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Class 5A State Final Preview: Owensboro vs. Bowling Green

Located 78 miles apart, via the Natcher Parkway, stand the 3rd and 4th largest cities in Kentucky.  In the intense rivalry between the city schools, you can’t root for both.

Bluegrass and barbecue or corvettes and caves?

Rivers or Hilltops?

Red Devils or Purples?

Wesleyan or Western?

Johnny Depp or Nappy Roots?

Cliff Hagan or Clem Haskins?

Highest-scoring offense or stingiest defense?

Owensboro or Bowling Green?

Take your pick.

Due to the previous geographically-based playoff system, the two schools have never played with a state title on the line.

Until now.

After playing 81 games over an 88-year span, the Owensboro Red Devils and Bowling Green Purples will have much more than bragging rights on the line Saturday.  Thanks (or no thanks depending on how you like it) to the fairly new RPI system, these west Kentucky (or perhaps eastern west Kentucky) rivals are now matched up in the finals.  No more home-and-home.  Just one huge game at Kroger Field to decide who is the king of a stacked 5A class that includes powers Frederick Douglass, South Warren, and Covington Catholic.

If you only have the time to go to one of the six state championship games, I highly recommend this one.  I’ll explain.

Last week both Owensboro and Bowling Green knocked out the school that had eliminated them in the 2019 semifinals.  Bowling Green used a ball-hawking defense to blank Covington Catholic 20-0.  That’s a 7-touchdown turnaround from last year’s 28-0 semifinal loss to the Colonels.


After falling at Frederick Douglass 28-17 in the 2019 playoffs, the Reds Devils got revenge at home last week.  Owensboro got a Pick-6 on the game’s first play and later jumped out to a 21-0 2nd quarter lead over the Broncos.  The Red Devils fell behind 27-21, but Wimsatt led a clutch touchdown drive capped with a scoring swing pass to Ethan Avery.  Douglass quickly got in field goal range, but their kicker misfired wide left in the final minute, setting the stage for this epic final.


To quote the Bowling Green rappers Nappy Roots, “Awww Naw, Y’all Done Up and Done it.”

Bowling Green leads the bitter series rivalry 40-39-2.  Owensboro dominated during the first several decades, while Bowling Green turned the tide lately.  Bowling Green won 14 straight over Owensboro during a recent dynamic stretch that saw the Purples win five state titles in a six-year span from 2011 to 2016.

Owensboro won the most recent matchup, though, picking up a 2nd round victory over Bowling Green in the 2018 playoffs, snapping the 14-game series losing streak in the process.  The Red Devils are seeking their first title since 1986 and third overall.

It’s fitting that the first Bowling Green – Owensboro state championship matchup is at Kroger Field. Bowling Green senior Jordan Dingle, a UK commit, will get valuable experience playing in Lexington. Owensboro junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, a UK target, will get to play under the lights at UK on Saturday.  Hopefully he will want to call that place home.

Dingle, the state’s top-ranked tight end, picked the Cats over Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, among others.  His brother, Justice Dingle, just transferred from Georgia Tech to Kentucky this week where he will play outside linebacker.  Justice and current Wildcat Vito Tisdale were part of the 2016 Bowling Green team that manhandled Pulaski County 70-22 in the 5A state championship game.

Wimsatt, a 4-star dual threat, is being recruited by several powerhouses including Notre Dame and Michigan.  He is also one of the state’s top junior basketball players, so maybe he could help Coach Cal’s Cats as well.  He and Dingle were both named to the KSR All State Football Team.

The matchup to watch?  Wimsatt and the high-powered Owensboro offense against the stout Bowling Green defense.  Wimsatt’s favorite target is senior Treyvon Tinsley (42 catches for 602 yards and 10 TDs.)   Owensboro is tops in Class 5A scoring offense (47.4 points).  Despite being undefeated the Red Devils have been a little loose with the ball this season.

They will need to shore that up against a Purple defense that leads the state in interceptions (21) and leads 5A in scoring defense (9.8).  The Purples have allowed only 66 points to teams not named Trinity.  Bowling Green forced South Warren into eight turnovers in the 2nd round of the playoffs, avenging a regular season loss to the Spartans.  Bowling Green senior linebacker Rece Jones is a tackling machine.  Dingle, who plays a little on defense in edge rushing situations, could be putting some pressure on Wimsatt.

The Owensboro defense is also very good.  In Class 5A they rank 5th in scoring defense (13.8 points) and 2nd in defensive interceptions (16).  Senior linebacker Austin Gough is one of the state’s top players.  He was on the First Team AP All State team as a sophomore but missed several games last year with injury.

