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District dandy

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By John Herndon

When it comes to big football games, Anderson County has not hosted one quite like Friday’s showdown with Oldham County since, well, Nov. 16 of last year.

That was when Oldham came to town and ended Anderson’s perfect season in the second round of the state Class 5A playoffs. Anderson has had just two home games since then.

There have been some big games played on the Anderson field in the last 15 years. Namely a clash of unbeatens when the Bearcats hosted Marion County last year or when they upset Louisville Waggener in 1999, but those games meant little outside of the pride factor

For a game that has generated so much anticipation and had so much riding on it late in the regular season, one might need to go all the way back to 1986 when Anderson hosted Bardstown for the right to go to the state playoffs. The Bearcats won that battle to see who would keep playing in the post-season and who would stay home.

While the expanded playoffs mean that both Anderson and Oldham have already clinched post-season berths, there is the little matter of the district championship at stake. If Anderson wins, it will take the title. If Oldham wins, it does not clinch, but the Colonels would be poised to win with a victory over Jeffersontown next week.

“It is exciting to be able to participate in a game like this with the district title on the line against a great opponent,” says Anderson coach Mark Peach.

This game was listed by The Courier-Journal as the district game of the year in its pre-season edition. In that district poll, Anderson was the pre-season pick to win the district, Oldham was second. Anderson had three first-place votes, Oldham two.

However, the Rating the State rankings that appear in the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Courier-Journal Litkenhous Ratings have pushed Oldham to the decisive favorite’s role.

A look at the Bearcats’ and Colonels’ common opponents (Grant County and South Oldham) reveals scores strikingly similar.

Friday, Oldham ripped Franklin County 63-21 in Frankfort. Franklin came in with the best run defense in Class 4A, giving up 76 yards a game, but Oldham led 35-7 at the half and amassed 325 yards on the ground for the game. Quarterback Chad Dennis hit on 9-of-16 passes for over 250 yards.

It is a reflection of the philosophy of first-year Oldham coach Matt Brown, an Oldham County grad who took over after Lonnie Oldham’s coaching contract was not renewed.  

Dennis, a senior, rivals Anderson’s Jacob Russell as the district’s top quarterback. “Dennis will be the best quarterback we have faced all year,” Peach says. “He can make every throw with zip or touch. He is very talented and does not make many mistakes.”

Dennis likes to throw to Austin Middaugh, who took a pair of screen passes for touchdowns that erased Anderson’s 11-point lead in the last four minutes of the state playoffs last year. Running back Dylan Underwood leads the running game.

Defensively, linebacker Ichiro Chiba was all-district two years ago when the Colonels were in Class AAAA. “He will be the best we will see this year,” Peach says.

Suffice it to say that Anderson has its work cut out for it.

It could be a track meet. Oldham is averaging 37.9 points a game, Anderson 46.9.

Both Dennis and Russell are capable of putting up huge numbers while Underwood and Anderson’s B.J. Robinson and Kendrick Harvey are capable of doing the same on the ground.

It could be a 56-49 shootout but most likely, Friday’s game will be determined by which team can stop the other the most.

Peach likes his home turf advantage.

“It’s nice to have it at home. Our crowds have been unbelievable this year,” he said.

In a contest like Friday’s, he’ll take any advantage he can get.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.