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Frederick Douglass to meet Lexington Christian in mythical city championship showdown on Friday

By Chad Hensley
KyForward sports reporter

An improbable meeting between Frederick Douglass and Lexington Christian is set to take place on Friday for what many are hailing as the mythical city championship in Lexington.

A tweet by William Warfield on the PrepSpin Twitter account on Oct. 1 saying he would love to see the “dream match” was a precursor to the game finally being scheduled — thanks to both schools losing their game this week due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The battle between Lexington’s two powerhouse football programs will take place on The Farm at Frederick Douglass High School with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

Lexington Christian’s Mason Moore hauls in a touchdown reception against Dunbar last week. (LCA photo)

“The game with Douglass opened up when Washington County had to cancel our scheduled game due to Fayette County being red on the COVID-19 color chart,” said Lexington Christian head coach Doug Charles. “It was basically a coincidence that Douglass was open via a bye, so I called Coach McPeek and we scheduled the game. Folks had been lobbying for us to play each other the past couple of years, but it just worked out due to this crazy COVID year.”

Unbeaten Lexington Christian (4-0) is playing the fifth of seven consecutive road contests to start the nine-game season, and the Eagles are doing it with a bevy of talent that has someone new stepping up each week.

During a 54-14 win at Dunbar last week, Lexington Christian’s Mason Moore enjoyed the best receiving night of his career with 133 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. In addition, Lexington Christian junior quarterback Drew Nieves has already passed for 1,012 yards in his first season as the starter.

Xavier Brown, who is Nieves’ favorite target, has 530 yards and seven receiving touchdowns on 24 catches. Brown, an NCAA Division I recruit, has 1,483 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns to go along with 1,121 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Eagles.

“Xavier is an elite athlete that has great speed, quickness and ball skills,” Charles said. “Many people don’t know that he played the last six games last year with a torn labrum. He had surgery in early December and came back really strong and healthy. Early in the year, we were a little more reliant on him due to our playbook being so condensed as we only had one week in full pads before our first game.

“We purposely reduced his touches to put more diversity in our offense. Our kids are so cohesive that they could care less who gets the touches and stats as they just simply want to win. Xavier commands so much attention from opposing defenses that it allows us to spread the ball to others. He is leading Class 2A in receiving yards, averaging 132 per game. He’s a dangerous dual threat to score from anywhere and that’s a big reason he has two Power 5 offers from Maryland and Boston College and several more to come.”

Lexington Christian’s Xavier Brown has 24 receptions and seven touchdowns this season. (LCA photo)

Should Lexington Christian — a Class 2A state contender — tame the Broncos, the defense will have to have to step up once again in a big-game atmosphere for the Eagles. LCA’s defense is giving up just 197.75 yards per game.

Mattie Lebryk leads the defense for the Eagles from his linebacker position with 37 total tackles and is followed Jeffrey Selby (27), Tyler Morris (21) and Chance McGaughey (18).

Neal Dickey leads the team in tackles for loss (six) and quarterback sacks (five), while Gabe Byrne and Anthony Johns have reeled in 4.5 tackles for loss each with Byrne and Morris collecting 3.5 sacks each.

“Our defense has definitely been the anchor of our great start this year,” added Charles. “We anticipated we would have a solid defense as we returned 10 starters from a solid team last season. Joe Lebryk and Marty Moore have done a fantastic job in coaching our kids up and building a defense that is strong in both the run and passing game.

“We lead the state in all classes in sacks with 20 thus far through four games. It certainly takes some pressure off of our offense when our defense is playing so solidly, and our special teams are playing really good as well.”

Frederick Douglass opened the season with a heartbreaking 19-17 loss against Class 6A powerhouse North Hardin on a field goal as time expired, but the Broncos have since bounced back with dominating wins over Louisville Ballard (49-21) and Grant County (64-0).

While many teams have focused their efforts into stopping Dekel Crowdus from getting touches from his wide receiver position, Dane Key has continued to show that he is just as big of a threat as Crowdus.

Key had 545 yards receiving and eight touchdowns on 33 catches to lead the Broncos to a Class 5A state runner-up finish in 2019, but with Crowdus back on the team after spending much last season at IMG Academy in Florida, the opposition seems to have forgotten how good Key can be.

After finishing with 40 yards and two touchdowns on four catches in limited action in the demolishing of Grant County, Key caught the eye of Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach and was offered a scholarship on Sunday.

Samuel Cornett has been brilliant in his first season at quarterback with the Douglass program. Cornett is 35-for-56 passing for 445 yards and eight touchdowns.

Lexington Christian’s Mattie Lebryk (right) makes a solo tackle against Dunbar last week. (LCA photo)

“Playing a team like Frederick Douglass will help us regardless of who wins as we will be exposed to elite athletes, great coaching and speed that we will learn from as we prepare to play the talented Somerset and Danville district teams later this month,” Charles said. “Since the game got announced late Saturday night, I’ve had numerous calls from college scouts wanting passes and several media outlets (TV, radio and print) reaching out about the game. Our kids as well as Frederick Douglass’ kids will be able to experience a lot of hype and juice in a regular-season game that should help us both as we prepare for our respective state title runs.

“Ticket demand has been off the (charts) and that is why we agreed to move the game from LCA to Douglass as their venue is much bigger than ours. Our kids are excited for the opportunity to compete against one of the state’s top teams and I think its a great thing for Fayette County football for us to play.”

Class 4A District 5 crown on the line
The Boyle County/Lexington Catholic rivalry in football stretches many years. But it has been all Boyle County the last three season as the Rebels have won the last five games in the series.

