TOP CITY GAMES (kickoff at 7:30 p.m. unless noted)
Ashland Blazer at Bryan Station
Records: Ashland Blazer 6-2 (beat Greenup County 48-6 last week); Bryan Station 3-4 (lost to Henry Clay 28-21)
Ratings: Ashland Blazer is No. 14 and Bryan Station is No. 12 in 5A.
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Tomcats on a roll: Ashland has had its offense in high gear in winning its last five games, Rashard Carter (1,096 rushing yards, six TDs) and Josh Albers (620 yards, 15 TDs) have been the primary weapons.
Big win needed: If Bryan Station's program is indeed turning the corner, it needs to beat the Tomcats. Close losses to Johnson Central, Woodford County, Lafayette and Henry Clay were encouraging to the Defenders, but also frustrating for a team learning how to win. Bryan Station is outscoring and out-gaining its opponents, and has fewer turnovers.
Big man on 'D': Over the last two years Bryan Station's Earl McCann has a team-leading 10 interceptions and 79 solo tackles.
Key to victory: Who'll be stronger in the trenches? That's the key in a showdown of teams that prefer to run the ball.
Fairview at Lexington Christian
Records: Fairview 6-1 (beat Bath County 48-26); LCA 5-3 (lost to Breathitt County 40-26)
Ratings: Fairview is No. 8 and LCA is No. 2 in 1A.
Radio: WJMM-FM 99.5
Keeping up with Jones: LCA's defense will focus on Fairview QB Matt Jones, who had 303 all-purpose yards last week, including an 80-yard kickoff return for a TD. On the season Jones has run for 900 yards and 14 TDs, and thrown for 400 yards and three scores.
Road warriors: LCA hopes that losses at Raceland, Corbin and Breathitt County have toughened it up for the stretch run. A win over Fairview would earn LCA a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Recent history: Fairview hasn't beaten the Eagles since 2004. LCA has won the last three years by scores of 21-14, 38-0, 28-14.
Key to victory: Fairview's defense knows from experience it has its hands full against LCA. Fairview limited RB Domonique Hayden to just 17 yards last year, but QB Lucas Witt threw for two TDs and ran for another score.
Henry Clay at Tates Creek
Radio: WLAP-AM 630
Records: Henry Clay 3-4 (beat Bryan Station 28-21); Tates Creek 2-5 (lost to Scott County 34-20).
Ratings: Henry Clay is No. 8 and Tates Creek is No. 27 in 6A.
Decisively Devils: Henry Clay has scored more than 40 points in beating Tates Creek in the last four meetings, including 45-0 and 49-7 routs last year.
A lot at stake: The winner gets to play at home in the first round of the playoffs. The loser has to make a trip to northern Kentucky to start the post-season.
Offensive bump: After struggling to score in its first four games, the Blue Devils' offense has come to life. Cole Mielcarek has eclipsed, 1,000 yards passing. Jason Rider has 44 catches for 556 yards and five TDs. Tyler Hooker leads the ground game with 403 yards and five TDs.
Silver linings: Tates Creek lost last week, but the Commodores put a dent in a solid Scott County defense. QB Chris Kemplin threw for 175 yards and a TD, and Rozell James caught five passes for 99 yards and a score. Tates Creek's 252 yards were more than its season average. Alan Beatty's 10 tackles led the defense, which forced five turnovers.
Key to victory: If this rivalry's history is an indicator, Tates Creek's offense needs to assert itself early to keep up with the resurgent Devils.
Paul Dunbar at Lafayette
Records: Dunbar 1-6 (lost to Madison Central 57-6); Lafayette (did not play last week)
Ratings: Dunbar is No. 35 and Lafayette is No. 18 in 6A.
Generals on the defensive: Lafayette has surrendered only 81 points, by far the fewest allowed by any city team. Generals' opponents are averaging less than 200 yards a game. Leading Lafayette in tackles are Erick Quesada, Eric Shaw and Aaron Petty. Interception leaders are Gary Demus (4) and Jamel Sleet (3).
Goose eggs: Dunbar's 8-0 playoff victory over Lafayette last year is the only time the Generals have been blanked in their last 40 games. It was Dunbar's first shutout in 95 games. Over its last 125 games, Dunbar has registered two shutouts, both coming against Lafayette (8-0 last year, and 48-0 in 2000).
On the shelf: Lafayette sophomore Brett Durbin, who'd been sharing time at QB, is out for the season after suffering a shoulder injury against Tates Creek. Dr. Timothy Kremchek, orthopaedic surgeon for the Cincinnati Reds, will operate on Durbin.
Two-way standouts: Steven Willis and Martaveous Mays lead Dunbar's offense in all-purpose yards, and the Bulldogs' defense in tackles.
Key to victory: Neither team is an offensive juggernaut — Lafayette is averaging 18 points; Dunbar is averaging 13 — but the Generals hold an edge on defense.
West Jessamine at Lexington Catholic
Records: West Jessamine 1-6 (lost to Woodford County 37-28); Lexington Catholic 4-4 (lost to Highlands 41-0)
Ratings: West Jessamine is No. 27 and Lexington Catholic is No. 2 in 4A
Formidable foes: Lexington Catholic has lost to Boyle County, Highlands and Covington Catholic, who are a combined 20-0 against in-state competition.
Mismatch history: In last five years the Knights have whipped West Jessamine 77-0, 55-0, 69-8, 42-12, 40-0 and 57-21.
On the run: Lexington Catholic QB Nic Ward had to take matters (and the ball) into his own hands against a Highlands' defense that did a good job covering the Knights' receivers. Ward ran or scrambled 17 times for 68 yards against the Bluebirds. In the first seven games this year, Ward carried 37 times for 85 yards.
Key to victory: Lexington Catholic is a huge favorite over West Jessamine, which has lost 29 of its last 31 games. Its two wins were against Bourbon County.
Top state game
Scott County at Clark County: Scott County can clinch top seed in district with a victory.
AROUND THE STATE
Brothers in pads: If Washington County Coach Mark Perry refers to his football team as a band of brothers, he may be referring to the Simms brothers — Joe Joe, Alex and Ben — all starters for the Commanders.
Joe Joe, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior signal-caller, has thrown for 1,590 yards and 20 touchdowns, and run for 579 yards and nine TDs. "He's the best quarterback I've seen on film or in person," said Perry, a former graduate assistant at UK. Alex, a junior receiver, has 37 catches for 490 yards and five TDs. "There's definitely chemistry and brotherly love between Joe Joe and Alex," Perry said. "They really trust each other, and have an extra sense that comes from being brothers."
Ben, a sophomore, has started at cornerback the last few weeks, and seen spot duty at receiver. The Simms brothers also play basketball for Washington County.
Playoff matchups: We'll have a clearer view of the playoff picture after Friday's games, but here are the districts the Lexington teams will face in the first round of the post-season.
In 6A, Lafayette, Henry Clay, Tates Creek and Paul Dunbar will go against northern Kentucky's top four teams out of these five: Boone County, Campbell County, Conner, Ryle and Simon Kenton.
In 5A, Bryan Station probably will have to go on the road to play either defending state champ Highlands or Covington Catholic.
In 4A, Lexington Catholic likely will be at home against Bourbon County.
In 1A, if Lexington Christian beats Fairview on Friday, it will open the playoffs at home against Lynn Camp. If LCA loses to Fairview, it will have to go to Campbellsville.