NKY teams hope to grab five spots in semifinals

Posted at 4:36 AM, Nov 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 04:36:08-05

Kentucky enters the third round of the state tournament, and eight of the nine local teams that remain will face other area opponents.

After this week, either four or five teams will head to the semifinals.

Simon Kenton (12-0) at Cooper (10-2), 7:30 p.m. – This round has spelled the end of the season for Simon Kenton each of the past three years, but the Pioneers were not unbeaten at this point in any of those campaigns. Not only is Simon Kenton perfect, it has won each of its games by at least 16 points and has scored at least 40 in each of its last three. Cooper went to the state title game in 2012 and the made the semifinal round last season. The Jaguars have surrendered just six points in their two playoff games. The Pioneers won, 26-7 when these teams met in the regular season, and quarterback Cameron Racke was 15 of 24 for 174 yards, and he rushed for another 91 yards in the win. Cooper has never beaten Simon Kenton, and it will be tough for the Jaguars to pull off their first-ever win vs. the Pioneers this week.

Covington Catholic (5-7) at Highlands (7-5), 7 p.m. – It is not surprising that these teams are meeting yet again the quarterfinal round, but the team records are what few anticipated at this point. Still,  the regular season is meaningless at this point as both have won their first two playoff rounds. TSF has documented how Colonels QB A.J. Mayer has improved throughout the season, and he faces the biggest test of his young career this week. With him keying the offense, CovCath has averaged 36.7 points in its last three weeks after struggling to put up points early in the year. Highlands has scored 102 points in its two playoff games, but its improvement on defense has been most noticeable. The Bluebirds have given up just 13.5 per contest during their six-game winning streak. Highlands won, 14-10 when these teams met in district play. The Bluebirds should probably be a slight favorite.

Johnson Central (10-1) at Scott (10-2), 7 p.m. – Johnson Central has not won in this round since 2006 and was deposed of by CovCath in the second round each of the past two seasons despite being 11-0 both years at that point. This season the Golden Eagles have one loss – a 41-0 defeat by mountain power Befry. Johnson Central has thrown the ball just 78 times all year but has had some success in the air and will likely need to put it up more against a solid Scott defense. The Eagles have played two close games this postseason – a 33-26 win over Rowan County and a 28-18 victory over Ashland Blazer. Scott continues to make history with each playoff win and has a legitimate shot at making the state semifinal round. This one is too close to call.

Lloyd (9-3) vs. Newport Central Catholic (7-5) at Newport, 7 p.m. – The regular season meeting between these teams was epic, with NewCath coming away with a 29-26 win. The Juggernauts blew out Carroll County, 41-0 to open their playoff season and continued their march by beating Walton-Verona, 31-14 last week. Lloyd has played in five games decided by eight points or fewer, and that experience could help if this game comes down to the final minutes. After beating Holy Cross by just seven in the regular season, NewCath pounded the Indians by 31 last week and has allowed just 22 points in its postseason wins. Jacob Smith rushed for 176 yards last week after not playing in the playoff opener. With him in the lineup, the Thoroughbreds should be a favorite in this one, but Lloyd will be a tough out.

Beechwood (11-1) at Louisville Holy Cross (7-5), 7:30 p.m. – Beechwood has obliterated its schedule, winning eight in a row and outscoring opponents, 445-75 in that stretch and allowing just 30 points in their last six, including three shutouts. Holy Cross barely beat Kentucky Country Day last week, which barely beat Ludlow the previous Friday. Not much to see here: the Tigers should win big, setting up yet another semifinal matchup against not Mayfield, which moved to Class 2A, causing Beechwood to salivate.