Nov. 17—The Somerset Briar Jumpers have experienced a ton of success in the first year under head coach Clay Clevenger and after blowing out their first two opponents in the playoffs 36-0 and 57-0, are looking for their first region championship since their state title back in 2019. However, in order to do that, the Jumpers will have to play a strong Shelby Valley team that has also dominated their first two opponents to the tune of 50-6 and 51-6. The two teams have met three times before, all three coming in the postseason, with Somerset holding a 2-1 edge and winning the last meeting in 2017 42-0.
Both teams feature high-scoring offenses, but the Wildcats have had an unreal pace since back-to-back losses in September, outscoring opponents 336-103 in a six game winning streak. Shelby Valley has a lot of talent on that side of the ball, with the leader being senior quarterback Russ Osborne. Despite throwing 14 interceptions this season, Osborne has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards along with 29 passing touchdowns while ranking ninth in the entire state in terms of passing yards per game.
His top target? Look no further than sophomore Brady Bentley, who is second in the entire state in reception yards per game. Bentley has caught 72 receptions this season for a total of 1,419 yards and 16 touchdowns, all while rushing for over 300 yards and adding another three scores on the ground.
The rushing attack of the Wildcats is no joke either, as both sophomore Brett Sturgill and junior Clark Craft have over 600 yards rushing with 13 and 10 touchdowns respectively. Osborne also has added 464 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns. The Somerset defense has shown themselves to be at top form thus far in the playoffs, but an offensive attack such as this will not be slowed down so easily.
Josh Bruner was almost flawless last week, completing 11 out of his 15 passes with three touchdowns against no interceptions. He will need to be accurate again this week, as the Wildcats feature eight players on defense that have grabbed at least one interception this season. The offensive line of the Jumpers will also need to watch out for the team leader in tackles in sophomore Robert Collins, as well as junior Logan Johnson, who leads the team in sacks with four.
After another multi-touchdown performance from Kam Hughes, expect another heavy dose of the rushing attack against a Shelby Valley defense that has proven to be more prone to a ground-based offense. Either way, this game will not be one the Jumpers can just put on cruise control after the first half. Briar Jumpers Nation is sure to be rowdy as Somerset will take on the Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.
Pretty much everything went right for Southwestern last week in a 41-13 drubbing of their rivals Pulaski County in the second round, as the Warriors cruised to another regional championship appearance. Everything went right for the Warriors elsewhere as well, as a few upsets occurred in Class 5A, leading Southwestern to be able to host the regional title game this year after going on the road last season. In order to claim their second consecutive region title, in what would be a first in program history, the Warriors will have to take down the Cooper Jaguars. This, according to KHSAA, will be the first time the two programs have met on the gridiron.
The Jaguars surprised a lot of pundits with their 49-21 victory over Scott County last week. Cooper has only lost two times this season and have one of the top young quarterbacks in the state in sophomore Cam O'Hara. O'Hara has nearly 3,000 passing yards for the season while throwing for 42 touchdowns against just five interceptions, remarkable accuracy for an underclassman who already has offers from UK and Western Kentucky to name a few teams. Along with receivers Isaiah Johnson (1,238 yards and 20 touchdowns) and Austin Alexander (971 yards and 15 touchdowns), this offense is enough to give any opposing team nightmares.
Nightmares that continue when talking about the running skills of sophomore Keagan Maher, who has 997 yards along with 16 touchdowns. As per usual, the Warriors have more options on the ground and may feature a better player in senior Christian Walden, but the rushing attack should not be discounted for the Jaguars.
Southwestern has not made many mistakes on offense so far in the postseason and will need to keep that up in this contest, as the Jaguars feature a lot of talent on defense. Alexander is one of the best in the state at getting to the quarterback, as he ranks second in the entire state in sacks with 16 for the season. Senior linebacker Jack Lonaker is the team leader in tackles and also has four sacks, while sophomore Colton Graham has five. Junior Isaac Brown has four interceptions on the season, while sophomore Ryker Campbell has three. Wherever you look on the defensive end, Cooper has a ton of grit.
The Warriors have ran through their past five opponents since a close loss to Franklin County, but this seems to be a tough out. Southwestern will, per usual, rack up the rushing yards but will they get enough out of their defense to claim another regional title? The Warriors will kickoff their region title game against the Jaguars at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Reservation.
Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @PrattTheNation