CITY GAMES (all times 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted):
Bourbon Co. at Lexington Catholic
Records: Bourbon County 3-7 (beat Paris 38-28 last week); Lexington Catholic 6-4 (did not play last week)
Ratings: Bourbon County is No. 30, Lexington Catholic is No. 2 in Class 4A
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Accent the positive: Bourbon County has only three wins, but that's more than it had the previous three years combined. QB Taylor Barnes sparks the Colonels. He has 933 yards and nine TDs rushing and passing.
Nic of time: As a sophomore last year, Nic Ward quarterbacked Lexington Catholic to a state title. He has thrown for 3,783 yards and 39 TDs over the last two years and has playoff experience on his side.
Key to victory: The Knights should have no trouble as they go for their 13th playoff win in 14 games since 2005.
Bryan Station at Highlands
Records: Bryan Station 6-4 (beat Fleming County 58-6); Highlands 9-1 (beat Central 28-0)
Ratings: Bryan Station is No. 10, Highlands is No. 1 in Class 5A.
Bluebirds of happiness: Highlands is averaging 51 points. Its efficient offense is led by QB Tony Guidugli, who has passed for 1,841 yards and 12 TDs, and run for 335 yards and 10 TDs. Austin Collinsworth, son of former Bengals star Cris Collinsworth, has 31 catches for 552 yards and three TDs.
'A' game needed: Bryan Station has its best team in eight years, and it'll need to play its best game in eight years to have a shot at upsetting Highlands. The Defenders need big performances from its playmakers, including Patrick Cornett (1,312 rushing yards, 15 TDs); Muhammad Saifullah (28 catches, 362 yards, seven TDs) on offense and Kris Bolton, Earl McCann and Roy Philon on defense.
Key to victory: Bryan Station can't be intimidated or play timidly against Highlands, which has won 24 games in a row against Kentucky competition and is favored to win a state-record-tying 18th state title.
Lynn Camp at Lexington Christian
Radio: WJMM-FM 99.5
Records: Lynn Camp 4-6 (lost to Middlesboro 41-11); LCA 7-3 (beat Hazard 49-7)
Ratings: Lynn Camp is No. 17, LCA is No. 2 in Class A
Person of interest: Lynn Camp sticks to the ground on offense, led by Tyrone Person, who has run for 1,014 yards and 11 TDs.
Pass/run equality: LCA has terrific balance on offense. It has rushed for 2,347 yards and passed for 2,286. Domonique Hayden has run for 1,561 yards and 24 TDs. Lucas Witt has thrown for 2,059 yards and 23 TDs.
Key to victory: Lynn Camp is on a four-game losing streak, including a 27-7 loss to Hazard. LCA drubbed Hazard 49-7 last week. Those comparative scores add up to an LCA victory.
Paul Dunbar at Boone County
Records: Dunbar 1-9 (lost to Boyle County 55-10); Boone County (lost to Madison Central 22-16)
Ratings: Dunbar is No. 35, Boone County is No. 7 in Class 6A.
Run, run, run: A few weeks ago Boone County's Charles Quainoo led the state in rushing and had one game in which he carried 51 times for 348 yards. After Quainoo hurt his ankle two weeks ago, Rebels sophomore Jordan Oppenheimer carried 46 times for 188 yards against Madison Central last Friday.
Amnesia needed: Dunbar needs to forget its recent past, especially blowout losses to state powers Trinity (56-0) and Boyle County (55-10) the last two weeks. If the Bulldogs get big games from skill people Martaveous Mays (977 all-purpose yards), Marquis Clay (584 all-purpose) and Steven Willis (484 rushing), could they pull a shocker?
Key to victory: Dunbar's hopes for an upset rest with trying to contain Boone County's running attack.
Ryle at Henry Clay
Radio: WVLK-FM 101.5
Records: Ryle 5-5 (did not play last week); Henry Clay 5-4 (did not play last week)
Ratings: Ryle is No. 14, Henry Clay is No. 5 in Class 6A.
