Friday Night Fletch picks the Regional Championship Winners… @1776Bank @PrepSpin @KyHighFootball @kyhighs @HLpreps @840WHAS @sfitz_840whas @evans02_Mike 

Paducah Tilghman's Martels Carter, Kentucky's top-rated player

“Friday Night Fletch” picks the winners in all 24 Regional Championship games

He’s simply the best there is. Why is “Friday Night Fletch” the very best? There is a simple answer; he does the work. Expertise can only be accomplished one way…DO THE WORK. Whether you are enjoying his radio podcast, “Friday Night Kentucky” with Scott Fitzgerald or reading his daily submissions here; there is but one fact which reigns abundantly clear-Fletcher Long does the work. No one in Kentucky knows half as much about football at the KHSAA level and it is an honor to work with him, though I still like to give him a hard time. I am sure the rest of the staff at Kentucky Prep Gridiron feels similarly about our Senior Sports Writer and Editorial Board Member. Enjoy this look at the coming regional championships and our prediction as to which team will prevail and what the score and margin will likely be.

HB Lyon, Scouting Director, KPGFootball

1A Regionals-

KCD is definitely a “heavyweight” at this level of play

Friday Night Fletch

Newport Central Cath. (8-4) @ Campbellsville (10-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: Campbellsville 38, Newport Central Cath. 10

Analysis: Campbellsville got by Holy Cross (Lou.) in round two and Kace Eastridge had an incredibly efficient night throwing the football. He was 10 for 12 for 231-yards and a pair of TD tosses. Campbellsville has too much for Newport Central Cath.

Ludlow (8-4) @ KCD (10-2)

KPGFootball predicted score: Kentucky County Day 35, Ludlow 14

Analysis: Kentucky County Day (KCD) has been threatening to win a title at this level of competition for the last five or so years. We have picked them to win it all, preseason, two of the last five. Ludlow has had a fine year but KCD is definitely a “heavyweight” at this level of play.

Middlesboro (9-2) @ Pikeville (9-2)

KPGFootball predicted score: Pikeville 42, Middlesboro 20

Middlesboro’s Cayden Grigsby (QB)

Analysis: Larry French (Middlesboro) is among the best to have ever walked a sideline in the Kentucky High School game. We liked Middlesboro all year long and believed, preseason, they would be a top five team at the 1A level. We believe that may all prove true; however, they have the misfortune of having to travel to Pike County and take on a two-time, defending, title holder who has plenty to repeat and may be the favorite to do just that. Chris MacNamee, Head Coach at Pikeville, certainly ain’t no dog (pardon the grammar). We like the Panthers here.

Raceland (9-3) @ Sayre (12-0)

KPGFootball predicted score: Raceland 28, Sayre 24

Analysis: We didn’t think Sayre could get by Paris High in round two. In fact, we accused Sayre of being a “Paper Tiger.” This means we thought they hadn’t really beaten anybody of note. We would like to officially apologize. We are afraid we are going to have to pick against the “little private school that could” another week. We like either Raceland or Pikeville to win it all this year.

2A Regionals-

Martin County has as much chance of winning…as Vivek Ramaswamy has of being the Republican nominee

Friday Night Fletch

Martin County (7-5) @ Beechwood (11-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: Beechwood 42, Martin County 0

Analysis: When Martin County gets on its bus to trek to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky the Cardinals will discover (if they didn’t already know this) that it is approximately 184-miles between Inez, KY and the suburb of Cincinnati, OH Beechwood calls home (Fort Mitchell, KY). That distance between the two programs will look like the distance between two neighborhoods compared to their difference on the playing surface. Martin County has as much chance of winning this football game as Vivek Ramaswamy has of being the Republican nominee for President next year.

KPGFootball predicted score: Lexington Christian Academy (LCA, 11-1) @ Mayfield (10-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: LCA 45, Mayfield 38

LCA’s real MVP, Hardge

Analysis: The beautiful thing about being a Mighty Mayfield fan is there isn’t a man, woman, and/or child alive today in Graves County, Kentucky not singularly convinced Mayfield will beat (and perhaps embarrass) Lexington’s Christian Academy at Memorial Stadium this coming Friday night. That being said, LCA has a multi-faceted, juggernaut of an offensive attack with weaponry all over the field and, perhaps, Kentucky’s very best running-back in Brady Hensley. Still, with all of that being said, LCA’s MVP this season may be a defender. Kenyatta Hardge has 43-tackles this year, 19.5 of which happened in the opponent’s offensive backfield (17.5 TFLs and 2-sacks). That is altering a drive and putting an opponent “behind the sticks” over 45% of the time a defender makes a stop and that doesn’t factor his forcing a pair of fumbles. That is devastating play.

