It’s time for the KHSAA State Championships. With Western Kentucky playing in the C-USA Title Game, the schedule for all six championships has shifted. The 5A Championship Game will be on Saturday night and will feature Pulaski County and the hometown squad, Bowling Green at 8 central. I’ll have live tweets and occasional periscopes from the games, if you’re into that kind of thing. For those interested in the live stream of the game, click here for the KHSAA stream.
Best Win: Highlands 41-31
For the third straight season, the Maroons find themselves in the state title game. After losing to Bowling Green in 2013, Pulaski County beat Graves County last year in the finals. The constant throughout Pulasksi’s prolific stretch has been Riley Hall. The senior QB is only the ninth player with 10,000 passing yards or more in state history. The Maroons have ridden Hall to a 40-3 record over the last three seasons. Hall is extremely mobile and has an excellent arm for a QB of smaller stature. When my high school played him in 2013, we called the then sophomore “Kentucky’s Johnny Football,” a name that carried more weight at the time. Hall’s favorite target over the last three years has been junior wide receiver Jake Johnson. One of the premier receivers in the state, Johnson has 90 catches for 1,498 yards and 23 touchdowns. In addition to a top passing game, Pulaski County has also developed a solid core of running backs. Jaylon Conwell, Mason Helton, and George Gregory have all played large roles at some point this season. Hall is always a threat to run as well. The Pulaski County offense has scored 34 or more points in each win this season. Their only loss was a 53-31 defeat to Scott County. The Maroons have three shutouts this season, including a 43-0 win over Henry Clay.
Best Win: McCracken County 38-14
The Purples are back in the state title game for the fourth time in five years. The Purples won the previous three as part of their 48-game winning streak from 2011-14. This senior class is the last group that got any playing time on that team. But the studs to watch on this team are all juniors. Jamale Carothers has totaled 1,276 yards on the ground this season. Carothers has developed as one of the top junior backs over the last two seasons. Clark Payne is in his first year at QB for the Purples. The junior has thrown for 31 touchdowns and only six picks. Payne has thrown three or more touchdowns in six games this season. DeAngelo Wilson has caught 15 of those touchdowns for 871 yards. Carothers has added 679 receiving yards and Jacob Yates is third with 562. On defense, Bowling Green brings back another tough defensive front. With 29 sacks and 25 interceptions, the Purples’ defense wrecks havoc on opposing backfields. Tre Fant has nine interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. Bowling Green is athletic and smart as usual, and they will be a tough test for Pulaski County.
Let me start by saying this may end up being the best game of the weekend. There are crazy good athletes all over the field for both squads. Pulaski will be looking for revenge as the Purples beat them in the state title two years ago and in the regular season in 2014. The Maroons are also seeking their second consecutive 5A title. It would be a huge exclamation mark on Hall’s career and may boost him to win Mr. Football. Bowling Green’s defense is talented enough to make Hall uncomfortable. But with his scrambling ability, Bowling Green will need to protect down the field and make sure Hall doesn’t have time to make accurate throws out of the pocket. Fant will be covering Johnson most likely, which is a matchup to keep your eye on. Bowling Green’s talented junior class will need to lead them on Saturday. I think Payne will show how far he has developed, as long as the inexperienced BGHS o-line gives him time to throw. Payne has been sacked 23 times this season. Carothers and Yates will have to open the offense on the ground.
Trey’s Pick- The Purples beat Riley Hall and the Maroons by 35 in 2013. Pulaski County will flip the script this season. I like Pulaski to win 49-38.
Nick’s Pick- Riley Hall will end his career by making a case for Mr. Football with a win over Bowling Green for back-to-back State Championships.