Remember the Raiders: Two years ago Ryle made the state finals before losing to Trinity. This year's Raiders aren't finishing so strong. They've lost three of their last four games. The victory came against Dixie Heights when QB Conner Hempel hit 20 of 25 passes for 277 yards and four TDs.
Surge is working: After losing its first four games, Henry Clay has won five in a row. QB Cole Mielcarek (1,351 passing yards and 11 TDs), RB Tyler Hooker (612 rushing yards, nine TDs) and WR Jason Rider (48 catches, 637 yards, five TDs) have led the resurgence.
Key to victory: Henry Clay's defense, led by LB Mike Federspiel, needs to repeat its performance from two weeks ago when it shut down Boone County. If the Devils do that, they'll probably have a return trip to Boone County next week.
Simon Kenton at Lafayette
Records: Simon Kenton 6-4 (did not play last week); Lafayette 7-3 (lost to Trinity 65-0)
Ratings: Simon Kenton is No. 16, Lafayette is No. 17 in Class 6A.
Ground gamer: Miles Simpson is the guy who makes Simon Kenton go. The 6-3, 195-pound junior tailback has rushed for a school-record 1,584 yards and 24 TDs, almost half of the total offense.
Bounce-back time: Lafayette's defense, which had given up only 53 points in its previous eight games, surrendered 65 to Trinity. The Generals' offense, which hit its stride in recent weeks, hit a rock wall against the Shamrocks. The Generals need to patch their psyche if they hope to make a playoff run.
Key to victory: Stopping Simpson is Lafayette's top priority. Simon Kenton has won three games in a row. In its last loss (42-7 to Boone County), Simpson was held to 28 yards.
Tates Creek at Conner
Records: Tates Creek 2-8 (lost to Bell County 38-0); Conner 6-4 (beat Holmes 40-6)
Ratings: Tates Creek is No. 30, Conner is No. 23 in Class 6A.
Up-tick Cougars: After losing 23 of 30 games the previous three years, Conner has turned things around. The Cougars come into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak. They are led by junior QB Nick West, who has thrown for 2,152 yards and 23 TDs and leads the team in rushing with 547 yards. A trio of receivers — Michael Gill, Ryan Delph and Tyler Brake — have combined for 1,200 yards.
Down-tick Commodores: Tates Creek has lost five in a row since a triple-overtime win against Dunbar in late September. The Commodores' offense has been missing in action, managing only two TDs and averaging just over 100 yards over the last three weeks. QB Chris Kemplin has thrown for 1,106 yards for 12 TDs and has been intercepted 12 times.
Key to victory: If Tates Creek hopes to avoid its third two-win season in four years, it needs to jump-start its offense.
TOP STATE GAMES
Bullitt Central at Madison Central: Both teams are 8-2, making this the best matchup, record-wise, in first round of the playoffs.
AROUND THE STATE
Air, heir apparent: South Laurel senior quarterback Ricky Bowling threw five touchdown passes against East Jessamine last Friday, giving him 133 in his career and tying Tim Couch’s state record. “It still hasn’t hit me,” Bowling said Tuesday. “But deep down I know it’s a great accomplishment. It’s an honor to be mentioned with Tim Couch because he was such a great quarterback.”
Bowling will get a chance to set a new standard when South Laurel visits Whitley County in the Class 5A playoffs Friday night. “We didn’t make a huge deal out of Ricky tying the record,” South Laurel Coach Jason Chappell said. “If he’s fortunate enough to break it in the playoffs, we will.” Bowling and Clay County QB Zach Lewis already have eclipsed several of Couch’s career records this fall. In passing yardage, Lewis (13,401) and Bowling (12,259) have surpassed Couch (12,167). In pass attempts, Lewis (1,426) and Bowling (1,398) have overtaken Couch (1,375). In completions, Bowling (915) and Lewis (899) have supplanted Couch (875).
Winless but alive: Seven winless teams are in the playoffs: Glasgow, Fort Knox, Lawrence County, Moore, Morgan County, Pendleton County and Waggener. Fort Knox is on a 31-game losing streak and has lost 40 of 41 over the last four years.