Here we go, high school football fans, it’s the season in which every week could be the last, and for half of the teams, it will be.
Except for the favorites, mostly. They have absolutely minimal risk of losing. They’ll be around next week, almost for certain, for those on the top side of the 1-4 matchups across neighboring districts through the five classes that Northern Kentucky teams inhabit.
For those at the other end of this season’s spectrum, they get to end their seasons, and for many of these players, with what is often a crushing defeat.
There have even been a pair of forfeits around the state already, as we go with the new/old KHSAA playoff plan of matching up No. 1 seeds with No. 4 teams in the other district. Those games are unfailingly walkovers when they happen in the same district. They may be even worse in this format. The No. 2 vs. No. 3 games will be better, at least, on occasion.
But how much better?
As I said last week about the cross-district change: “All it does is make these games cross-district mismatches. And a longer bus ride home for the losers.”
I’m still in favor of only two teams per district moving on to the playoffs allowing an extra week for a regular season game of the schools’ own choosing for a better matchup.
And that would place a greater premium on the regular season. Now, you can lose every game and still make it with only the seeding and a home or road playoff game on the line.
That being said, here’s a quick look ahead at this week’s first-round games which will set the stage for state championship contenders in three of the four classes at least.
There’s Newport Central Catholic in Class A, Beechwood again in Class 2A, Highlands and Covington Catholic looking for a rematch in Class 5A and maybe Simon Kenton in Class 6A just for the sake of having a rooting interest in the largest school category.
Eminence (0-10) at Newport Central Catholic (8-2) (played at Dixie Heights) (7 p.m.):
Right away, we have a mismatch as a winless Eminence team heads to NewCath, where the district-winning Thoroughbreds await a chance for redemption after a recent loss to Beechwood.
Ludlow (4-6) at Frankfort (5-4), 7:30 p.m.:
A trip awaits the Panthers as Kentucky school kids for years have made the journey to the capital. This will be a game to follow, as No. 3 seed Ludlow stands a chance to upset a No. 2 seed across the districts.
Berea (4-6) at Dayton (5-5), 7:30 p.m.:
It has been an up-and-down season for the Greendevils but beating Ludlow on Oct. 21 (and then Eminence last week for a two-game win streak) earned Dayton a home game to start the playoffs. One more game this season for historic Davis Field, Kentucky’s oldest high school football stadium.
Fairview (1-9) at Bishop Brossart (8-2), 7:30 p.m.:
Good job by the Mustangs who have had to scrap hard for their downstate district title. They’ve got a great place to play and a chance to host suburban Ashland Fairview from the bottom of the upriver district next door.
Trimble County (1-9) at Beechwood (9-1), 7:30 p.m.:
Trimble County drew the short straw from the rural/urban adjacent 2A district where it finished fourth and must make the trip to Ft. Mitchell. Beechwood gets another week to work on fine-tuning itself in the post-Mitchell Berger era after the Tigers’ impressive win over NewCath last week.
Holy Cross (2-8) at Carroll County (6-4), 7:30 p.m.:
Can a three seed beat a two seed with a much better record? This might be one place to find the answer, and it would be a great way for the Indians to fight on with a flourish.
Newport (3-7) at Walton-Verona (8-2), 7:30 p.m.:
Welcome back to Northern Kentucky, Bearcats. As the cross-district plan has Walton-Verona playing another Northern Kentucky team, a Newport team that lost 57-0 to Beechwood on Oct. 20, but also has an early season win over Bishop Brossart to its credit. One thing to note: Both teams have had two weeks to get ready for this game.
Owen County (5-5) at Lloyd Memorial (7-3), 7 p.m.:
It’s a nice reward after the season the Juggernauts have had to get a home game in Erlanger to start the postseason. They hope it’s the first step toward a rematch against Beechwood somewhere down the line.
Scott (4-6) at Lexington Catholic (8-2), 7:30 p.m.:
More bad news for the team that finished fourth in the district RPI, which turned out to be Scott after its 44-6 loss to Holmes. As No. 4, the Eagles will have to head to Lexington to face a one-loss Lexington Catholic team that has beaten Ryle and lost by a point to Covington Catholic.
Bourbon County (2-8) at Holmes (6-4), 7 p.m.:
Holmes made the best finishing move here, beating Scott and ending up No. 2 in the district RPI, and getting both a home game and a 2-7 Bourbon County team as the Bulldogs’ opponent. Holmes looks to be in good shape despite a loss last week to Lloyd.
Montgomery County (3-7) at Highlands (8-2):
Fire up the cannon at David Cecil as the high-flying Highlands Bluebirds make their move to the top in Bob Sphire’s second year in Ft. Thomas. Tough trip for the guys from Mt. Sterling.
Cooper (5-5) at Scott County (9-1):
Watch out, Scott County. Here’s another 2-3 matchup that could go the way of the Northern Kentucky team even against a good opponent. Cooper is tough and has been tested against the likes of CovCath and Highlands.
Great Crossing (8-2) at CovCath (8-2), 7:30 p.m.:
Not sure the Georgetown team that lost its two games by a combined 97-0 to Scott County and Frederick Douglass will be a good matchup for CovCath, even though both boast 8-2 records.
Marshall County (3-7) at Simon Kenton (7-3), 7:30 p.m.:
Man, what a long trip for the folks from basketball-minded Marshall County – 600 miles back and forth to and from Kentucky Lake country for a first-round date in Ft. Thomas. Enjoy the sightseeing, guys. And take some cheese coneys home with you. Marshall County is only here because there wasn’t a fourth-place team in the paired district, so the KHSAA moved them in from the First District.
Campbell County (4-5) at Louisville Trinity (6-4):
OK, the Shamrocks aren’t what they used to be these days but still, this is Louisville Trinity we’re talking about. And they’re playing at home. After a tough year in more ways than one, the Camels could use this game – and trip — to rid themselves of some of the difficult times they’ve had to play through.
Dixie Heights (3-7) at Louisville Ballard (8-2), 7:30 p.m.:
Another tough trip to Louisville for a Northern Kentucky team having to play through a difficult season. Reality says that Week 2 in Class 6A will have an all-Northern Kentucky vs. an all-Louisville pair. The winner of the Simon Kenton game plays the winner of Trinity-Campbell County, while the winner of Ryle’s game plays the winner of Ballard-Dixie.
Louisville Eastern (4-6) at Ryle (5-5):
After playing Simon Kenton and CovCath in the final two weeks of the season (losing both), Ryle gets a home game and maybe a bit of a break in Louisville Eastern from a Jefferson County district with two really good teams and not all that much else.