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Lexington Christian (7-1) faces defending Class 2A state champion Somerset (6-2) in playoff showdown

By Chad Hensley
KyForward sports reporter

The question for Lexington Christian is simple, but the answer will be anything but easy.

Can Lexington Christian knock off defending Class 2A state champion Somerset for a second time this season when the two teams meet Friday night in Lexington?

The Eagles (7-1) defeated the Briar Jumpers (6-2) by a score of 28-21 in the regular-season meeting for the right to host the second-round matchup. Lexington Christian head coach Doug Charles and his staff knew going into the season that the offense would be able to put up points, but they also realized that the defense would be one of the best in Class 2A after losing just two starters from 2019.

Doug Charles

“We felt coming into the season that our defense would be very good being that we returned nine starters,” Charles said. “We have great team speed and our guys really rally to the football. Our defensive line rotation continues to get better each and every week. Our guys play as a unit and our defensive coaches Marty Moore, Joe Lebryk, Jason Ferguson, John Johnson, Pete Barnhart and Justin Morris all do a great job getting our guys great game plans each week and continually working on individual improvement.”

The Eagles defense has forced 13 turnovers this season and is led statistically by Mattie Lebryk with 91 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

The LCA offense is once again led by star running back Xavier Brown, who has offers from multiple Power 5 conference teams. Brown enters Friday night with 938 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns.

Drew Nieves is the quarterback for the Eagles and has been impressive in his first season as the starter.

“Drew has been a real bright spot with us thus far and that was our biggest question mark offensively going into the season,” added Charles. “Arguably, his play, production and efficiency has put him near the top of quarterback performances in the state. Xavier is special and now 100 percent healthy again. We are blessed with a lot of talent in the skill positions. Mason Moore is having a fantastic year on both sides of the ball.

“While Xavier was out, Mason became our featured back and he responded very well. Will Vernon is back to making big plays and requires a lot of attention from defenses. Tyler Morris has evolved into a solid running back with reliable hands. At 185 pounds and with 4.45 speed, he’s got breakaway power and speed. Jeffrey Selby is a very reliable running back who does everything well. We have got tons of quality depth at every position, and our staff has done a great job of distributing the ball.”

Lexington Christian’s Xavier Brown enters Friday with 938 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns. (LCA photo)

Nieves has 1,899 yards passing and 20 touchdowns to rival the numbers being put up by Somerset’s Kaiya Sheron, who has 1,785 yards passing and 14 touchdowns.

Sheron, who has committed to the University of Kentucky, has thrown four interceptions in 159 passing attempts this season with three coming against the Eagles.

“Somerset is a great team with elite talent that is well-coached,” Charles said of his head coaching counterpart, Robbie Lucas. “We expect a dogfight and it’s going to come down to who can make the big plays, control the line of scrimmage and win the turnover battle. Both teams and staffs know each other very well so the winner is basically going to be which team can be most effective in executing their respective game plan.

“Sheron is a gifted quarterback who can beat you with his feet and arm. If we allow him too much time, he will find ways to make plays. He has multiple receivers led by Kade Grundy, who seems to always find a way to make big plays. The last four games with them have been classic high school football games that were all determined by one-possession differences. We expect the same this coming Friday night.”

Grundy, who is a University of Louisville baseball commit, has 619 receiving yards on 29 catches with five touchdowns.

Somerset defeated Danville by a 48-14 score in the opening round of the playoffs. LCA has been off since Oct. 30, when the Eagles defeated Class 1A favorite Pikeville, 35-13.

“It’s certainly been a long span since we last played,” Charles said of the four-week layoff. “The biggest benefit with the long layover is that we played a full contact ‘Blue/White’ scrimmage in a simulated game-type environment. We drafted and matched talent pretty well. We had officials, a chain crew and play clock. We also had Drew quarterback for both teams. It was very competitive, and frankly more physical than some of our regular games. We’ve spent a lot of time self-scouting and improving on conditioning and fundamentals all the while getting healthy.”

Franklin County’s Zach Claudio (7) gains yardage against Shelby County. (Photo by Hannah Wynn)

No matter who emerges victorious, rest assured that the winner will be considered a heavy favorite to advance to Kroger Field for the Class 2A title game, which Somerset won in 2019.