Boyle County has outscored Lexington Catholic by an average of 52.6 to 10.1 during its five-game winning streak against the Knights. Calpreps.com is expecting the Rebels to win big on Friday, but the Knights will try to stop Jagger Gillis and the lauded passing attack of Boyle County.

Gillis is on pace to smash his previous-best passing totals of 1,128 yards in 2019 and 15 touchdowns in 2018 when he played at Anderson County. Gillis has 705 yards passing and 10 touchdowns in Boyle County’s wins, including a shocking 46-7 dismantling of Highlands on the road.

Gillis has thrown touchdowns to four different receivers, with Cole Lanter and Luke Sheperson getting the most yards and touchdowns from the senior gunslinger. Lanter has 12 catches for 256 yards and four touchdowns, while Sheperson has 187 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions for the Rebels.

Boyle County head coach Justin Haddix, who is in his first season with the Rebels after having a successful run at Corbin, has another weapon in the form of Jackson Smith as the team’s placekicker.

Smith has bounced back nicely after having missed what would have been the game-tying extra point in the 2019 Class 4A state finals, which Johnson Central won 21-20. Smith is 19-for-19 on extra points this season and two-for-two on field goals to up his career totals to 163 made extra points and a perfect 10-for-10 in field goals.

LexCath has seen action in just two games so far this season with a close loss to Lexington Christian and a dominating win over Tates Creek.

Jack Gohmann has been efficient in action at quarterback for head coach Nigel Smith. Gohmann is 29-for-43 passing for 392 yards and six touchdowns to just one interception.

If LexCath is to win for the first time in the series since taking a 38-7 decision over Boyle County on Oct. 14, 2016, the Knights will have to ramp up their defense, especially when it comes to defending the pass. LexCath has given up 477 yards through the air this season on 50 pass attempts by the opposition.

The winner of the game will likely be playing host to the losing team in the second round of the playoffs as both teams are heavy favorites to get past the first round.

Trojans and Pirates battle in the mountains
North Hardin is off to a 4-0 start thanks in large part to a defense that has pitched three consecutive shutouts and has not allowed any points since giving up a touchdown with 1:29 to go in its season-opening win over Frederick Douglass.

North Hardin head coach Brent Thompson is not one to shy away from playing tough competition outside of district play nor will he let distance play a factor in whether or not to take on a game. The Trojans will travel approximately 271 miles to Belfry’s CAM Stadium to take on the Pirates.

North Hardin’s La’Vell Wright rushed for 1,819 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. (Photo by Chuck Feist)

Belfry, which is the defending Class 3A state champion, is 3-1 and has rebounded nicely after losing to Pikeville 20-14 on Sept. 18. The Pirates have since cruised to wins over Magoffin County (59-20) and Floyd Central (48-18) but will see a drastic increase in talent when the Trojans invade the Pond Creek Nation.

North Hardin, which is considered a contender to knock off Louisville Trinity for the Class 6A crown, is filled with NCAA Division I talent and is led by a pair of University of Kentucky commits in Jordan Lovett and La’Vell Wright as well as Michael Lunz, who is signing with Tulane.

Belfry’s Isaac Dixon is the leading rusher in all of Class 3A with 789 yards and 11 touchdowns on 43 carries. Both Dixon and Wright are considered as contenders for Mr. Football this season.

Shootout looming in Northeast Kentucky
Ashland Blazer (2-0) is averaging 47 points per game through its first two contests, and East Carter (3-1) is averaging slightly better at 47.3 points during its three-game winning streak.

The Tomcats easily defeated Bourbon County (44-6) and Raceland (50-15) and will look to keep the Raiders from matching their point total last week when they went on the road to defeat Betsy Layne 70-34. East Carter is giving up 33 points per contest in its four games, including a 43-0 loss to county rival West Carter.

Ashland Blazer is considered as one of the top teams in Class 3A, but East Carter does have a top-10 win under its belt as the Raiders defeated Tolsia High School out of West Virginia by a final of 36-21 on Sept. 25. Tolsia was ranked as the third-best team in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission’s Class A.

Admirals and Briar Jumpers set to clash
Since winning the Class 2A state title over Mayfield in 2017, Danville may have an 8-14 record, but the ship is no longer in capsizing-mode as the Admirals are off to a 3-0 start to the season thanks to wins over Hazard, Wayne County and Mason County.

Danville will have its hands full, though, as it will be taking on Somerset, which is the Class 2A champion from 2019. Somerset has won the last four meetings between the two squads with two wins occurring in each of the last two seasons.

The rivalry between both schools runs deeper than on the gridiron as both as in the 12th Region in basketball, baseball and softball with both schools also being in the upper echelon in the region on the baseball diamond as well.

Somerset is led by quarterback Kaiya Sheron, a University of Kentucky commit and Mr. Football candidate, Kade Grundy and Chase Doan.

Sheron, who is a 6-foot-3 pro-style quarterback, is just 33 yards away from cracking into the 6,000-yard passing club. The senior signal caller has 903 yards passing and 205 yards rushing with 13 combined touchdowns as the Briar Jumpers have four blowout wins to start the season.

Grundy will be taking his talents to the University of Louisville on a baseball scholarship as he is a candidate for 2021 Mr. Baseball, but he will first look to expand on his 303 receiving yards to start the season. Doan is the team’s leading rusher with 468 yards and six touchdowns on 57 carries.

Danville is led by Sage Dawson, Caleb Burns and Corydon Crawford. Dawson, a sophomore quarterback, has thrown for 460 yards. Crawford is his primary target and has totaled 307 yards and all five of Dawson’s touchdown passes this season. Burns has rushed the ball 58 times for 376 yards and four touchdowns.

LCA’s Mattie Lebryk (41) was seventh in Class 2A with 126 tackles last season. (LCA photo)

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