Green County (10-2) @ Owensboro Catholic (“O. Cath.,” 12-0)

KPGFootball predicted score: O. Cath 50, Green County 20

Analysis: If there is a program in all of Kentucky which could conceivably win a title at 2A not named LCA, Beechwood, or Mayfield, that program is Owensboro Catholic. When 5A Owensboro Senior ends Atherton’s magical ride this coming Friday night, and moves on to the 5A Semis; remember, the Red Devils couldn’t beat these Aces earlier in the year. The Aces are simply just that good. They have more playing talent, between Brady Atwell and the Carrico brothers (Vince and William), than in any year we remember, and (perhaps) the best coaching staff in the Bluegrass.

Shelby Valley (9-3) @ Somerset (9-3)

KPGFootball predicted score: Somerset 35, Shelby Valley 21

Analysis: This is Clay Clevenger‘s first year at the helm, following the untimely passing of Coach Lucas (Robbie) of whom so many of us thought so very much. Lucas led the Briar Jumpers to a 2A title in ‘2019. Clevenger, who won a title at Danville in ’17, has shown he can flat coach. We like Somerset to advance. Somerset’s a hard place to visit.

3A Regionals-

Thomas (Bell Co.),…just became the 4th-back in Kentucky history to eclipse 3,000-yards in a season

Friday Night Fletch

East Carter (9-2) @ Bell County (11-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: Bell County 35, East Carter 14

Analysis: Remember when the good “Carter” was West Carter? East Carter is a tough outfit running up against one of the best coaches in Kentucky history (Dudley Hilton) and a RB, in Daniel Thomas, who just became the 4th-back in Kentucky history to eclipse 3,000-yards in a season. We asked Coach Phillip Haywood (Belfry), who we had on our show “Friday Night Kentucky” how he would stop Thomas in round two? Coach said he didn’t. That proved prophetic. Thomas then went out and gained 249-yards in 35-carries against a well-coached and disciplined defensive unit which knew, darn well, what was coming. East Carter will be similarly vexed.

Central (7-5) @ Christian Academy-Louisville (CAL) (11-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: CAL 28, Central 21

Cotez Stone

Analysis: These two met in the regular season and it was an instant classic with CAL prevailing 13-6. We mentioned then the two would see each other a second time. There isn’t a more talented RB in Kentucky than Central’s Cortez Stone. There isn’t a more lethal, downfield passing tandem than CAL’s Hodge to Hodge (Cole to Connor). Throw out the records, they are officially meaningless. We believe the Centurions prevail by the same seven (7) point margin it did last time. This one could, just as easily, go the other way.

Union County (11-1) @ Hart County (12-0) 

KPGFootball predicted score: Hart County 21, Union County 17

Analysis: Hart County has never been this far in the KHSAA playoffs before this season. Union County has been here before but not much farther. We believe Union County is awfully one-dimensional and that one-prong attack stands to get them in trouble the further down the playoff road the Braves travel. The “one-dimensional” gripe is just as true of Hart County as it is Union. However, Hart County has beaten Spencer County, Franklin-Simpson, Glasgow, and Campbellsville. Union’s two most impressive wins were Madisonville North-Hopkins and a one-point win over the same Franklin-Simpson squad Hart just beat by three (3) on October 20. This one, like Central/CAL, could go either way.

Lexington Catholic (8-4) @ Rockcastle County (“The Rock” 11-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: Lexington Catholic 42, The Rock 21

The last time “The Rock” was this good another Larkey (Tom) was coaching them (2006). They aren’t good enough to get over Lexington Catholic however. The last time I ignored my Lexington agent’s prediction Catholic would win a game, when Lexington Catholic played Scott County, we all saw how that ended. Lexington Catholic has lost four this year but they were to Highlands, Lexington Christian, Corbin, and Boyle. All four of those teams would have beaten the Rock too, if we’re being fair. Rockcastle’s top win was over Bell County. That win is looking better all the time.

