A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Biggest weekend of high school football season features six important district seeding games

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

One team is the defending Class 1A state champion and has a long history of of success against district rivals. The other team is having its best season in decades led by a senior quarterback with record-setting statistics.

That’s the storyline behind the Ludlow at Beechwood high school football game that makes it one of the most interesting match-ups on this weekend’s schedule. But there are several other district seeding games that will have a major impact on how local teams line up for the post-season playoffs.

Here’s a look at six games that make this the biggest weekend of the 2017 regular season.

Ludlow quarterback Justin Blackburn is averaging more than 300 rushing and passing yards combined per game for the 6-0 Panthers. (Photo by Mark Baumann / www.mbaumann.zenfolio.com)

LUDLOW (7-0) at BEECHWOOD (5-2) — Ludlow is the only undefeated Class 1A team in the state at 7-0, but it will be a major upset if the Panthers win this district game against one of the state’s perennial small-school powerhouses. In addition to being the defending Class 1A state champion, Beechwood has lost only four district seeding games in the last 20 years and posted a 22-0 record against Ludlow during the span.

The Panthers have been putting up big numbers this season with senior quarterback Justin Blackburn running a read-option offense that’s averaging 482 yards and 48 points per game. Blackburn has rushed for 1,488 yards and 25 touchdowns while passing for 857 yards and 12 TDs.

Ludlow’s seven victories have come against teams with a combined record of 22-28. Beechwood has played a much tougher schedule with six games against teams in higher classes, including local powers Covington Catholic in Class 5A and Simon Kenton in Class 6A.

Two weeks ago, Beechwood nearly upset Simon Kenton behind a solid performance by its offensive and defensive front lines. If the Tigers do that against Ludlow, they should be able to keep Blackburn in check and provide scoring opportunities for their wide array of skill players led by senior quarterback Brayden Burch.

HIGHLANDS (3-4) at COVINGTON CATHOLIC (7-0) — CovCath has won seven straight games by margins of 20 points or more and climbed to the top of the Class 5A state rankings. With three-year starter A.J. Mayer at quarterback, the Colonels have a well-balanced offense that’s averaging 204 yards rushing and 213 yards passing per game. The defensive unit has also been playing well, limiting opponents to 222 yards and 8 points per game.

Highlands snapped a four-game losing streak with a 47-0 win over Dixie Heights last week. Several players who were hampered by injuries earlier in the season are back in the lineup for the Bluebirds so they’re going into the Class 5A district game against CovCath with renewed confidence. Carl Schoellman has completed 120 of 190 passes for 1,471 yards in his first season as starting quarterback. In last week’s game, Nick Veneman caught four TD passes and the defense had four takeaways.

CAMPBELL COUNTY (5-2) at SIMON KENTON (8-0) — Two players have accounted for most of Campbell County’s offensive yardage this season. Senior quarterback Austin Hoeh has passed for 1,290 yards and senior running back Alex Dowds has rushed for 1,275. They’re hoping to carry the Camels to a victory over an undefeated Simon Kenton team that has won the last six games between the Class 6A district rivals.

Simon Kenton also has a potent offense led by senior quarterback Matt Shearer, one of the state’s leading passers with 1,527 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s also the team’s second leading rusher with 439 yards and nine TDs. In two games this season, Shearer scored winning touchdowns late in the fourth quarter for the Pioneers.

LLOYD (5-2) at NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC (4-3) — NewCath has a 15-0 record against Lloyd since the teams became Class 2A district rivals in 2007. The Thoroughbreds need to continue that winning streak to have a shot at winning this year’s district title. To do that, they’ll have to contain Lloyd senior quarterback Jordan Fann, who is averaging 107 yards passing and 107 yards rushing per game.

Several of NewCath’s starting players have missed games due to injuries, including quarterback Paul Kramer. The Thoroughbreds have been relying on senior running back Kyle Kelly for most of their offense. He has 697 yards rushing and 181 yards receiving in seven games.

CONNER (4-3) at  RYLE (5-2) — Conner’s defense has been having a hard time stopping the run this season, but that’s what the Cougars need to do in this crucial Class 6A district game. Ryle senior Jake Chisholm is one of the state’s leading rushers in Class 6A with 1,240 yards and first-year quarterback Easton Pilyer has given the Raiders another offensive weapon with his running and passing.

Conner’s most dependable offensive player has been quarterback Cooper Gullion. He has passed for 983 yards and 11 touchdowns while also rushing for 175 yards and three TDs. Jaylen Williams has caught 33 passes for 503 yards and six TDs.

BOURBON COUNTY (5-2) at SCOTT (4-3) —  The winner of this game will take over sole possession of first place in their Class 4A district and will likely win the title. Both teams have been relying on their running backs to move the ball on offense. Scott’s leading rushers are sophomore Quincy Perrin with 877 yards and his older brother, Nelson, with 551 yards. The siblings have scored 22 of their team’s 35 rushing and pass receiving touchdowns.

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