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The roads Anderson County and Oldham County have taken during the 2007 football season are as different as an interstate and a country lane, but Friday night, one will hit a dead end, while the other speeds on to the class 5A, Region 1 championship game, tentatively scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving.
Oldham rode a rugged schedule that included Class 6A powers Eastern, St. Xavier, Madison Central and Scott County. The Colonels won just one non-district game, but even that one was a loaded gun as they beat Franklin County, ranked sixth in 4A at the time.
Anderson meanwhile had been maligned by the lack of a big-name power on the schedule, but the Bearcats have answered the critics on the field with wins over some quality football teams late in the season, including Oldham and Marion County, ranked fifth in 4A at the time
Oldham comes into the district tournament championship game with a very deceptive 4-7 record, the worst of the 16 teams still alive in class 5A. But the Colonels turned the tables on Jeffersontown in last week's playoff opener with a 35-19 win. J-town had whipped Oldham 36-13 on Sept. 21.
Oldham's late-season surge included the Franklin win and the Colonels have to feel they have a strong chance at ending Anderson's unbeaten season Friday.
When the Bearcats beat Oldahm 35-31 four weeks ago, the Colonels were inside the Anderson 1 with the potential game-winning touchdown but Anderson's Nick Satterly made a stop behind the line of scrimmage, then Jacob Russell intercepted a pass at the goal line inside the final 2 minutes
'Playing someone a second time is just different,' Anderson coach Mark Peach says.
'Obviously, both teams are going to make adjustments and you don't know what the other team will adjust.'
Peach says one of the biggest concerns about playing Oldham is that the Colonels probably won't worry too much about its ground game against an Anderson defense that is best in the state against the run.
'They are going to want to throw the ball,' Peach says. 'The first game, they threw the ball 46 times against us.'
Quarterback Chad Dennis completed 21 of those tosses for 300 yards but had 3 passes intercepted. Dennis connected with receiver Jaque Vinson on scoring throws of 52 and 44 yards. He also had a 17-yard scoring toss to Joel Cuebas out of the backfield.
'Vinson is the best receiver we faced all year,' Peach says. 'He is a state champion in track (22.43 in last year's 200-meter dash) and they are going to try to get the ball to him. Dennis can throw long or short or anywhere in between.'
Oldham's 360 yards of offense was the second most the normally stingy Bearcat defense yielded all year behind the 381 given up to Covington Scott.
'What makes them so difficult to defend is that they use all the same players on every play,' Peach said.
'Most of the time, if a team will bring in certain players, you know it is most likely going to be a pass. Then they change again and you know it will be a run. Oldham will do different things with the same players.
'Another thing that they do is change their formations. The first time we played them, they lined up in 34 different formations. I have never seen anyone do that, not even when I was at Campbellsville (University).
'I know they have even more because we saw some new ones on the film of the J-town game.
'We have our work cut out for us. We will have to work on our coverages.'
But the Bearcats aren't crying about the contest. After all, they are the unbeaten favorites and have come up with the big plays all year, like Satterly and Russell did at Oldham.
The Bearcats also know that their speed in the backfield gave Oldham problems and that they had opened a 35-21 lead in the third quarter and had a chance to pad that after recovering a fumble in Colonel territory but a holding penalty stopped the drive that could have turned things into a romp.
'Oldham County is a very good football team, much better than their record,' Peach says. 'It is quite a challenge to beat a good football team twice, but our kids want to compete and go as far as they can.'
Teams match up in playoffs again
Anderson County and Oldham County will take the field against each other for the fourth time Friday and it will be the third time the matchup has been in the state playoffs
Oldham overcame an early Anderson lead in 1997 when Bearcat quarterback Ashley Hilton went down with an injury just before halftime.
Oldham won that one 21-18 and dominated the Cats the next year 34-14.
Both of the previous games were played at Oldham County.
The winner of Friday's game will move on to play the winner of Owensboro and Christian County next week.
An Anderson game with Owensboro would be played at Owensboro but if Christian County advances, Anderson would host the regional championship game.
Oldham would be on the road against either team.