A breakdown of this week’s regional football finals involving Central Kentucky teams, including predictions.
Danville (10-2) at Lexington Christian (12-0), 7:30 p.m. (Class 2A): LCA won all of its games this season by double-digits except for its bout with Danville, in which the Eagles rallied from 19 points down to win 42-40. The Admirals scored with less than a minute left in the first meeting to draw within two points but couldn’t recover an onside-kick attempt. Zack Dampier, who’s thrown 35 touchdowns and for nearly 3,000 yards, heads the Admirals’ attack. For much of the season LCA used two quarterbacks, Brayden Miller and Logan Nieves, but the latter injured his finger during the first Danville game and his status is to be determined. Regardless of who’s under center, expect Dillon Wheatley to get ample touches: he carried 38 times for 249 yards and four TDs in the first get-together. Prediction: Lexington Christian 45, Danville 35.
Central (7-5) at Lexington Catholic (7-5), 7:30 p.m. (Class 3A): Wishful thinking by those expecting these big-city small schools to fall from the pack after poor starts against stacked schedules turned out to be wasteful; they’re back in the regional round, where LexCath ended Central’s season a year ago. The Yellow Jackets missed a game-winning field goal as time expired in that contest, 14-13. LexCath has won six straight after a five-game skid, and done so convincingly. Perhaps the most telling contest for this matchup? Central edged Bardstown, 21-19, for the regular-season district title; the Knights declawed those same Tigers, 53-14, in the second round of playoff action. Prediction: Lexington Catholic 38, Central 20.
Mercer County (8-4) at Wayne County (10-2), 7:30 p.m. (Class 4A): The Titans came on late and put themselves in contention for a final-four berth with a thrilling 31-30 win over Rockcastle County, one of only two teams able to take down Wayne County in the regular season (the other was Bryan Station). The Cardinals handled Mercer earlier in the season, 47-23, in a game that saw two rushers — Dalton Garner and Chase Jackson — hit triple-digit yardage. Jackson is no longer with the team, removing a potential threat but adding an element of mystery to this rematch. Prediction: Wayne County 33, Mercer County 27.
Pulaski County (10-2) at Southwestern (9-3), 7:30 p.m. (Class 5A): Interestingly, all three of the Warriors’ losses were to highly regarded teams in lower classes — Corbin, Danville and Lexington Catholic. They took the first meeting with Pulaski County, 21-6, holding the Maroons to their lowest point total since Southwestern shut them out on Oct. 24, 2014. Pulaski County, which boasts a Mr. Football favorite in Jake Johnson, hopes history will repeat itself: the Maroons won the rematch that year on the way to their first state title. Wiley Cain, a sophomore who rejoined Pulaski County in October after breaking his collarbone in the team’s opener, has thrown for 354 yards and five TDs without an interception in the postseason. Prediction: Pulaski County 28, Southwestern 27.
Simon Kenton (11-1) at Lafayette (11-1), 7:30 p.m. (Class 6A): No team in the class has scored more points this season than the Pioneers, who are averaging 48 a game. Cam Racke, a Wofford commit, has thrown for 1,548 yards and 24 TDs. Junior Matt Shearer has also seen action in every game, accumulating 1,230 yards and 12 TD throws. Last season Simon Kenton took an undefeated record into the state semifinals at home, where Lafayette ended its season. The Generals this week lifted the weight of Jedrick Wills’ recruitment from their shoulders after the five-star offensive tackle committed to Alabama. They’ve won seven straight games by a double-digit margin. Prediction: Lafayette 47, Simon Kenton 38.
Ryle (12-0) at Scott County (10-2), 7:30 p.m. (Class 6A): The No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the Cantrall Ratings collide at Toyota Stadium for a state semifinals berth. Ryle, the only undefeated team in the class not named Trinity, dismantled its first two playoff opponents — Henry Clay and Cooper — after slipping by each in the regular season. Scott County has scored the third-most points in the class while Ryle is tied with Lafayette for fourth-most. The Cards have taken their last seven games with ease and will be motivated to move past this round for the first time since they won a state title in 2013 (especially if Lafayette, which was given a forfeit victory over Scott County earlier this season, is waiting in the wings). Prediction: Scott County 40, Ryle 35.