Commonwealth Journal

November 2, 2012

Jumpers start playoff journey by hosting Shelby Valley

By Bruce Singleton, CJ Correspondent
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

The “regular season” is over for high school football in Kentucky. Each team across the state has played ten games, some of which were in the districts assigned by the Kentucky High School Athletics Association. Depending on how well they did in their districts, some of the high school teams in Kentucky have the privilege of competing for the state championship in their class.
It’s called, “the playoffs.”
These playoffs take place in six separate “classes,” based upon the size of the school.  Somerset is in Class 2A. Pulaski County is in Class 5A. Southwestern is also in Class 5A, but, sadly, the beautiful and brilliant playoff run the team had last year was not to be repeated. The lights at the Reservation have already been turned off for the season.
The “playoffs” are referred to by many as a time of turning off the Friday Night Lights.
Thirty two teams have made the playoffs in Class 2A. Only half get to play at home, because of their regular season record. That tournament process is called “seeding”: the best teams are the higher seeds and they get to play the lower seeds in a process which theoretically assures the two best teams will be the last teams standing four weeks from now.
Between now and then, the field will be cut in half each week.
Tonight, only 16 teams will be left standing.
Next Friday night, there will be eight.
The week after, there will be four, then two, then one.
The Somerset Football Briar Jumpers have never survived the process to be the last team standing.
Tonight, they enter the tournament as a “one” seed. Their regular season record has qualified them to stay at home and keep their lights on for a long time, potentially for four games.
But first, they have to get through tonight’s game.
And after that, they have to survive 48 minutes each week, while they look in anticipation at the other games in the bracket to see who they will play next if they are lucky enough.
The Shelby Valley Wildcats are a four seed. The rules say they have to travel to Somerset to compete tonight. Shelby Valley is a relatively new school about 10 miles south of Pikeville in Pike County. They made it to the first round of the playoffs about 20 years ago, and haven’t done much else since.
They have lost 7 games by an average score of 41-12. But the ones that they have won have been barn burners. In each of the three games the Wildcats won, they scored more than 50 points.
The Wildcats could turn off the lights in the Briar Patch tonight.
Nobody expects that to happen.
Somerset Head Coach Robbie Lucas offers this analysis:
“Shelby Valley is a young team that plays hard and is well coached but doesn't yet have the physical maturity to finish games,” Lucas said. “They open each game offensively with a different formation than what you have seen. When they settle in, they run their base offense: a wing T.”
That means they like trick plays like we saw the Perry County guys run last week. Lacking in talent, they have to rely on trickery, and sometimes it works.
“They are effective getting on the edge and with their misdirection game,” Lucas continued. “Defensively they will bring multiple blitzes and play man coverages. They will be physical and won't be intimidated playing us.”
It bears repeating.
The Wildcats could turn off the lights in the Briar Patch tonight.
But nobody expects that to happen.
But, of course, Bardstown didn’t expect that to happen in 1999, when the Briar Jumpers swaggered into town, took the Tigers by the tail, and didn’t turn loose until they had beaten them 28-25. Somerset did everything right that night, including picking off 4 passes and kicking the daylights out of the uprights. And that little 4 seed team didn’t stop there. The Jumpers won the region and only ran out of gas when they took those fancy rented busses all the way to Hancock county and ran into Travis Atwell, who went on to be Kentucky’s Mr. Football that year.
Somerset’s 1999 four-seed team was a very special one. Coming into the playoffs at 7-3, they had faced a monstrous district schedule and had barely survived. And when they did, they were full of life, ambition and will to win.
Kind of like the Somerset team we saw take the field against Danville on that night like no other earlier this year. There was focus, strength, and football power. That team that played that night would probably have beaten any other eleven players in the state of Kentucky. Certainly, they could have beaten anybody in Class 2A.
But that team has been AWOL for most of the season. The Jumpers have tremendous potential, but have not always shown the desire to play like a team, keep the heat on the other side, and score the points.
Except defensively.
The Jumpers still rank number 3 in their class in total points allowed. As long as they play good fundamental football, they can be expected to keep the scores low. But they have to put the points on the board to win the ball games.
Coach Lucas agrees.
“We need to continue to improve on offense,” he said. “Defensively, we need to get back to playing fundamental football.”
That has been oh, so true in the last three games we have seen the Jumpers play.
Shelby Valley is a lot like the mythical Lake Wobegone. Every boy is handsome. Every girl is beautiful. They are all above average students, active in their community and church, and well-liked by one and all.
Football-wise, their past performance indicates they ought to lose tonight.
But maybe they didn’t get that memo.
Tonight’s game will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Clark Field.