4A Regionals-

Johnson Central is one of the more feared ground attacks in the entire KHSAA

Friday Night Fletch

Corbin (12-0) @ Boyle (12-0)

KPGFootball predicted score: Boyle 28, Corbin 24

Boyle’s Avery Bodner

Analysis: In a perfect world these two would be meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. We believe these to be the two best teams in 4A and two of the best teams in the KHSAA at any level. Corbin has the best defense in Kentucky anchored by the “Smith Boys,” Jacob and Jerod. They have allowed 56-points all year, in 12-games, and blanked Frederick Douglass. QB, Kade Elam, has thrown for 26-scores and been picked only twice (2). Boyle has Kentucky’s most lethal and dynamic athlete in Montavin Quisenberry, a QB in Sage Dawson who won the District’s POY over his teammate and threw for the same 26-TDs against only two (2)-picks, and a RB, in Avery Bodner, who is about to eclipse a thousand yards rushing in a little more than a hundred carries while contributing 60-tackles on defense, 9.5-TFLs, and four (4) QB-sacks. Quisenberry scores 14.2 points a ball-game by himself. Something in this matchup has got to give. This is another, could go either way, game.

Johnson Central (9-3) @ Covington Catholic (12-0)

KPGFootball predicted score: Covington Cath. 35, Johnson Central 21

Analysis: Johnson Central is one of the more feared ground attacks in the entire KHSAA. Johnson Central is approaching 4,000-yards of rushing offense on the year (3,990-yards, 614-carries, 51-rushing TDs as a team). Both Carter Conley and Christian Barnes are around the 1,000-yard mark on the season a piece. Still, Covington Catholic ruled 5A for years before being realigned down a classification. Covington Catholic beat Highlands (who we think may win 5A this year) and Beechwood (who we think may win 2A this year) as well as beating 6A Regional finalist, Ryle, and Paul Blazer High in round two. They are “Northern Kentucky” royalty. Those guys ball out up there.

Bardstown (8-4) @ Franklin County (12-0)

KPGFootball predicted score: Franklin County 42, Bardstown 14

Analysis: Franklin County has been threatening to win 4A every year in the last five or so seasons. Bardstown took a second to find its 4A legs, having played for the 3A title a year ago before being realigned into 4A. This is an awfully tough game for a newly minted 4A squad. Matter of fact, this would be a tough game for Boyle, Tilghman, Cov. Cath., or Corbin. Bardstown is about to gain a few athletes for its hardwood squad.

Spencer County (7-5) @ Paducah Tilghman (12-0)

KPGFootball predicted score: Tilghman 48, Spencer County 21

Xavier Cleary

Analysis: At some point, Tilghman will run into a team with roster talent in its neighborhood. When it does, it may turn on “X’s” and “O’s.” This isn’t that week. Jack James has had an incredible year (225 for 324, for 3,615-yards, 51-passing TDs against only four (4) picks) and is the Blue Tornado‘s new career passing leader in several key passing demographics. Transfer (4* from Chattanooga) Martels Carter has led the team in scoring (108-points) and INTs (3). Carter has also forced a fumble and recovered two others. Spencer County got mauled by Franklin County 41-7. We’re afraid more of the same may be immediately forthcoming.

5A Regionals-

Owensboro Senior has been playing winning football, in Kentucky, since 1895

Friday Night Fletch

Owensboro (8-4) @ Atherton (11-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: Owensboro 35, Atherton 21

Analysis: Owensboro (Senior) High has been playing winning football, in Kentucky, since 1895. The Red Devils have won close to 800-games, won four Kentucky Championships (1917, ’74, ’83, and ’86), been runners-up four times (1999, 2000, ’14, and ’20), and have 9-undefeated seasons. Atherton’s high-water mark, before this year, was its 9-1 season in 1973. Atherton will be hosting Kentucky High School Football Association royalty when the Red Devils come off that bus on Friday night. We’re kind of surprised to see Atherton still around and hosting a Regional Championship. We’re never surprised to see the Red Devils in round three, and even beyond, in the KHSAA playoffs. Owensboro has won seven of its last eight and nine of its last 11 while Atherton has peeled off 11-straight “Dubs.” Still, Atherton lost its opener to 1A, KCD, by 11. That doesn’t bode well for the Ravens’ chances this coming Friday. History can be a bitter pill to have to swallow!

