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Dan Weber's Just Sayin': Why are So Many NKY Teams Hitting the Road this Week?

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

Gentlemen, start your buses. It’s Week 3 of the football playoffs and no more of those district games where teams replay the regular season. And the regular season RPI rankings, which depend on a team’s wins, the wins of its opponents and its opponents’ opponents.

But only in the regular season.

So if you have a great victory in the first two weeks of the playoffs, it doesn’t count. So when you get to Week 3 when you’re playing someone with no common opponents from somewhere else in the state, you’re at the mercy of numbers from games that have no way of any sort of rational correlation.

And you are sent on the road, as five of Northern Kentucky’s seven teams still alive in the playoffs will be this weekend, based on numbers without full meaning, full context, full season information. 

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association justifies limiting the info it inputs into its RPI rankings this way in answering this FAQ:

Why do postseason games not count?

  • If we were to factor in postseason, the impact of seeding skews the data.

  • In approximately 2/3 of districts in all sports except football, and in all football districts, postseason play is seeded.

  • The teams in a higher-seeded position could be inherently disadvantaged in that they would almost always play a four-seed (or lower) whose WP and probably OWP would be lower, making further comparisons inaccurate.

What the KHSAA does not say here is that in doing so, the RPI “inherently disadvantages” everybody else but the top seeds. Now this may not always be a big deal such as here in Northern Kentucky when district winner Walton-Verona has to travel to district winner Beechwood where there is some commonality between their schedules.

But in Week 3, some of these games involve long trips, difficult for fans and teams, based on RPI rankings we have no clue are as valid as they could be. Exhibit A is the way Newport Central Catholic has been shuffled off to Russellville in far Western Kentucky, between Bowling Green and Hopkinsville, 234 miles from NewCath’s hilltop site on Carothers Road. And this in Week 3 when the KHSAA says that the basic principle will be to match teams up geographically with teams from the East playing other East teams and teams from the West playing other teams from the West.

Hello! Does anyone at the KHSAA do Google Maps or Mapquest? No other playoff road trip comes close this week to NewCath’s. Now there is a problem here for the KHSAA. There are 31 Class A teams in the state – 23 of them in the East. So matching up all opponents by geography is impossible. So NewCath, and NewCath fans, draw the short straw – and the longest trip in the state by far.

Look at the other three Class A games. All totaled, the visiting teams will be asked to travel 288 miles – an average of 96 miles per game. Not an intolerable burden. But to ask NewCath to hike 234 miles into the Central Time Zone in a game that’s considered “East vs. East” while also asking the Thoroughbreds to pass by the location of the other “West vs. West” Bethlehem-Kentucky Country Day game is simply ridiculous. Send one of those two. They’re 130 miles and 2 1/2 hours closer to Russellville than NewCath is.

Or better yet, do the right thing, the fair thing. Do what Ohio does. Play the game – and all games that involve significant travel – at neutral sites. This should not be hard.

NewCath-Russellville could be played in Oldham County or Hardin County. Brossart-Raceland could be played at Mason County. In 2A, Walton Verona-Beechwood could tee it up at Boone County. Scott at Boyle County in 4A could be at Scott County. Or maybe Georgetown College. In 5A, Covington Catholic at Woodford County could be also be played at Georgetown or Grant County. And in 6A, how about going halfway for Louisville Trinity at Ryle and meet at Carroll County.            

You could also follow this format for the semifinals and treat them the same as the finals that will be played at UK’s Kroger Field.

Now for some quick hits looking at the playoffs and the RPI rankings.

*** In 6A, 9-3 Ryle is No. 5 while dangerous and late-breaking Trinity (5-7), winners of 27 state titles and five of their last six, is No. 16. And if Ryle has played a tough schedule, Trinity has scheduled a tougher one against top teams from Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Louis and three from Cincinnati.  

*** In Class 1A, unbeaten Brossart (12-0) has three wins against 2A opponents. Raceland (11-1) has one 2A win, three 3A wins and a 4A win and has beaten Brossart in the playoffs four of the last six seasons. The teams have no common opponents. In the other Class A matchup, NewCath played one 6A opponent, one 4A opponent, one Cincinnati GCL opponents and three from 2A. Russellville had two 2A opponents, one 3A, three 4A and one 6A opponent.   

*** And in 2A, as good as No. 2 RPI-ranked Beechwood looks on paper – and is on the field -- against its schedule with the wins over the likes of 5A CovCath and 6A Dixie Heights and any number of other opponents, No. 1 Lexington Christian has at least as good a record as Beechwood and almost cannot be anything but the real deal. Could be an awesome championship game.

And a final look at Beechwood’s returning Mr. Football Cam Hergott’s first 12 games of his super-senior season. He’s 114 for 161 passing for 2,154 yards and 29 touchdowns with 113 carries for 1,286 yards and 21 TDs rushing. That brings his 52-game career totals to 555 for 834 passing for 8,368 yards and 94 TDs with 481 carries for 3,671 yards and 55 TDs. Add it all up and that’s 12,039 total yards and 149 total TDs.

*** In 4A, No. 1 Boyle County’s (11-1) two wins over Lexington Catholic makes it legit. And we might note that upsetting 8-4 Scott, way down at No. 16 in the RPI, is the lone team of the 48 left in all six classes not ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in their district. 

*** In 5A, CovCath opponent Woodford County may be 12-0 but only three of those wins came against teams with winning records and yes, they did beat Campbell 34-13 but who didn’t? They’ve had only one close game -- against Franklin County, 24-21. The average 5A RPI ranking for Woodford’s five district opponents was 22.6. CovCath’s average district opponent ranking was 16. They’re on the road Friday but don’t be surprised if CovCath has the advantage here.  

Here’s the schedule: 

CLASS 1A:

Newport Central Catholic (9-3) at Russellville (10-1)

Bishop Brossart (12-0) at Raceland (11-1)

CLASS 2A
Walton-Verona (9-3) at Beechwood (12-0)
CLASS 4A
Scott (8-4) at Boyle County (11-1)
CLASS 5A
Covington Catholic (9-3) at Woodford County (12-0)
CLASS 6A
Louisville Trinity (5-7) at Ryle (9-3)

-Dan Weber

Photo: Newport Central Catholic takes on Holmes in an early regular season game (Brian Frey/RCN file)