Kentucky High School Football Championship Predictions
The KHSAA High School Football Playoffs kick off this week. Last season, Pikeville, Beechwood, Belfry, Boyle County, South Warren and St. Xavier has each won titles in their respective parentheses. Will they repeat in 2022? Or will another team rise up and claim the title?
We have five weeks to find out. The KHSAA State Football Championship games will be played Dec. 2-3. at Kroger Field at the University of Kentucky. High school sports insiders Jason Frakes and JL Kirven reviewed each bracket and predicted who they think would win. Do you agree?
High school football ranking:Check out the Associated Press Kentucky high school football polls this week
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Jason Frakes pick: Difficult to go against a Pikeville program that will aim for its second championship in a row.
The Panthers opened their season with straight losses to Class 4A powerhouse Corbin and Class 5A contender Covington Catholic, but have won seven straight in the playoffs. Senior running back Blake Birchfield (1,286 rushing yards, 23 TDs) is expected to be in contention for Mr. Football honors.
Raceland leads the class with 45.1 points per game and has solid junior quarterback Logan Lundy. But give me Pikeville in a thrilling finale: Pikeville 38, Raceland 28.
JL Kirven’s choice:Pikeville enters the Class A playoffs looking to defend his 2021 title and give coach Chris McNamee his fourth championship in eight years.
The Panthers started the season flat, losing their first two games, but rebounded well to claim eight straight wins. The Class A group has talented teams like Kentucky Country Day, Raceland and Newport Central Catholic, but I don’t think Pikeville will have a problem repeating: Pikeville 28, Raceland 10.
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Frake: Beechwood has won thrilling finals against Lexington Christian for the past two years and is set for a hat-trick.
Senior running back Michael Berger, a commitment from Eastern Kentucky University, rushed for 1,119 yards and 21 touchdowns. The defense is allowing just 7.8 points per game and has posted three shutouts.
Mayfield and Lexington Christian are ready to make deep runs in the playoffs, but give me Beechwood one more time. Beechwood 24, Mayfield 13.
Kirven:Beechwood has won back-to-back Class 2A Championships and the Tigers are deep enough to score the hat-trick. Beechwood made a statement in Week 1 after shutting out Class 5A’s Fairdale (9-1) 36-0 and following it up with more impressive wins.
Mayfield (10-0) could potentially prevent coach Noel Rash from winning his eighth career title. The Cardinals’ defense has allowed more than two touchdowns in a game just once this season and they’ll be tough in the playoffs. Beechwood 23, Mayfield 14.
Program:Kentucky High School Football First Round Pairings for All 6 Classes
Frake: Christian Academy won the Class 2A championships in 2016 and 2018 and look to be the team to beat in 3A this season.
Centurions are averaging 50.7 points per game behind junior quarterback Cole Hodge (2,041 passing yards, 31 TDs) and two strong wide receivers in junior Justin Ruffin (31 catches, 662 yards, 10 TDs) and sophomore Trey Cotton (27 catches, 563 yards, seven TDs).
CAL faces a tough knockout road that could include matchups with Elizabethtown, Paducah Tilghman and Ashland Blazer ahead of the championship game. But the Centurions are talented enough to handle it. Christian Academy 30, Union County 14.
Kirven: CAL (10-0) knocked out every team they faced and maintained the No. 1 ranking for most of the year. The Centurions are loaded offensively with quarterback Cole Hodge, running back Gavin Copenhaver and receivers Justin Ruffin, Connor Hodge and Trey Cotton.
Last season, CAL lost to Paducah Tilghman 41-34 in the quarterfinals, and I think it will take another high-powered offense to beat them. Bardstown, Union County and Bell County have that, but I believe Bardstown’s defense stands out from its other contenders. The Tigers have held teams to a measly 10.5 points per game, and I think they might be the team to figure out the Centurions. Bardstown 24, Christian Academy 21.
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Frake: This is perhaps the toughest class to call, as Corbin, Lexington Catholic and Boyle County have all been able to claim the No. 1 ranking this season.
