Southwestern faces Scott County for region championship

Nov. 17—After losses by Pulaski County and Somerset last week, and a 35-7 triumph by Southwestern over North Laurel, the Warriors are the only local team remaining in the 2022 KHSAA playoffs. Southwestern had an impressive showing on defense especially in their victory last week, holding the Jaguars to only 133 yards total, including only 28 passing yards.

For the first time in this year's playoffs, however, the Warriors will be leaving the friendly confines of the Reservation, as they will travel to take on the Scott County Cardinals on Friday night. It will be the seventh-straight regional championship appearance for Southwestern, although for the first time since 2018, the Warriors will not be playing Frederick Douglass in the title game. Make no mistake though, it will be a tough trip for the Warriors. Scott County has only lost one game so far this season, that being a 41-0 drubbing at the hands of Frederick Douglass back in September. The Warriors made it to the region championship following victories over Madison Southern and North Laurel, while the Cardinals have gone through Cooper and Highlands to advance to the title game.

Despite the Warriors having the leading rushing attack in Class 5A, led by senior Tanner Wright and junior Christian Walden, there stands a real possibility that they will have to try to lean more on a passing attack spearheaded by senior quarterback Roger Oliver and senior receiver Maison Hibbard. The Cardinals' defense is susceptible to the pass, as evidenced by their 34th ranking in terms of passing defense in Class 5A, while their rushing defense is ranked seventh in the class. Despite this, the Cardinals do have the leader in interceptions in the class in junior Paul Garner who has five for the season, as well as additionally having two players, senior Logan Jones and junior Luke Valencia, who have recorded two or more interceptions on the season.

The Cardinals are led on the field by sophomore quarterback Andrew Hickey, who for the year has thrown for 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Their main strength lies in their rushing attack just as it does with the Warriors. The Cardinals have three running backs that have each scored 10 or more touchdowns this season. Their leading rusher, junior Jacob Fryman, has 890 yards with 13 touchdowns. Fellow junior Ellis Huguely has rushed for 704 yards and 10 touchdowns, while another junior in Thomas Feickert has rushed for 700 yards and another 10 touchdowns.

There will be a lot of pressure on the Southwestern defense to have the same stellar performance as they did last week, especially with the rushing attack that will be coming after them. Senior defensive leader Maddox Mink, who is 15th in Class 5A in sacks with seven, along with fellow senior Wyatt Stafford and junior Kolton Goff, who each have four, are sure to be expected to limit the rushing attack of the three-headed monster that the Cardinals have made.

The game will ultimately come down to who has a more effective passing attack and which defense can limit the opposing rushing attack the most. The Warriors are looking to finally get over the hump in the region championship, with this seemingly being the most opportune year to do so. With as much running as both teams do, most pundits expect it to be almost like a running clock and for the game to be over pretty quickly. Head coach Jason Foley will have his team ready to go as they head to Scott County on Friday night, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.