When the KHSAA changed football to six classes in 2007 and increased the number of teams qualifying for the postseason from 128 to 192, it became possible for a team to slog through a winless regular season but still advance to the playoffs.
By my count, 27 winless teams "accomplished" that (de)feat from 2007 to 2013. They went 0-27 in their first-round playoff games against No. 1 seeds and lost by an average of 51 points.
This year five more winless teams qualified for the postseason. Four of them — Bracken County, Harrison County, Hopkins County Central and Phelps — appear to be doomed to defeat in the first round. But Somerset has other ideas. Coach Robbie Lucas thinks his Briar Jumpers have a shot at beating host Shelby Valley in the Class 2A playoffs Friday night.
"We are what we are." Lucas said. "We're 0-9. That's our record. I'm not happy with it. The kids aren't happy with it. But we're going to try to change it. I hope we're the first (winless team) to win a playoff game, and I like our chances."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Somerset is a tradition-rich program, and Lucas has upheld that standard. In his first year as coach, he led the Jumpers to a state runner-up finish. They reached the semifinals the next four years. They had an overall record of 55-15 from 2009-13.
Then came this year. "Our lack of success was a shock to everybody," Lucas said.
Lucas said it was a combination of fielding an extremely young team and an extremely tough schedule, especially early on. They faced 5A powers Pulaski County and Southwestern.
They dropped a close game to Pike County Central. They were competitive against Glasgow, Hazard and Letcher County Central.
Then came excruciating district losses to Danville (21-19), Lexington Christian (22-21) and Middlesboro (52-47).
Through all the struggles (and injuries), Lucas said his players never lost hope and never quit working. Junior quarterback Castle Hatcher and his young supporting cast have continued to improve.
"I believe our best games are in front of us," Lucas said. "We're knocking on the door. I know it sounds crazy, but if we win Friday, I could see us getting to the region finals. I think we can play with anybody."
■ Almost half the teams — 88 out of 191 — in this year's playoffs didn't have a winning record in the regular season. Seventy-three teams had losing records, including 20 with one victory or less, and 15 teams finished .500.
■ Rockcastle County is making a nice gesture as it hosts Marion County in the 4A playoffs.
Admission is $6, with $1 from each ticket sold benefiting Marion County Coach Jeff Robbins' medical costs as he fights multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood.
■ After missing the last month with a knee injury, Damien Harris is supposed to play for Madison Southern when it visits Letcher County Central in the 5A playoffs Friday night.
Letcher Central Coach Mike Holcomb is familiar with Harris. In the first round of the playoffs last year Harris helped wreck the Cougars 49-7.
"He's the real deal," Holcomb said. "We feel he's going to play ... we want to compete against the highest level people, so we're excited about playing him again."
Harris, rated the No. 1 running back in the nation, rushed for 1,420 yards and 26 TDs before getting hurt in a loss to Southwestern. Madison Southern lost three of its last four games without him. Letcher Central, hosting a playoff game for the first time in five years, has some weapons of its own.
Quarterback Zane Blair has thrown for 1,673 yards and 20 TDs, and run for 465 yards. Jaylyn Williams is a 1,000-yard rusher with 17 TDs, and Lucas Tanner has 606 receiving yards and 11 TDs.
■ Lexington Catholic first-year coach Mark Perry is focused on getting his Knights ready for the 4A playoffs.
But Perry also has a rooting interest in the 6A playoffs. Central Hardin, where Perry coached the previous three seasons, is undefeated and rated 11th in the state. "I worked with those kids for three years, so it's exciting to see them go 10-0," Perry said.
"They're a really competitive group." Tim Mattingly, who was defensive coordinator at Meade County, succeeded Perry as Bruins coach. Perry said he still keeps in touch with some of his former assistants still on the Central Hardin staff, and with Bruins senior quarterback Koree Krupinski, who last year under Perry led Central Hardin to an 11-2 record.
