YOSEMITE This weekly picks column has devolved into a competition between Aaron Snyder, Matthew Sparks and yours truly to see who can be the most ridiculous and also try the hardest to force-feed information from our personal lives to our long-suffering readers. (Recall folksy wisdom from a picks column last fall about it being inadvisable to pick your friend’s nose.)
I have happily accepted third place in that race to the bottom, although this week will probably drag me in the wrong direction.
Last weekend, my family and I spent some time away in the rural Casey County community listed in the dateline to this column. Unlike the hilarious Looney Tunes figure that shares the same name, it’s pronounced “YO-smite,” and unlike the national park in California, the most notable landmark here might be the Dollar General.
Yosemite is, however, close enough to Garrard County and Danville that I briefly considered making a trip to one or the other to satisfy a football fix before thinking better of it and taking a rare Friday night off.
Anyway, back to the precarious flow of this column. Since my colleagues have instituted weekly themes, and because I am content to know far less about pop culture than them, how about, in the spirit of Yosemite, using place names Kentucky shares with the outside world as terrible puns to grease the skids?
Week 8 Picks
• Bath County 34, East Ridge 12. The banged-up Wildcats, averaging 9.8 points per game, get a welcome respite by meeting a Warriors defense yielding 46.7 points per outing. Bath County “Versailles” at home. (This only works if you pronounce that like they do in Woodford County, not in France.)
• Ashland 41, East Carter 14. The Tomcats may not “Buffalo” the Raiders quite like they have in years past — though East Carter’s strength of schedule isn’t near Ashland’s, victories over West Carter and Tolsia show the Raiders are for real — but Ashland pulls away in the second half.
• Paintsville 49, Fairview 16. It may not manifest itself on the scoreboard Friday, but the Eagles have made legitimate progress this season, no longer “California” dreamin’ but headed in the right direction. That’s worth bearing in mind this week and next as Fairview takes on the task of playing two of the stronger programs in eastern Kentucky, particularly of Class A, the Tigers and Raceland.
• Russell 28, Greenup County 21. “Athens” was the home of the ancient Greek ideal of balance. Football coaches often strive for a run-pass balance; the Red Devils still run way more often than they throw but have been working on the pass game to complement their stable of backs, and the Musketeers’ approach to balance is more about getting touches to all their skill guys than differentiating how they do it. Both approaches will be on display from two talented offenses in the “Backyard Brawl.”
• Boyd County 21, Holmes 20. “Florence” (the one in Tuscany) was the epicenter of the Renaissance. A rebirth is exactly what the Lions are working toward, and an attainable district victory in Covington — 11 miles from Kentucky’s Florence — would be an important step in that process.
• Ironton 41, Rock Hill 12. “Rome” wasn’t built in a day, so the saying goes, and neither was the Fighting Tigers program, but it didn’t seem to take much time for Ironton to regain its swagger under second-year coach Trevon Pendleton. That continues in the Ohio 93 battle of Ironton old money — the Redmen are coached by Mark Lutz, son of the legendary Bob Lutz — versus new.
• Fleming County 40, Mason County 28. The Royals were long like “Krypton”-ite to the Panthers (who said all these places had to be real?), winning 17 of 20 in the border rivalry in a stretch that culminated with Mason County’s 49-6 win in Maysville in 2013. Fleming County hasn’t lost to the Royals since — a key part of its return to regional relevance — and seeks its sixth straight series win and a leg up in the Class 3A, District 6 race.
• Middlesboro 39, Morgan County 16. According to the book “Kentucky Place Names,” “Middlesboro” itself is actually an homage to Middlesbrough, England, a name possibly suggested by a nearby hotelier who hailed from the original. The Cougars would probably walk to Middlesbrough at this point in order to pick up a win, but will continue to find the going tough against the resurgent Yellowjackets, who already have as many victories this season (five) as in the four previous seasons combined.
• Johnson Central 49, Perry County Central 20. The Commodores would likely have about the same amount of luck (not much) stopping the Golden Eagles’ five-headed rushing attack whether this game was played in Perry County or “Paris” (envision the French pronunciation, in which those two places are homophones).
• Lawrence County 41, Pike County Central 40. Before last year, the previous two iterations of this district rivalry, in 2016 and ‘17, produced the heat of “Texas” in July, both decided by late failed two-point conversions. Not so last year, in a comfortable 31-point Bulldogs win. This one figures to be much closer, with two teams capable of piling up the points.
• West Carter 42, Prestonsburg 14. The Comets play in Prestonsburg about as often as they go to “Mexico” — the last time they met was in the 1970s — but visits to Blackcat Stadium are a new reality for West Carter in its new district. Prestonsburg has allowed 48.6 points per game in its five losses; the Blackcats are all that stand between the Comets and a de facto district title game in Olive Hill against Martin County the following week.
• Raceland 47, Betsy Layne 16. Can Rams quarterback Jake Heighton escape the “Cuba”-like embargo of the sideline? Heighton, who broke his collarbone in Week 2 against Russell, dressed out and warmed up last week against Ashland, but didn’t see game action. If he’s ready, the district lidlifter against the Bobcats might be an ideal time to dip his toe back in.
• Harrison County 28, Rowan County 22. The Thorobreds have displayed a “Ravenna”-ous (womp womp) defense most of the season, allowing 14.4 points per game before yielding 33 to Scott last week. Harrison County has allowed 560 rushing yards on the season; the Vikings will likely inflate that number, having run for 1,940 this fall, but will they capitalize often enough to knock off last year’s district champs?
Tonight’s radio coverage:
• East Ridge at Bath County: WKCA 94.7 FM
• Ashland at East Carter: WBVB 97.1 FM, WGOH 100.9 FM, koolhits1057.com
• Paintsville at Fairview: WKLW 94.7 FM, koolhits1057.com
• Russell at Greenup County: koolhits1057.com
• Boyd County at Holmes: koolhits1057.com
• Rock Hill at Ironton: WIRO 1230 AM
• Fleming County at Mason County: WFLE 95.1 FM, wfle.fm
• Morgan County at Middlesboro: WLKS 102.9 FM
• Johnson Central at Perry County Central: WSIP 98.9 FM
• Lawrence County at Pike County Central: WKYH 99.3 FM
• Betsy Layne at Raceland: koolhits1057.com
• Harrison County at Rowan County: WQXX 106.1 FM
Reach ZACK KLEMME at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658. Follow @zklemmeADI on Twitter.