Fairdale (7-5) @ Bowling Green (9-3)

KPGFootball predicted score: Bowling Green (Senior) High (BG) 44, Fairdale 10

The Deuce

Analysis: BG played for the title in ’22 against a team which was realigned into 6A. That makes the Purples the “de facto” defending state champions in 5A (at least in our minds). BG has played one Hell of a schedule, losing to LCA, Bryan Station, and St. Xavier in tight ball games and beating Central Hardin, South Warren, and Greenwood. Deuce Bailey has thrown for close to 3,000-yards and 35-TDs against only four (4) picks. Trevy Barber is closing in on 1,000-receiving yards in 63-receptions 14 of which were TDs. Jordan Green has five (5) sacks and 13-TFLs on defense. We picked Fairdale to lose in round two and Fairdale took great exception, coming out and routing Grayson County 41-22. Louis Dover‘s Bulldogs have a tough one in round three and we are picking against them for the second consecutive week. Hey, who cares what we think? We’re only right about 85% of the time.

North Laurel (8-4) @ Highlands (11-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: Ft. Thomas-Highlands 42, North Laurel 10

Analysis: We just saw North Laurel’s Ethan Gregory at a Centre football game last Saturday. Centre’s Keaton Martin (K-Mart, South Oldham High) picked up some really big and tough, between the tackles, yards for the Colonels in its big win over SAA (Southern Athletic Association) powerhouse, Birmingham Southern, 10-6. Couldn’t help but notice the physical similarities between the two RBs and how K-Mart is graduating, leaving that slot available for “another K-Mart.” Is Gregory headed to Danville to become a Colonel? Could be. First Gregory will have to solve the Highlands’ equation and that is some sort of advanced calculus this season. We like Highlands to win it all at this level. The Bluebirds, KHSAA royalty, have the highest RPI in 5A and have beaten LCA, Ryle, Raceland, and K-Mart’s old teammates at South Oldham. Highland also beat Cooper, and its superstar edge rusher, Austin Alexander, 58-51 in Union on September 22, something the commonwealth is now learning is no small accomplishment. Gregory should eclipse 1,400-yards this season in this game. Then Chappell’s Jaguars can get ready for some round-ball because Saturday morning will be the official start of basketball season in London, Kentucky.

Cooper (10-2) @ Southwestern (9-3)

KPGFootball predicted score: Cooper 35, Southwestern 20

Alexander

Analysis: We picked Cooper to beat Scott County in round two. When we posted this to social media (“X”) someone incredulously inquired, “Is Cooper any good?” There are no stupid questions except (of course) that one. Cooper is damn good. Cooper beat Scott County by 28 to get here and they have some of the best players in Kentucky on whom to lean. Do you remember Shaun Alexander? He is one of the answers to the trivia question, “Who are the only four KHSAA RBs to ever gain 3,000-yards in a single season?” Alexander went on to star at the University of Alabama at RB before playing 123 games at RB in the NFL and gaining 9,453-career yards and scoring 100-rushing TDs. He was a 3X Pro Bowler and was voted All-Pro once. He was also the Associated Press‘s MVP in 2005. He has a nephew on the Cooper roster. Austin Alexander is being recruited by many D-1s to play offense and may be the best defender in Kentucky. Alexander has 12-TDs receiving, six (6)-TFLs, and 15-QB sacks on the year. You don’t see that type, two-way production at the 5A level much. Is Cooper any good? You’ll learn that Friday night.

6A Regionals-

The boys from Union, Kentucky are ALWAYS tough

Friday Night Fletch

Central Hardin (7-5) @ Ballard (9-3)

KPGFootball predicted score: Ballard 42, Central Hardin 21

Ballard’s Mikel Clack

Analysis: We talked about Ballard on our radio show, “Friday Night Kentucky” which we co-host with NewsRadio 840WHAS’s Scott Fitzgerald. As we said this past weekend, Ballard looks like they should look, beat who they should beat; and, if the ball bounces its way, could win it all this, or virtually any, year at the 6A level. Central Hardin is lucky to make this Regional Final. Central lost to Meade County (5-6), got blown out by Bowling Green (5A), got thumped by Bryan Station (48-8), and lost by nine-points to a 3A team; although, in fairness, it was Central High (Lou.). Ballard played Bryan Station too and only lost by a single score (28-21). Ballard’s other two losses were to Trinity and Male, if not the two best 6A teams in Kentucky they are both, arguably, among them. Central Hardin should probably double, if not triple-team the Clack kid from Ballard. Mikel Clack, in 12-games, has 115-tackles, 17-TFLs, and 15.5 QB-sacks to be among the best edge presences in Kentucky’s ’24 graduating class.

