How about some facts and figures from this year’s opening round of the football playoffs, aka The Least Interesting Friday in Kentucky High School Sports?
▪ All but 11 of the 93 games played in the first round were decided by more than 14 points. Seven of those games were extra-competitive, being decided by seven points or fewer.
Tates Creek emerged victorious in one of the single-digit finishes, staving off a Boone County rally on the road, 34-27. This week the Commodores head to Lafayette, which defeated them 50-28 in the regular season. Creek quarterback Cameron Workman was injured on the opening drive of that game and did not return. The junior was 20-of-30 for 255 yards and four TDs last week.
Lafayette’s 39-16 finish over Butler was its ninth double-digit win in 11 games, three more than at this point last season.
▪ Forty-three contests ended with scores that qualified for a running clock (a margin of 36 or more points). Twenty of those games were decided by at least 50 points.
Lexington Catholic’s and Lexington Christian’s games didn’t end as game-quickening finals but both started the second half with leads that gave the clock operator a break. The Knights led Waggener 42-6 en route to a 55-22 win while LCA had a 56-6 edge over Shelby Valley which gave way to a 56-26 final.
On paper, this week’s opponents should make for more compelling bouts. Bardstown, whose only loss this season was to district rival Central, 21-19, brings the third-highest scoring offense in Class 3A to Lexington Catholic.
Somerset, which was either in or on the fringe of the media top 10 all season, took a 21-19 lead into the fourth quarter against LCA at home last month before the Eagles scored 22 fourth-quarter points on their way to a 41-28 win.
▪ Twelve games ended in shutouts, five of them occurring in Class 2A and none in Class A.
▪ Seventy of the 186 teams that played games last week — about 38 percent — had losing records. Ten of those teams — Allen County-Scottsville, Bell County, Campbell County, Campbellsville, Crittenden County, Eastern, Frankfort, Murray, Pike County Central and Washington County — advanced to the second round.
Surprisingly, six of them beat teams with winning records to do so. There’s a little fuel for the fire of fans who like the first round (they’re out there, believe it or not).
▪ This observer would be just fine if the first round of the football playoffs — along with the district tournaments in baseball, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball — went the way of the dodo. Advance the top two seeds from each district in football and send the top two district finishers in other sports on to the regional tournament. Make the regular season really matter.
More first-round notes
▪ Junior quarterback Ben VanHook set single-game school records for passing yards, attempts and completions in Harrison County’s first-round loss to Greenup County last Friday. VanHook was 28-of-48 for 421 yards and two TDs. He finished with an even 1,600 yards for the season.
▪ Central Hardin’s 50-0 win over Seneca officially gave the Bruins consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2006. Central Hardin defeated Muhlenberg North 35-0 on Sept. 22, 2006, and was later awarded a 2-0 forfeit win over Iroquois in a game it originally won 24-20 on Sept. 15 of that season.
The last team Central Hardin posted back-to-back shutouts without the help of forfeiture? In 1999, when it defeated Fort Knox (42-0) and Central (27-0) in the opening weeks of September.
▪ Trinity is ranked 21st in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 national football rankings. Since rallying for a 37-34 victory over Male on Sept. 9, the Shamrocks have allowed just 23 points in seven contests, which includes five shutouts. They host Eastern, whom they defeated 56-0 on the road last month, on Friday. Eastern’s 41-7 win over North Hardin was its first in the postseason since 2012, when it reached the state semifinals.
▪ Pineville’s 69-14 win over Jenkins was its first playoff victory since 2013 and its biggest since a 57-6 win against Lynn Camp in 2014. Senior quarterback Tuck Woolum rushed for 105 yards and five TDs on six carries and was 5-for-7 for 93 yards and two TDs.
Oddly enough, it was also the Mountain Lions’ second straight game against Jenkins, whom they hosted in the final week of the regular season. They won the first game 50-22.
▪ Seth Conn had 139 yards and four TDs on 12 carries for Pike County Central in its 43-34 win over West Carter. The Hawks travel to Russell, which got a bye to the second round and has won seven straight.
▪ Three Henry Clay senior volleyball players — Darby Music, Hallie Shelton and Emma Yarber — signed their national letters of intent Wednesday.
Music and Shelton each inked with Western Kentucky University. Yarber is headed to Western Michigan.
Their class — which also includes Jessica Sunnenberg, who hasn’t yet committed to a school — went 25-0 against 11th Region opponents the last two seasons and became the first from a Lexington school to play in the state finals.
Henry Clay Coach Dale Grupe expressed dismay at losing a history-setting class following the Blue Devils’ 3-1 loss to Sacred Heart in the championship game, but feels great about the program’s future.
“We’re gonna definitely miss these four seniors, especially their leadership,” Grupe said. “But I think we’ll be OK.
He continued with a laugh, “We’re gonna hopefully pull like an Assumption and just reload.”
▪ Seven athletes from Lexington Catholic signed national letters of intent Wednesday. They were: Meghan Cason (volleyball, Kenyon College); Julia Hatcher (volleyball, Clemson); Luke Johnson (basketball, Loyola-Maryland); Landon Moberly (baseball, Kentucky Wesleyan); Trip Lockhart (baseball, Kentucky); Reilly Lowe (volleyball, La Salle); and Ben Wilcoxson (baseball, Kentucky Wesleyan).
▪ North Hardin basketball standout Tony Jackson committed to Coastal Carolina last week. Jackson, a senior who led the Trojans to the 5th Region semifinals last season, became the second boys’ player from Kentucky to recently choose the Chanticleers. Christian County star Jaylen Sebree, whose team fell to South Laurel in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen last season, committed to Coastal Carolina on Oct. 14. Both players figure to be contenders for Mr. Basketball this season.
▪ Graves County basketball star Chris Vogt, who last season set the single-season blocks record with 190 and the single-game record with 17 against Webster County on Jan. 16, signed with Northern Kentucky University on Wednesday.
Vogt is 10th all-time with 330 blocks in his career. The state record of 541 is held by Paintsville’s J.R. VanHoose, who won the 1998 Mr. Basketball award. Graves County will play in the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic in December.
▪ Cooper’s Sean McNeil, one of the top players in the 9th Region, signed with Bellarmine on Wednesday. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard averaged 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Jaguars as a junior.
▪ Lexington Christian athletes Brooklyn Brinegar and Evan Davis signed with colleges this week. Brinegar signed with Asbury to play softball, becoming that program’s second player in as many years to join a college program. Davis, a golfer, signed with Belmont.
‘Winning Your Players’
DeAngelo Wiser, an assistant women’s soccer coach at Asbury who coached girls’ soccer at Jessamine County, West Jessamine and East Jessamine from 1992-2012, has written a book to help coaches of any sport improve their relationships with players, parents and others involved in youth sports. It’s titled “Winning Your Players” and is available on Amazon digitally and physically.
Riser wasn’t the first coach at Jessamine County but he was in on the ground floor of a program that eventually split into two schools, one of which — West Jessamine — last weekend became the second non-city public school to win a girls’ soccer championship. He remains active in Jessamine County’s soccer community.
“I’m not really a part of either program, but I still feel attached to everything that goes on in the county,” Riser said.
Most coaches hone in on the X’s and O’s of their game well enough, Wiser said. One of his hopes is that his book will improve coaches’ ability to relate and communicate with their players away from the field, which he believes translates to better on-field performance.
“Every day coaches face tough decisions they have to make based on challenges outside the game,” Wiser said. “ … Sometimes we try to run plays to win a game and the players do what we ask. But can we get them to do it with a belief that ‘Yes, this play is gonna work because I’ve watched coach all year long and his actions match his words and we believe in him or her.’”