All game times 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Highlands at Lexington Catholic
Radio: WMJR-AM 1380, WMJR-FM 94.9, WVLK-FM 101.5
Records: Highlands 13-0 (beat Covington Catholic 49-14); Lexington Catholic 11-2 (beat Boyle County 10-7)
History lesson: Highlands is 3-1 against the Knights, including a 31-24 win in the 2002 playoffs. LexCath beat the Bluebirds 17-0 in the 2005 playoffs. That was the last time Highlands was shut out. It has scored in 85 games in a row since then.
Points 'R' Them: Highlands' 1998 state champs scored a state-record 801 points. This year's Bluebirds, averaging 59 points a game, are 37 points shy of breaking that record.
Big numbers: Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles, who has committed to Kentucky, has accounted for more than 100 TDs in his career. He's thrown for 6,896 yards and 70 TDs, and run for 1,369 yards and 32 TDs.
Towles has amazing passing stats this year, despite sitting out the second half of several blowouts. He's thrown for 3,287 yards and 39 TDs and been intercepted just once. LexCath Coach Bill Letton is wary of Towles' ability to go deep. "We think a 40-yard pass is a long pass, but that's nothing for him. It's nothing for him to drop one out there 60 yards. He's got a strong arm." Highlands Coach Dale Mueller said Towles "has gotten better every single game. But I think our whole team has."
Even though leading receiver (and UK commitment) Austin Sheehan is out with an injury, Mueller said Highlands still has a rotation of six talented wideouts.
Knight moves: LexCath junior quarterback Kyle Bolin, who's committed to Louisville, has thrown for 5,259 yards and 44 TDs in his career. Adam Bush and David Bouvier are the top receivers. They've combined for 113 catches, 1,763 yards and 18 TDs. Mueller is impressed. "(Bolin) is a heck of a high school football player, a real talent," and he has a number of good receivers. And they've got a fast, athletic defense. They're similar to us like that. They play fast guys on defense that run to the ball."
Letton said his Knights have to mix up their offense against Highlands.
"We got too predictable against Boyle County," he said. Lexington Catholic ran the ball whenever Bolin was under center and always threw it out of the shotgun. "We've got to be able to run it out of the shotgun against Highlands," Letton said.
Next up: The winner earns a trip to the state finals in Bowling Green to play either Collins or Franklin-Simpson for the 4A title on Dec. 3.
Top state games
Class A — Beechwood at Mayfield: Between them, these programs have won 19 state titles in last 34 years.
Class 2A — Somerset at Covington Holy Cross: Somerset tries to reach state finals for sixth time since 1978.
Class 3A — Belfry at Garrard County: Belfry, state runner-up last year, must get by surprising Golden Lions to return to Bowling Green.
Class 5A — John Hardin at Bowling Green: Clash of unbeaten titans makes for semifinals' headline game.
Class 5A — Southwestern at Anderson County: Winner will make its first trip to finals.
Class 6A — Boone County at Scott County: Cards have beaten Boone County five of last seven times they've met, including a 35-14 win in the 2004 state semifinals.
Around the state
The Thanksgiving holiday revolves around food — turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie — and nobody can gobble up more of the good stuff than teen-aged boys.
Therein lies a potential problem for high school football teams playing in the state semifinals this week.
If Larry Linebacker or Ronnie Runningback ate too much on Thursday, they could be a bit sluggish or a step slow Friday night.
Do coaches worry about such things and warn their players not to overdo it at the Thanksgiving dinner table?
"Absolutely," Highlands Coach Dale Mueller said. "You can work hard all year long, and then eat like a pig on Thursday and you can't play well on Friday.
"You can mess things up a whole bunch of ways — how you eat, how you sleep, how you behave."
Somerset Coach Rob Lucas brought his players in for a Thursday morning practice before "getting them home to their families and the turkey, dressing and all the good stuff." He also planned to send them home with a warning. "We tell them to go easy, there'll be plenty of leftovers. We want them focusing on football because, trust me, these opportunities don't come around very often."
Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace said he was going to remind his players to push themselves away from the table, even though he doesn't think he needed to. "The kids who'll be playing in this game are thinking a whole lot more about Friday night than about Thanksgiving dinner. They're smart enough to realize this is the time of their lives. It's exciting for an athlete to be involved in this kind of situation."