Can Trinity pass Highlands for most titles in state history?
With the Kentucky state football finals set for Bowling Green this weekend, several storylines surround the six games.
No. 1-ranked Trinity will face No. 10 Lafayette in the Class 6-A final, with the Shamrocks gunning for their 24th overall state title. That would break a tie with Highlands for the most in state history.
Along with Trinity, Bowling Green (5-A) and Franklin-Simpson (4-A) will try to complete undefeated seasons.
And three teams – Lafayette, Johnson Central (4-A) and Christian Academy (2-A) – will be trying to pick up the first state titles in program history.
Here’s a look at the big question surrounding all six state finals:
* Class 6-A: Can Lafayette make it a game against Trinity?
There’s no doubt Lafayette has plenty of talent, with senior quarterback Walker Wood heading to the University of Kentucky and senior offensive lineman Jedrick Wills being committed to Alabama.
But the Generals have not fared well against Louisville’s powerhouse programs over the past two seasons. Last year they lost to Trinity 70-14 during the regular season and to Male 41-14 in the state championship game. Earlier this season Trinity handed Lafayette its only loss, 45-7.
Meanwhile, Trinity is ranked No. 17 in the nation in the USA TODAY Super 25 and features a stingy defense that is allowing just nine points per game.
The Shamrocks also will be shooting for the 600th victory in program history. Their current all-time record is 599-160-7. According to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association record book, Trinity would become the 17th program in state history to reach 600 victories.
* Class 5-A: Can Pulaski County get over the hump against Bowling Green?
The teams have met each of the last three seasons, with the Purples winning 49-14 in the 2013 state final, 23-7 in the 2014 regular-season finale and 21-7 in last year’s state final.
Pulaski County has struggled offensively in those three previous meetings and on Sunday will face a Bowling Green defense that is allowing just 10.4 points per game.
This will be the final high school game for Pulaski County wide receiver Jake Johnson, who has a state-record 129 catches this season for 1,613 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also ranks No. 1 in state history in career receptions (404) and career receiving yards (5,526).
* Class 4-A: Is Johnson Central better-equipped to win a state title this year?
The Golden Eagles entered last year’s state final with a 12-1 record and laid an egg, falling 36-6 to South Warren. This year Johnson Central is 13-1 and ranked No. 5 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings entering Sunday’s final against No. 19 Franklin-Simpson.
Johnson Central averages 323.6 rushing yards per game and is led by sophomore Joe Jackson (2,049 yards, 31 touchdowns).
But will Johnson Central be successful against a Franklin-Simpson defense that is allowing just 8.4 points per game and has posted four shutouts this season? Also, located just 21 miles from Bowling Green, Franklin-Simpson likely will have the largest crowd advantage of any team all weekend.
* Class 3-A: Will another Central-Belfry matchup provide another classic?
These teams have met five times in the state final since 2007, and the last three have been very tight – Central winning 15-14 in 2011 and 12-6 in overtime in 2012 and Belfry winning 14-7 in 2014.
Many observers believe this is Belfry’s strongest team ever, as the Pirates feature four senior linemen who likely will be playing football on Saturdays next season: Cole Bentley (Louisville commit), Austin Dotson (Kentucky commit), Rayquan Horton (uncommitted) and Jordan Scott (uncommitted).
But Central is peaking at the right time and will relish its underdog role against a Belfry team that is ranked No. 3 in the state in the Litratings.
* Class 2-A: Can Christian Academy capture a title in its first trip to the state finals?
The Centurions seem to have overcome their top two roadblocks to a state title, beating DeSales 21-14 in a regional final and four-time defending state champion Mayfield 48-24 in last week’s semifinal.
CAL has won 13 straight games since a season-opening loss to Class 6-A Simon Kenton and has perhaps the state’s top college prospect in all of Class 2-A in sophomore Milton Wright (42 receptions, 730 yards, 25 total touchdowns).
Danville has a proud history with 10 state titles but is in the state final for the first time since 2006.
* Class A: Can Beechwood finally win state title No. 12?
The Tigers won their first state title in 1984 and then enjoyed a tremendous run of 10 championships during an 18-year stretch from 1991-2008.
Last year marked Beechwood’s first trip to the state final since that 2008 title, and the Tigers fell to Pikeville 42-28.
Hazard is back in the state final for the first time since beating Mayfield 24-6 for the 2011 championship.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
STATE FOOTBALL FINALS
At Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green
All times EST
* Class A: Beechwood (13-1) vs. Hazard (12-2), 8 p.m.
* Class 3-A: Central (9-5) vs. Belfry (13-1), 6 p.m.
* Class 6-A: Trinity (14-0) vs. Lafayette (13-1), 9 p.m.
* Class 2-A: Christian Academy (13-1) vs. Danville (12-2), 1:30 p.m.
* Class 4-A: Franklin-Simpson (14-0) vs. Johnson Central (13-1), 4:45 p.m.
* Class 5-A: Bowling Green (14-0) vs. Pulaski County (12-2), 8 p.m.