Ryle (8-4) @ Bryan Station (9-3)

KPGFootball predicted score: Ryle 28, Bryan Staton 24

Analysis: The boys from Union, Kentucky are ALWAYS tough. Ryle has proven tough once again as they have beaten Cooper and defending 6A champion, Bullitt East. Ryle’s, Logan Verax (QB), is probably the best in Kentucky, at his position, about whom you are only now learning. Verax has thrown for over three-thousand yards, with 27-passing TDs, in ’23 and has limited his miscues to only eight thrown picks. Verax is also the club leader in rushing yards from scrimmage and rushing TDs. The Raiders like to throw it around the ball park this year. Bryan Station is a real “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” scenario. Which Defender squad will we see Friday night? If we get the Bryan Station which beat Bowling Green, Ballard, and Tates Creek twice; then our prediction here will be ridiculed and likely wrong. If we get the Bryan Station which lost to 4A Franklin County, Trinity (36-3), or Frederick Douglass by 20; Ryle may prove too tough for Coach Phillip Hawkins and his lads. Many will disagree with this pick, but we are high on Cooper and Ryle beat them. We are taking Ryle in an upset.

Frederick Douglass (“Freddy D,” 7-4) @ Male (11-1)

KPGFootball predicted score: Male 35, Freddy D 28

Kolter Smith

Analysis: We posited to a fellow Centre fan at the tailgate this past Saturday, whose “other” son plays at Freddy D, that perhaps 6A has proven tougher than Coach McPeek and staff thought coming into the year. He scoffed at such a suggestion and asked, “What Kentucky 6A team has beaten the Broncos, thus far?” Well, that would be a more legitimate point if the Broncos hadn’t lost to both Corin and Boyle, two 4As who are certainly tough “outs.” Sure, the Broncos haven’t lost to a Kentucky 6A so far this season; and, sure, they knocked off Trinity, 17-14, on August 26; but look around, “Bub;” it ain’t August. Male has a senior QB (Kolter Smith) who has thrown 32 TDs against only 4-picks. Male has a receiver (Max Gainey, Jr.) who has caught 18-TD passes. Male has a DB (Brendon Bates) with 4-INTs, 130 IRNYs, and two pick-sixes. Male will have a boast no other Kentucky 6A can claim after this coming Friday night…the Bulldogs will have a win over Frederick Douglass.

McCracken County (6-6) @ Trinity (9-3)

KPGFootball predicted score: Trinity 60, McCracken 0

Analysis: We said on the radio podcast that McCracken was two years off a 2-9. We completely forgot the 2-9 McCracken posted in ’22. McCracken was 2-9 in ’21 and ’22, Jonathan Smith’s first year at the helm. So the improvement to 6-6 this year, and entry into the Regional Championship round, at the 6A level, is extremely significant. We just wanted to remind you of all of this before Trinity, winners of its last seven straight ball-games, lays a 60-point beat-down on the Mustangs and ruins what has been an otherwise story-book turn-around from last season. Trinity has the best freshman QB in Kentucky, if not ever, in Zane Johnson. Johnson has thrown for 23-TDs steering a program which “never plays freshmen,” or so was its claim prior to this season. Clinton Sansbury has scored 21-rushing TDs, and is the club’s leading scorer. Brady McEnaney has 12.5-TFLs and nine QB-sacks from his LB-post. Trinity is going to put some stank on this one. This outcome will be ugly.

This is Friday Night Fletch, reporting for KPGFootball, reminding you toPLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!

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About Fletcher Long 1510 Articles
Two-time winner of Kentucky Press Association awards for excellence in writing and reporting news stories while Managing Editor of the Jackson (KY) Times-Voice

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