It’s hard for me to ignore the championship pedigree of a Boyle County program that won back-to-back state titles. Regular-season losses to Lexington Catholic and Frederick Douglass are concerning, but expect the Rebels to right the ship in November behind power play second Montavin Quisenberry (19 total touchdowns).
Corbin is a worthy contender and is trailed by a miserly defense that allows just 11.5 points per game. A Boyle County-Corbin final would be a must match. Boyle County 21, Corbin 20.
Kirven: On October 7, Lexington Catholic defeated two-time Class 4A champion Boyle County 28-27 in what was a preview of that year’s eventual championship game. Lexington Catholic quarterback Jackson Wasik leads the Class 4A with 2,367 yards and 32 touchdowns and had little trouble taking down the Rebel defense. The Knights are beatable, but at its best, LexCath is the best team on the field.
Boyle County’s championship experience might be an X-factor, but not for quarterback Sage Dawson. This postseason will be the juniors’ first sub, but he’s played with confidence most of the year. I could see Boyle County fighting through the deepest slice and back to Kroger Field. Catholic of Lexington 31, Boyle County 27.
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Frake: Frederick Douglass — runner-up in 2019 and 2021 — is the logical choice here to take that final step and win his first state championship. But something about this potential second-round showdown with Covington Catholic worries me.
In fact, give me CovCath as the upset winner of Frederick Douglass in the second round and as the surprise state champion behind the run of junior Owen Leen (1,016 yards, 14 touchdowns).
Scott County was embarrassed by Frederick Douglass 41-0 on September 23, but has won five straight since then and closed the regular season with impressive victories over Ballard and Lexington Catholic. Bowling Green, Owensboro and Southwestern are other worthy contenders in a deep class, but give me a Colonels-Cardinals final. Covington Catholic 21, Scott County 14.
Kirven: After coming up short in the Class 5A title game last year, Frederick Douglass (10-0) dominated throughout his revenge tour. The Broncos outscored opponents 464-48 in the regular season, while destroying other 5A contenders like Scott County (9-1) and Great Crossing (8-2) in the process. The Broncos averaged the most points in the state (51.6 points per game) and its defense held teams to a KHSAA low of 5.3 points per game.
Woodford County (9-1) begins its playoff run after a loss, but the Yellow Jackets could regain momentum early in the playoffs. With wins over Paul Laurence Dunbar, Franklin County and Collins on his resume, the Yellow Jackets might be battle tested enough to make a deep run. I don’t see anyone slowing down Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass 41, Woodford County 14.
Frake: In the Louisville area at least, Class 6A is where offenses have gone to die this season. So give me the team with the best defense.
St. Xavier is allowing just 9.4 points per game and is led by a pair of seniors in linebacker Jaxon Panariello (52 tackles) and late Micah Carter (Purdue commits, 52 tackles). The offense was not exceptional but need not be.
It’s hard to craft a scenario where St. X won’t face Trinity in the semi-finals. So who will St. X get in the finals? Male might be the most dangerous team in the playoffs right now, but will likely get St. X in the second round. I don’t trust Ballard or Manual’s offense or Bullitt East’s defense. So give me a stranger to get me to Kroger Field. St. Xavier 31, Henderson County 7.
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Kirven: Between Ballard, Bullitt East, Male, Manual and Trinity, I don’t believe there is a wrong answer when it comes to determining who is the second best team in class 6A. As for No. 1, this debate should begin and end with the Saint-Xavier Tigers (9-1). St. X could repeat as state champion for the first time since 1974-75 and coach Kevin Wallace knows his business of defending the title, having won five in six years at Bowling Green.
I still don’t know who can keep St. Xavier from the crown. Despite his stumbles throughout the season, The male is always a force in Class 6A, especially with running back Daniel Swinney and wide receiver Max Gainey back in action. Bullitt East has flown under the radar all season and deserves respect. The Chargers have the best offense in the tournament and could be a major player, but I think Class 6A will be decided in a rematch between St. X and their most hated rival, Trinity.St. Xavier 20, Trinity 10.
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