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Looking down the road, is this the year for high school football here when it comes to playoff time?

By Dan Weber
NKyTribune sports reporter

With Covington Catholic’s move down to Class 4A and Lloyd Memorial’s move up to Class 3A, will this be the year that Northern Kentucky high schools record their best-ever showing in the KHSAA football playoffs?

It’s a good question.

Is there a state title run for Lloyd Memorial’s Kyle Niederman and his Juggs? (Photo by Dan Weber/NKyTribune)

Will it be the year that for the first time, in all the class configurations from three classes from 1959 to 1974, then four until 2011 and the current six that we have at the present time, local high schools win more than two state titles?

That’s happened 17 times in 63 seasons. But never when there were three classes. The first time two Northern Kentucky high schools won state titles in the same year was 1975, the first season when there were four classes and Highlands won its sixth of 23 state titles while Ludlow in Class 1A was winning its lone title.

But is this the year that 50 percent could be exceeded? Could there be four, which is what it would take?

We’ll say it’s a definite “maybe.”

• CLASS 5A: Not that it’s going to be easy. But let’s start at the top with Highlands in Class 5A. The Bluebirds have a multi-faceted, multi-quarterback offense led by triple-threat Brody Benke that can probably score on anybody they face. And now that Covington Catholic, the lone team to beat them, is one class down in 4A, that barrier has been removed. Perennial challengers like South Warren and Scott County remain in 5A but this wouldn’t seem to be an insurmountable hurdle for Highlands.

In a new Class 4A, CovCath and Coach Ed Eviston look to get back in the playoff picture. (Photo by Dan Weber/NKyTribune)

• CLASS 4A: So here we have CovCath now. The unbeaten Colonels have been tested against the likes of Highlands, Beechwood and 6A teams Ryle and Simon Kenton. If there is an edge for the guys from Park Hills, in addition to the oft-stated motivation of playoff success that’s been missing in recent years, it’s their strength of schedule. But the presence of longtime unbeaten powers like a Corbin team with two of the state’s top three prospects according to 247 Sports – brothers Jacob and Jerod Smith transferring in, or Boyle County, will make this a tough trip for CovCath. Should be very interesting when we get to the playoffs.

• CLASS 3A: Unbeaten Lloyd Memorial may be a newcomer to this class and something of an unknown to the teams like Christian Academy of Louisville and new district mate Lexington Catholic, but with district play starting, we’ll get a preview quickly when the Juggs host Lexington Catholic Oct. 13. And in this season of high-scoring, passing attacks, the ground game with a two-headed speed back attack and a defense that leads the state in sacks may prove to be a tough out in Class 3A.

Can this year’s Beechwood Tigers four-peat with a new coach? (Photo by Dan Weber/NKyTribune)

• CLASS 2A: No surprise here. Beechwood may have a new coach in Jay Volker, replacing Noel Rash, who retired with an amazing record of eight titles in nine state championship games, but the Tigers are still standing, going for their four-peat in Class 2A. So are their top challengers, however, and they’ve got a bunch of them in Lexington Christian, Mayfield and Owensboro Catholic. Again, if the Tigers have an edge, it’s a Clay Hayden-led air offense that has put up plenty of points against bigger programs week after week. That toughness from scheduling up will have to be what sustains the Fort Mitchell program to go all the way one more time in a really tough field.

We’re not going to address the top and bottom classes here for obvious reasons. Northern Kentucky has never won a state title in the largest school class – now 6A – in 63 seasons and this year probably won’t change that.

And as many state titles as have been won here, 19 by our count, by all but one of the Northern Kentucky Class 1A schools through the years, this doesn’t appear to be one of those years. With the top two here – Newport Central Catholic and Newport — barely in the Top 10 in the state’s Class 1A and declining enrollments and squad sizes in the river city urban schools, this will be a hard pull against the likes of Pikeville and Raceland.

Stay tuned. Should be an interesting playoff.

Contact Dan Weber at dweber3440@aol.com. Follow him @dweber3440 on X (formerly Twitter).

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