cath's Colton Pieper tied it on an unassisted goal just 6:11 later before Dunbar's Rodrigo Romero hit the game-winner at the 73:02 mark. The loss ended CovCath's eight game postseason win streak with the Colonels finishing 14-9-5.

Dunbar finished 22-3-2 as it won its first state title in front of a crowd of 1,706.   

CovCath had three all-tourney team selections in Grey Jordan, Aiden Hemmer, and Carter Eilers.

Heck of a job by the two finalists -- Notre Dame to go wire-to-wire and handle all those expectations at the top the entire season and CovCath to come back from a 6-8-5 regular season to get to the state championship game . . . JUST SAYIN'. 

*** CONNER 'PACKS' IT IN X-C TITLE . . . The Cougar pack put five men in the top 11 to win the state Class AAA boys championship by a mile -- and then some. The Cougars all-veteran five finished Nos. 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 to beat Louisville St. Xavier 40-106 in a race where no other challenger placed more than one. Conner's finishers on the 5K Bourbon County Park Course were Ryan Hanak (5, 16:49.94), Joseph Impellitte (6, 16:51.99), Logan Warth (8, 17:07.92), Drew Moore (10, 17:12.38), and George Johnson (11, 17:13.99).

The Ryle boys finished seventh in Class 3A with 321 points while the Ryle girls finished fifth with 210. 

Northern Kentucky dominated both boys and girls Class A cross-country meets with the boys winning the top three team spots led by St. Henry while producing the individual winner -- Beechwood's Natnael Weldemich -- and three of the next four finishers in the top five.

The team totals/finishes: 1. St. Henry -- 59 pts; 2. Villa Madonna -- 89 pts; 3. Bishop Brossart -- 121 pts. Individuals: Weldemich (16:59.77 on the 5K Bourbon County Park Course); 2. Ryan Dixon, St. Henry (17:26.04); 3. Isaac Riggs, Bethlehem (17:28.49); 4. Lake Durrett, St. Henry (17:34.05); 5. Owen Kovacic, Villa Madonna (17:35.12).

In the girls Class A, Lexington Christian finished first followed by four Northern Kentucky teams: 1. Lexington Christian (108 pts); 2. Villa Madonna (112); 3. Bishop Brossart (160);  4. Beechwood (160);  5. St. Henry (181). *Bishop Brossart 3rd based off 6th runner's place.

Individually, three local girls finished in the CLass A top five: 1. Claire Curtsinger, Bishop Brossart (19:39.92); 4. Amy Klocke, Bishop Brossart (20:17.66); 5. Mackenzie McMain, St. Henry (20:29.67).

In Class 2A Girls, Scott finished second to Lexington Catholic (77 points) with 132. Highlands (301) finished 11th. Three Scott runners finished in the top 11: No. 6, Maddie Strong, (19:45.63); 10, Dyllan Hasler (20:18.54); 11, Ansley Lindloff (20:19.97).

The only local top five finisher in 2A Boys teams behind winner North Oldham (68 points) was Highlands at No. 4 with 188 points.

Not a bad day all around for Northern Kentucky . . . JUST SAYIN'.

--Dan Weber 

Photo: Beechwood and Covington Catholic face off in Sept. (Brian Frey/RCN file)