Flyers seek revenge against Yellow Jackets

The last two meetings between Franklin County and the Louisville Central have been marred by the “what ifs” in the minds of Flyers faithful.

Franklin County star quarterback Nick Broyles was out with an injury in the Flyers’ 18-7 loss in the 2019 playoffs. Then, earlier this season, Broyles suffered an ankle injury early in his team’s 18-16 setback to the Yellow Jackets on Oct. 24 and was limited in what he could do the remainder of the game.

Broyles, who has thrown for 1,409 yards and 17 touchdowns in just five games, did not play in either of Franklin County’s final two regular-season victories and had nearly a month to recover before leading his squad to a comfortable 41-12 victory over Shelby County.

“This week is a big week for our program,” said Franklin County head coach Eddie James. “We are excited to compete against a great program. Nick was very limited in the first game, but he is at full strength, so we are excited to have him against Central and look for him to perform at a high level.”

Franklin County is 17-2 in the last two seasons, with both losses to Central.
Should the Flyers (6-1) down the undefeated Yellow Jackets (6-0), it will be the play of the Franklin County defensive unit that decides the outcome.

Franklin County’s defense has been a vital part of how the offense has performed due to forcing their opponents into 20 turnovers (11 fumble recoveries and nine interceptions). Five of those turnovers went for touchdowns.

Kaden Moorman leads the way for Franklin County on the ground with 393 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 56 carries. With his 159-yard receiving performance against Shelby County, Fred Farrier now has 2,544 career receiving yards and will likely eclipse the 3,000-yard mark for total offense on Friday as he has 2,987 yards rushing and receiving combined.

Farrier has been Broyles’ favorite target the last three years and has parlayed his time with Franklin County into nearly 30 college offers. Farrier will be reducing that list to his top five this week.

“Fred has continually grown and worked over the last four years,” James added. “He is a phenomenal talent. He has numerous Division I scholarship offers but is still under-recruited in my opinion. He works harder than anyone I have coached and is a phenomenal student and leader. He is locked in this week and we expect him to perform at a high level.”

The Franklin County defense held Shelby County to just 51 passing yards in a 41-12 win during the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. (Photo by Hannah Wynn)

The Flyers defense is led by Phillip Peiffer, who has committed to Lafayette College. Peiffer, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound defensive end, leads the team with 66 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Peyton Ledford, Brenton Sears, Jayden Mattison and Zach Claudio are other stars on the defensive side of the ball for the Flyers as all are having stellar seasons statistically.

“We have made a commitment since I got back to FCHS to hanging our hat on great defense,” said James, who is 32-11 overall in his fourth season at the helm of the Flyers. “We’ve gotten better over the last four years and feel like our defense is staking its claim this year. Our coaches and players do a great job of buying into playing physical and relentless defense. Peiffer, Claudio, Ledford, Sears and Mattison are leaders on that side of the ball and work hard at it.”

Central is also having a great season from its defense as the Yellow Jackets are allowing just 5.5 points and 148.7 total yards per game.

Malachi Williams is enjoying a standout season, both offensively and defensively. On offense, Williams has rushed for 756 yards and nine touchdowns and added six two-point conversions.

Williams also has recorded 33 total tackles, three tackles for loss and three sacks for a defense that lives up to the swarming nature of a yellow jacket.

The winner of the game on Friday will host the following week as none of the other six teams in the top half of the Class 4A bracket have a higher RPI rating.

1A – Paintsville at Raceland
1A – Bethlehem at Louisville Holy Cross (Saturday kickoff)
2A – Owensboro Catholic at Hancock County
3A – Christian Academy of Louisville at Mercer County
3A – Bell County at Rockcastle County
4A – Knox Central at Corbin
4A – Lexington Catholic at Boyle County
5A – South Oldham at North Bullitt
5A – Frederick Douglass at Scott County
5A – Southwestern at Pulaski County
5A – Bowling Green at South Warren
6A – Oldham County at Bryan Station
6A – McCracken County at Henderson County
6A – St. Xavier at DuPont Manual

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