Updated 1 year ago by Mike Maharrey
The high school football playoff semifinal round will play out Friday. Here is a look at the upcoming matchups.
And just for fun, I went out on a limb and made some picks.
Beechwood (9-4) will face 2011 state runner-up Mayfield (12-1) in a rematch of last year's semifinal game. Mayfield pulled out a 19-14 victory to advance last season. The Cardinals lost their opener against Warren Central and haven't lost since. Beechwood lost three of its first four, to northern Kentucky big-boys Covington Catholic, Holmes and Simon Kenton. The Tigers also lost to Newport Central Catholic on Oct. 26. Max Nussbaum scored five touchdowns, picked off a pass and returned a punt 56 yards to lead Beechwood to a 35-13 win over Frankfort last Friday. Mayfield cruised past Kentucky Country Day 35-14 to advance. The Cardinals average better than 46 points per game. Beechwood has managed to overcome some off-field controversy. A number of players were suspended the first playoff game and a few dismissed form the team after alleged drinking at a party on the property of on of the players.
My Pick: A lot like last year. Mayfield 17-13
In the other bracket, defending champ Hazard will visit undefeated Fairview. The Bulldogs shut down Williamsburg last week, limiting the Yellow Jackets to just 45 rushing yards and under 200 total yards on offense. With a strong defensive performance, one touchdown was enough to pull off a 7-0 win. Fairview has cruised through the season. The closet game for the Eagles was a 40-27 win over Raceland. Fairview has outscored opponents by an average of 49-14. The big question for the Eagles: strength of schedule. Hazard's tough early season games led to some losses (Somerset, Lexington Christian and Breathitt County), but certainly prepared the Bulldogs for the rigors of postseason.
My Pick: Hazard 21-6
Somerset (11-2) advanced to the semi-finals for the second straight year. Last season, the Briar Jumpers fell to eventual state champ Covington Holy Cross. This year, Somerset will face another northern Kentucky private school in Newport Central Catholic (9-4). Like many of the top-tier small schools, Newport Central plays a brutal early-season against the big boys. The Thoroughbreds fell to Dixie Heights, Simon Kenton, Holmes and Campbell County, but rolled through their district. Somerset also faced some tough opponents. The Jumpers fell to one of the top 3A schools in Breathitt County and lost a clunker to Whitley County. Castle Hatcher completed 8-of-19 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns in last week's win over Danville.
My Pick: The Briar Jumpers feature of the best line play in the state. They flat out get it done in the trenches. I think that edge puts them over the top. Somerset 24-21
The other 2A bracket features a Caldwell County (10-3) against DeSales (9-4).
Belfry (11-2) finally found a way to stop Breathitt County star quarterback Richard Trent and cleared the top-ranked Bobcats out of the way last Friday. Belfry knows about making late-season runs. Last year, the Pirates rolled all the way to the state championship game, falling 15-14 to Louisville Central. Belfry scored 35 unanswered points last Friday in a 41-20 victory over Breathitt County. That sets up a meeting with Bourbon County (13-0), led by one of the state's top running backs, Kentayvous Hopkins. The senior exploded for 304 yards and three touchdowns last week in a 55-13 blowout of Mason County. The strength of the Belfry defense counters the strength of the Bourbon County offense. The Pirates have shown the ability to shut down running attacks. Belfry held a prolific Knox Central ground attack to an anemic 176 yards two weeks ago. The wild card may be Colonel quarterback Dalton Pope. The junior has show the ability to air it out when necessary, making the Bourbon County offense far from one-dimensional.
My Pick: I can go either way on this game. Belfry gets to play at home. The Pirates are tough and big. But I'm going with the upstart. I think Pope can do enough to keep the Belfry D from keying totally on Hopkins. Bourbon County 31-28
The other bracket matches up Monroe County and defending champ Louisville Central.
Can somebody finally dethrone Highlands? Lexington Catholic (11-2) will give it a shot. Many counted the Knights out when star quarterback and Louisville commit Kyle Bolin went down with a knee injury against Boyle County back Sept. 28. But sophomore Reese Ryan stepped in, took the reins and led Catholic to a 5-1 mark, with the only loss coming to 5A No. 1 Bowling Green. Last week, Ryan threw for 238 yards and one touchdown pass, as the Knights knocked off Boyle County 27-16. Highlands is, well, Highlands. Patrick Towles graduated and moved on to UK, and Donovan McCoy stepped right. Last week, the Bluebird QB scored all four Highlands' touchdowns in a 28-13 victory over Covington Catholic. But Highlands' armor did show a little chink this year. The Bluebirds lost a game - albeit to Ohio power Cincinnati Elder. Last year, Highlands and Lex Cath met in the quarterfinals, and the Bluebirds doubled-up Catholic 42-21.
My Pick: I just don't think the Knights are up to knocking off the perennial 4A power, especially with a sophomore QB under center. Highlands 38, Lexington Catholic 20
Collins (10-3) hosts Warren East (13-0) in the other bracket. I have a sentimental pick here. My daughter is a sophomore at Collins.
The Black Bears of Harlan County (11-2) will host Cooper (12-1) in a matchup featuring a bruising running attack against one of the state's best defenses. Cooper held high-flying Franklin County to 27 points last week in a 40-27 victory, and managed to keep one of the state's most electrifying backs in check. Ryan Timmons finished with just 81 rushing yards, 39 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Jaguars will face a different animal in the Black Bears. Harlan County presents no mystery. They will run the ball. Run the ball. And then run the ball some more. Last week, the Black Bears finished with 372 rushing yards, getting production from 11 different backs in a 46-12 victory over Pulaski County. But the only teams to hang double-digit point totals on that Cooper defense threw for more yardage than they rushed for.
My pick: Defense wins championships. Cooper 32-14
A pair of undefeateds will square off in the other bracket. No. 1 Bowling Green (13-0) visits No. 2 John Hardin.
Trinity (12-1) and Scott County (12-1) played for the 6A championship last season. This year, the two powerhouses meet in the semi-final round. The Cardinals built their 2012 success on a prolific ground attack led by Dieries Dumphord (159 yards and a touchdown in a 47-9 victory over Simon Kenton last week) and timely passing by quarterback Clay McKee (three out of four passes going for TDs last week). Trinity actually hit a bump in the road this season, a 45-42 loss to Archbishop Moeller, Ohio. Scott County stumbled in an early season loss to 4A power Highlands.
Star Shamrock star wide receiver James Quick broke a rib in last Friday's closer than expected 15-14 win over St. Xavier. His coach told the Courier Journal he was "day to day." Trinity rolled Scott County in last year's championship game, coming away with a 62-21 victory to earn the state crown.
My pick: Closer than last year, but I just can't pick against the Rocks. Trinity 42-21
The other bracket features an all-Louisville matchup between Pleasure Ridge Park (13-0) and Eastern (11-2).