They will be matched up against a Bowling Green offense that likes to run the ball with senior RB Javy Bunton (185 carries for 964 yards and 19 TDs).  Senior QB Conner Cooper is also a threat on the ground (80 carries for 428 yards and 6 TDs).  He has improved greatly throughout the season.  The Purples’ offense became more run-oriented once their top wideout, Dez Wilson, was injured for the year early in the season.

Bowling Green comes in battle tested, sporting a 3-2 record against KSR Prep Top 25 Teams.  Owensboro is 1-0 against ranked teams and that victory came about due to a missed Frederick Douglass chip shot last week.

These teams are playing for the ultimate bragging rights.  Winner take all.  Are you ready for this wild west (KY) shootout at Kroger Field?  Who you got?

Game Details

#7 Owensboro and #4 Bowling Green will kick off at 3:00 P.M. ET Saturday at Kroger Field in Lexington. Tickets.

2-Minute Preview


— KSR State Ranking:  7

— State Championships:  2 (1974, 1986)

— State Runner-up:  5 (1983, 1999, 2000, 2014) – Lost to Highlands 3 times (’99, ’00, ’14)

— Last Season:  Finished 12-2.  Lost to Frederick Douglass 28-17 in 5A semifinals.  Owensboro’s only regular season loss was to Evansville (IN) Central.

— This Season (12-0):

  • Defeated Apollo 50-13
  • Defeated Daviess County 42-34
  • Defeated Ohio County 57-7
  • Defeated Muhlenburg County 55-0
  • Defeated Owensboro Catholic 28-14 (Kroger KSR Game of the Week)
  • Defeated Graves County 42-21
  • Defeated Grayson County 41-0
  • Defeated Breckenridge County 69-6
  • Defeated Breckenridge County 81-6 (5A Playoffs Round of 32)
  • Defeated Graves County 28-21 (5A Playoffs Round of 16)
  • Defeated Fairdale 1-0 – COVID CANCELLATION  (5A Quarterfinals)
  • Defeated #10 Frederick Douglass 28-27 – (5A Semifinals)

Key Players

Jr. QB/P Gavin Wimsatt – 145-for-235 for 2,070 yards, 26 TD, 10 INT, 80 carries for 408 yards and 6 TD

Sr. RB Ethan Avery – 97 carries, 630 yards and 9 TD, 23 catches for 238 yards and 3TD

Sr. WR Treyvon Tinsley – 42 catches for 602 yards and 10 TD

Sr. LB Austin Gough – 112 tackles

Bowling Green

— KSR State Ranking: 4

— State Championships:  6 (1995, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016)

— State Runner-up:  4 (1994, 2005, 2006, 2007)

— Last Season:  Finished 9-4.  Lost to Covington Catholic 28-0 in 5A semifinals.  Covington Catholic went on to defeat Douglass 14-7 in 5A finals.

— This Season (9-2):

  • Defeated #11 St. Xavier 14-0
  • Defeated PRP 24-6
  • Lost to #13 South Warren 10-7 (Kroger KSR Game of the Week)
  • Defeated McCracken County 28-12
  • Defeated Christian County 42-0
  • Defeated Greenwood 43-0
  • Lost to #1 Trinity 42-7
  • Defeated Greenwood 35-7 (5A Playoffs Round of 32)
  • Defeated #13 South Warren 41-24 (5A Playoffs Round of 16)
  • Defeated North Bullitt 55-7 (5A Quarterfinals)
  • Defeated #18 Covington Catholic 20-0 (5A Semifinals)

Key Players

Sr. QB Conner Cooper – 131-for-226 for 1,686 yards, 13 TD, 6 INT, 80 carries for 428 yards and 6 TD

Sr. TE Jordan Dingle – 36 catches for 473 yards and 2 TDs

Sr. LB Rece Jones – 119 tackles, 3 sacks

Sr. RB Javy Bunton – 185 carries for 964 yards and 19 TD, 22 catches for 253 yards and 2 TD

Past 5A Results

(Playoffs expanded from four classes to six in 2007)

  • 2019: Covington Catholic 14 Frederick Douglass 7
  • 2018: South Warren 20 Covington Catholic 16
  • 2017: Covington Catholic 49 Madison Southern 13
  • 2016: Bowling Green 70 Pulaski County 22
  • 2015: Bowling Green 21 Pulaski County 7
  • 2014: Pulaski County 14 Graves County 7
  • 2013: Bowling Green 49 Pulaski County 14
  • 2012: Bowling Green 34 Cooper 20
  • 2011: Bowling Green 55 Anderson County 3
  • 2010: Highlands 50 Christian County 0
  • 2009: Highlands 35 John Hardin 7
  • 2008: Highlands 35 Christian County 15
  • 2007: Highlands 28 Bowling Green 7

Relevant Links

Check out these great articles by KSR’s own Nick Roush to find out more about Dingle and Wimsatt.

Article written by Troy Howell

Follow me on twitter @ teeroyhowell