The 5A Class is very top heavy in this year’s postseason. Perhaps the most talented grouping is in Region One. Both of the top two teams in the class are in Region One with Bowling Green and Owensboro. BGHS finished 9-1 with wins over Owensboro and McCracken County. The Purples boast a great secondary on defense and a balanced attack on offense. Jamale Carothers is one of the most talented players in 5A. Carothers has 927 rushing yards and 435 receiving for Bowling Green. The junior back had his breakout game last year against Owensboro when he ran for 336 yards. Owensboro held Carothers to less than 100 yards this year, but fell to the Purples 17-14. The Red Devils may have a chance for revenge in the regional final. Owensboro has a two-headed monster with Landon Board and T.J. James in the backfield. As of late, Board has been phenomenal. Board ran for 189 yards in the final regular season game. Greenwood will be a threat to Owensboro in the second round. The Gators have had an upstart season and finished with eight wins.
The favorites in Region Two are Fern Creek and South Oldham. Fern Creek has the top scoring defense in 5A, and South Oldham has the second best. Kyree Hawkins and Delquan Wimberley lead a team that likes to run the ball a majority of the time. When they throw, WKU-commit Lamarius Kinslow is the top target. South Oldham had won eight straight games before falling to Shelby County in their final game. The Dragons surprised many after losing a lot to graduation last season.
Both Highlands and Covington Catholic moved to 5A this season. Neither team had a winning record and there was plenty of disappointment on both sides. But the postseason is a great time to throw all that away. Highlands is the one seed along with Madison Southern. The Bluebirds played a front-loaded schedule and lost some tough games early before going on a four-game winning streak to close the season. Nick Kendall is still very dangerous and Austin Hergott is very talented as a QB. There is lots of parity in this region. Highlands plays Drake Jackson and Woodford County in the first round, while Anderson County takes on CovCath. This is a region where a lower-ranked team could sneak up and win the title.
Pulaski County, the defending 5A champ, leads the fourth region. Riley Hall is a straight baller at QB and is someone to look for to contend for Mr. Football. The Maroons will put up a lot of points in the air with Hall and Jake Johnson. Pulaski played without Hall last week and proved they can run the ball (390 yards). Both Pulaski County and North Laurel went 9-1, and they could meet in the regional final. Steven Nelson and North Laurel lost for the first time last week against Montgomery County. The Jags rolled through an easy district and will look to prove their merit in the postseason.
Best Potential Games
Pulaski County vs Bowling Green- The Purples beat Pulaski in the 2013 State Title and won last year in the regular season. Riley Hall would love to lead his team to another championship and beat Bowling Green. This would have to be in the state championship once again. There would be a lot of offense and it would test Bowling Green’s stout defense.
Graves County vs Greenwood- This is actually a first round game and that’s why it makes this list. Graves County had a down season and Greenwood got a program-defining 8-2 record. This would be a huge win for the Gators as they could advance to play Owensboro in the second round.
Owensboro vs Bowling Green- The rivalry between these two sparked this season. The first game was a tough win for the Purples in BG. The two could meet once again in the regional final. It’ll be interesting to see if the Red Devils move out of Bowling Green’s shadow.
Bullitt Central vs Fern Creek- With Cameron Dukes, Bullit Central has the top passing attack in all of 5A. Fern Creek will combat with the top defense. These two teams play on Friday night in the first round.
Players to Watch
Cameron Dukes, Bullitt Central- The leading passer in 5A has thrown for 2,700 yards and 21 touchdowns this year. Even more impressive? Only one interception. Dukes will face his toughest test when BCHS takes on Fern Creek this Friday.
Jake Johnson, Pulaski County- Riley Hall’s favorite target has been a starter since his freshman year. He has played in two state title games and has been one of the top receivers in the state in his three years. Hall will hit Johnson eight to ten times per game. He is truly a game-changer as a receiver.
Steven Nelson, North Laurel- The leading rusher in 5A leads an underrated North Laurel team into the postseason. Nelson averages 186 yards per game and has run for 31 touchdowns this season.
Region One- Bowling Green
Region Two- Fern Creek
Region Three- Highlands
Region Four- Pulaski County
State Championship- Bowling Green vs Pulaski County
Champions- Bowling Green– As I stood on the sidelines and watched BG roll through McCracken County, I realized how good the Purples were this season. Carothers is a stud and Clark Payne is developing as one of the top quarterbacks in southern Kentucky. As long as their offensive line stays healthy (it’s already fairly depleted) and the secondary holds Riley Hall to a modest game, the Purples will win their fourth title in five years.