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Don Owen: Blowouts galore in opening round of KHSAA football playoffs, but lots of drama locally

For those who couldn’t bear to watch, you can open your eyes now. It’s over. The dreaded “Running Clock Friday” episode of the KHSAA state football playoffs — also known as the first round — is now history. At least until next November.

The blowouts were many. The close games were few. How about this for playoff drama? Owensboro pulled out an 81-6 win over Breckinridge County in the Class 5A playoffs. Yes, 81 points in a playoff game. Of course, those two teams played a month earlier and Owensboro settled for a 69-6 victory.

But there were more. Kentucky Country Day avoided an upset with a 62-8 triumph against winless (0-8) Berea. Scott County posted a 62-12 win over Grant County. North Bullitt cruised to a 54-9 win over Atherton. And unbeaten Elizabethtown (9-0) rolled to a 63-7 victory over Thomas Nelson (1-7) in the Class 3A first round.

Dixie Heights rallied to defeat Simon Kenton 34-33 in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Friday night. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

Which team did Thomas Nelson defeat this season for its only victory? That would be Nelson County, which hasn’t won a game since 2017.

Those are just a few examples of “Running Clock Friday” and the need to reduce the number of playoff teams in Kentucky. And don’t forget that many of the blowouts were avoided Friday night as 23 schools withdrew from the playoffs.

Powerhouses such as Louisville Trinity, Lexington Christian, Boyle County and Beechwood received first-round byes as a result. It also significantly lowered the average margin of victory for the opening round.

LOCALLY, THERE WERE SOME CLOSE GAMES as Dixie Heights rallied from a 23-0 deficit and pulled out a 34-33 win over Simon Kenton in the Class 6A playoffs. Logan Landers’ short touchdown run in the fourth quarter allowed Dixie Heights to escape with the improbable comeback win.

Chase Crone ignited Simon Kenton’s 23-0 lead in the first quarter by rushing for a pair of scores — including a 55-yard scamper — and throwing a touchdown pass. Dixie Heights responded with a pair of touchdowns but still trailed 33-13 in the third quarter.

Landers rallied the Colonels by tossing a pair of scoring passes and then rushing for the winning touchdown with less than six minutes remaining. Dixie Heights (5-3) will face Ryle (6-3) in the second round Friday at 7 p.m. in Union. Earlier this season, Ryle posted a 44-14 win over Dixie Heights.

LUDLOW ADVANCED TO THE SECOND ROUND of the Class 1A playoffs with a 39-20 win over Dayton on Friday night. Braxton Newborn rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns to spark the Panthers, who finished with 326 yards on the ground. Newborn also led the Ludlow defense with 12 total tackles.

Ludlow’s Braxton Newborn has rushed for 1,712 yards this season.

Ludlow quarterback Austin Daniels was 12-of-14 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers (4-5) face Newport Central Catholic (6-2) next Friday at Newport Stadium. In the first meeting on Oct. 9, NewCath sprinted to a 59-21 win at Ludlow.

SPEAKING OF BRAXTON NEWBORN, is there a better all-around performer in the state than the Ludlow junior running back who also plays linebacker? Newborn leads the state in rushing with 1,712 yards and has scored 25 touchdowns on the ground. He also tops the Panthers defensively with 96 tackles, 11 of those for losses.

HIGHLANDS KNOCKED OFF CONNER for the second time this season on Friday night, this time by a 27-16 score in the Class 5A playoffs at Hebron. Charlie Noon continued his outstanding sophomore season by rushing for a career-high 191 yards and three touchdowns to ignite the Highlands victory.

The Bluebirds (5-5) will meet defending Class 5A state champion Covington Catholic (8-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Park Hills. Earlier this season, CovCath posted a 42-0 win over Highlands.

CovCath advanced to the second round by rolling to a 36-8 win over Cooper on Friday night.

Don Owen is sports editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribune. Contact him at don@nkytrib.com and follow him on Twitter at @dontribunesport.

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