Taking a look at Johnson Central, Covington Catholic

Franklin-Simpson and South Warren will both play this weekend for state football championships at Kroger Field in Lexington.

While the Wildcats try to win back-to-back Class 4A titles against Johnson Central – an opponent they’re meeting in the championship for the third consecutive season – the Spartans will collide with powerhouse Covington Catholic in the Class 5A final.

Let’s take a look at both opponents:

JOHNSON CENTRAL

vs. Franklin-Simpson, 3:30 p.m. CST Saturday

Head coach: Jim Matney (15th season)

Record: 13-1; lone loss to Capital (Charleston, West Virginia) in season opener Aug. 24

How they got here: Johnson Central advanced to the Class 4A KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl championship by defeating Bourbon County (55-7) in the opening round, Scott (50-7) in the second round, Ashland Blazer (50-14) in the quarterfinals and Knox Central (59-20) in last Friday’s semifinals. The Golden Eagles enter Saturday’s contest riding a 13-game win streak.

Finals history: Johnson Central has played in three state finals – all coming in the past three years. The Golden Eagles lost 36-6 to South Warren in the 2015 championship before defeating Franklin-Simpson, 48-0, in 2016. Johnson Central fell 35-21 to the Wildcats in last season’s final.

Players to watch: Johnson Central is led by the rushing attack of Joe Jackson and Devin Johnson, who have combined for nearly 3,500 yards and 43 touchdowns this season. While Jackson has rushed for 2,203 yards and a team-leading 29 TDs – along with 226 yards and three more scores, Johnson has recorded 1,196 yards and 14 TDs. Quarterback Riley Preece has passed for 970 yards and seven scores with four interceptions.

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Series history with Franklin-Simpson: Saturday will mark the third all-time meeting between Johnson Central and Franklin-Simpson, with all three coming from 2016-now. As the two sides have traded victories in the past two games, the series is even at 1-1 and Saturday will serve as a “rubber match.”

COVINGTON CATHOLIC

vs. South Warren, 1 p.m. CST Sunday

Head coach: Edward Eviston (4th season)

Record: 14-0

How they got here: Covington Catholic advanced to the Class 5A KHSAA Commonwealth Gridiron Bowl championship by defeating Woodford County (49-0) in the opening round, Montgomery County (43-15) in the second round, Highlands (36-0) in the quarterfinals and Pulaski County (36-14) in last Friday’s semifinals. The Colonels enter Sunday’s contest sporting an undefeated record.

Finals history: Covington Catholic has played in seven state finals, and it has been victorious in each. The Colonels captured last season’s championship with a 49-13 win over Madison Southern and Sunday will play in back-to-back title games for the third time in program history.

Players to watch: Everything begins with standout senior running back Casey McGinness, who has rushed for over 2,000 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2018. Along with his rushing numbers, McGinness has also surpassed 300 receiving yards with five more TDs. All-around player Michael Mayer – a junior who’s committed to Notre Dame – has caught 11 TD passes with over 900 yards receiving. Defensively, Mayer leads Covington Catholic with 87 tackles and has recorded three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and an interception.

Series history with South Warren: Sunday will mark just the second all-time meeting between Covington Catholic and South Warren, with the two coming in the past two years. The two sides met in last season’s semifinal round – a game in which the Colonels won 43-7.

Tyler Mansfield@ByMansfield

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