Class 4A: Lexington Catholic (11-2) at Highlands (12-1). In last year's semifinals, Highlands beat the Knights 42-21 on its way to a fifth consecutive state title. The Bluebirds graduated a bunch of starters, including quarterback Patrick Towles (Mr. Football), but here they are, favored to win another championship.
Donovan McCoy has taken over at QB. Like Towles, McCoy is a dual threat. He's passed for 2,445 yards and 29 TDs, and ran for 819 yards and 17 TDs. "One game he'll throw for 400 yards, the next game he'll carry the ball 25 times," Coach Dale Mueller said. "He's a real bright guy who's as tough as nails."
Highlands has a stable of running backs, led by Zach Harris, Jaylen Hayes and Colin Seidl (who returned two kickoffs for TDs against Lexington Catholic last year).
Defensively, the Bluebirds are fast and furious as they swarm the ball.
Bill Letton's Knights showed grit by rallying from a 16-0 halftime deficit to beat Boyle County 27-16 last week. Sophomore QB Reese Ryan, who replaced injured senior star Kyle Bolin, has thrown for 1,214 yards and 15 TDs. David Bouvier has 83 catches for 1,240 yards and six TDs. Amoh Kumengisa leads the ground game with 539 yards and 14 TDs. Lexington Catholic's defense has been solid in recent weeks, with Josh Mesmer, Nick Foster, Alex Nash and Michael Vogelsang leading the charge.
The Lexington Catholic-Highlands winner advances to the 4A finals in Bowling Green next Friday to play either Collins or Warren East.
Top state games
Class 6A: Scott County (12-1) at Trinity (11-1). This is a rematch from last year's state finals in which Trinity whipped the Cardinals 62-21. The Shamrocks had a tough test last week, rallying from a 14-0 deficit to beat archrival St. Xavier 15-14. Star receiver James Quick suffered a rib injury early in that game. His availability for the semifinals is questionable. "Trinity showed great mental resolve, not having one of their best players and still coming back to win," Scott County Coach Jim McKee said.
Trinity QB Travis Wright has thrown for 3,083 yards and 34 TDs, and Dalyn Dawkins has run for 1,213 yards and 15 TDs. Quick has 82 catches for 1,333 yards and 14 TDs, so if he can't play, Wright will have to find another go-to receiver.
McKee is equally impressed with Trinity's defense, which will try to stifle Scott County's potent ground attack. Kevo Edwards and Dierrieus Dumphord have each rushed for more than 1,200 yards. Dumphord, a 200-pound senior, may be the key player. "Dierrieus is a strong, physical kid," McKee said. "If we can't run him between the tackles, we're going to be hurting."
The Scott County-Trinity winner advances to the 6A finals in Bowling Green next Saturday to face Eastern or Pleasure Ridge Park.
Class 3A: Bourbon County (13-0) at Belfry (11-2). Bourbon County's wide-open, high-scoring (50 points per game) attack will go against the Pirates' physical defense. Belfry's smash-mouth, ground-hugging offense will test the Colonels' quickness and speed.
"We know it'll be a challenge," Bourbon County Coach John Hodge said.
Belfry Coach Philip Haywood is concerned about the Colonels' athleticism. "They've got so many skill guys, they can score anytime," Haywood said, singling out Bourbon County senior Kentayvus Hopkins (1,935 rushing yards, 27 touchdowns). "And the speed they have on defense will make it difficult to make big plays on them."
Class 5A: Bowling Green (13-0) at John Hardin (13-0). The defending champion Purples have won 28 games in a row, including a 62-20 rout of John Hardin in last year's semifinals.
Class A: Hazard (9-3) at Fairview (13-0). Hazard is in the semifinals for the sixth year in a row while Fairview is in the final four for the first time. Hazard is led by QB Evan Whitaker, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards two years in a row. Jordan Olinger has had back-to-back seasons with more than 800 receiving yards.