For only the second time in program history last week, the Southwestern Warriors won a region championship, courtesy of a come from behind 23-22 victory at Scott County. The Warriors’ defense prevented the Cardinals from scoring in the second half, putting Southwestern only a game away from their first ever state championship game appearance.
To get there, however, the Warriors will have to get past a Class 5A powerhouse in the Bowling Green Purples. After an uncharacteristic 6-6 season last year, the Purples are once again one of the best teams in Class 5A, putting together an 11-2 record with losses coming against Boyle County and St. Xavier. Bowling Green has really shined throughout the playoffs, only allowing seven total points over the course of three games so far.
Bowling Green is led by star sophomore quarterback Deuce Bailey, who was second in passing yards in Class 5A with 2,764 yards, second only to Pulaski County quarterback Brysen Dugger. Bailey has also thrown for 29 touchdowns with only seven interceptions and leads the Purples’ fourth ranked passing attack in the class. After being challenged by the running prowess of Scott County last week, the Warriors will now have to prepare for a great air attack. Bailey’s favorite target is junior Easton Barlow, who has hauled in 46 receptions for 894 yards and 11 touchdowns. Freshman receiver Trevy Barber also had a solid season, with 43 catches for 663 yards and eight touchdowns.
Despite their passing attack, the Purples also have a very solid runner in junior Javen Huddleston, who has rushed for 1,014 yards on 123 attempts with 14 touchdowns. Assuming the Southwestern defense keys in on the Bowling Green passing attack, they will have to be on the lookout for Huddleston running the ball.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bowling Green is led by their leading tackler in senior Jake Napier, who has 113 for the season. They are also led by junior Wick Dotson, who is tied for the third-most interceptions in Class 5A with four.
Despite some impressive stats by some players, the Bowling Green defense is middle of the road compared to some other defenses that Southwestern has faced this season. If the Warriors can get some contributions from senior quarterback Roger Oliver again, after having a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown last week along with throwing for over 100 yards, they stand a real good shot at pulling off what many pundits are claiming could be a mild upset.
The rushing attack for the Warriors will once again be a major key, with senior Tanner Wright and junior Christian Walden leading the way, with Wright having the second-most rushing yards in Class 5A with 1,562 along with 25 touchdowns, also the second-most . Walden has also rushed for over 1,000 yards, with 1,128 yards to his name along with 15 touchdowns. Over the course of the postseason, sophomore Braxton Walters has also become a reliable option in the backfield, giving the Warriors three legitimate options to put on the field.
To put it mildly, the Southwestern defense that showed up in the second half of last week’s game must show up again this week. The Warriors constantly allowed gains on the ground in the first half of their game against Scott County but completely flipped the script in the second half. In the third quarter alone, Scott County only had the ball for the final minute of the quarter. The overall defense of the Warriors is ranked number four in Class 5A, so the stats say that it’s the classic case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.
Seniors Maison Hibbard and Maddox Mink stepped up massively in that game and will be called on once again to lead the Southwestern defense in this one. Mink will be expected to put pressure on Bailey to allow him little time to find his targets. Freshman Deven Leclercq had his first sack of the season last week to seal the win for the Warriors late in the fourth quarter, with that play perhaps serving as momentum for the freshman to improve. Hibbard leads the Warriors in interceptions with three for the season and will certainly be expected to defend the Purples’ top receiver in Barlow.
It is going to be the age old battle of the passing attack versus the rushing attack on Friday night at the Reservation. Can the Warriors continue their dream undefeated season and advance to their first ever state championship game? That will be the question of the day locally come Black Friday. The game between the Warriors and the Purples is set to kick off at 7 pm on Friday.