■ Williamsburg beat Pineville 46-7 to finish the regular season 10-0 for the first time since 2004. The Yellow Jackets, Class A runners-up last year, were led by Skyler Griffith, who threw five TD passes, Fred Massey, who ran for two scores and caught a TD pass, and Chase Lowrie, who had three TD catches.
■ Besides Central Hardin and Williamsburg, four other teams finished undefeated in the regular season: Male, Johnson Central, Pikeville and South Warren.
■ Defending 6A champ Scott County heads into the playoffs having won 60 of its last 65 games the last five years. The Cardinals' losses have been to Male, Trinity (twice), Highlands and Bryan Station. Keith Guy and Theo Price have each rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the second year in a row.
■ Elizabethtown whipped Glasgow 42-0 and limited Scotties' star Marquez Trigg to 18 yards on 18 carries. Trigg, who has committed to play at Western Kentucky University, had been averaging 160 rushing yards a game.
■ Taylor County has qualified for the postseason for the first time in five years. The Cardinals won four of seven games after Dudley Hilton took over as coach in mid-September. Taylor County visits Knox Central on Friday in the 4A playoffs.
■ Apollo faces Bowling Green in the first round of the 5A playoffs for the fourth year in a row. The Purples have demolished Apollo 57-6, 62-6 and 49-7 the last three times on their way to undefeated state titles.
■ Rowan County didn't make the playoffs, but Ray Graham's Vikings closed the season on a positive note as they rushed for 717 yards in a 60-54 victory at Montgomery County.
That's the second most rushing yards in a game in state history. Conner ran for 745 yards in an 84-48 win over Franklin County in the 2011 playoffs.
Rowan County beat Montgomery County on Dylan Fultz's 9-yard TD run with 37 seconds left. Fultz finished with 131 yards and two TDs. Blake Carver led the Vikings with 300 yards and four TDs, and Jeffrey Masters had 231 yards and two TDs.
■ McCracken County's reward for going 9-1 and winning its 6A district? In the first round of the playoffs, the No. 13 Mustangs play host to Manual, which was rated No. 1 in the state earlier this season.
The No. 8 Crimsons are 7-3, with district losses to No. 1 Male, No. 2 St. Xavier and No. 6 Trinity.
■ This week in high school football in 2005: South Laurel freshman Ricky Bowling threw five TD passes in a 40-28 win over Lafayette in the first round of the 4A playoffs. ... Kaelin Ammons passed for 391 yards and five TDs to lead Franklin County past No. 25 South Oldham 45-14. ... Donald Walker had 309 all-purpose yards and four TDs as Mercer County beat Morgan County 48-28.
■ Caldwell County's Elijah Sindelar threw for 278 yards and two TDs in a 40-12 loss to Mayfield. Sindelar has 3,033 yards and 41 TDs this season. He has a state-record 136 career TD passes and he's fourth in career passing yards with 12,061. Sindelar, who's committed to Purdue, needs 107 yards against Hancock County on Friday night to surpass Tim Couch for the No. 3 spot.
■ Tates Creek's hopes of winning the 11th Region volleyball title last week evaporated when senior star Kendall Beerman hurt her knee on the final point of the second set, which tied the match with Paul Laurence Dunbar 1-1.
The injury turned out to be more serious than originally thought. According to Tates Creek Coach Sara Chaffin, Beerman tore her ACL and meniscus. She will have surgery, and face six to eight months of recovery. Beerman, who earned Under Armour All-American honors this week, will play college volleyball at Indiana.
■ The state cross country meet is at the Kentucky Horse Park on Saturday.
The competition starts with the Class A girls at 9:30 a.m., and continues through to the 3A boys at 2:15 p.m. Collins sophomore Gabriella Karas will be going for her fourth consecutive girls' 2A title.
Matt Bode of Collegiate is defending boys' Class A champ and Jay Sollinger of Collins is defending boys' 2A champ. Sayre senior Maddox Patterson, state champ in 2009, '10 and '11, will try to close her career with another title. Ben Young of Tates Creek is among the favorites in 3A.