Small vs. Large in Football
by Steve Byrd
As you may know, football is perhaps the only high school team sport in Kentucky that has multiple state champions, instead of just one.
Like every other state, Kentucky determines those champs generally by grouping the schools based on how many students are enrolled, and then using a district round-robin format to determine playoff participants. Over 200 high schools play in 6 classes, from the largest in 6A, to the smallest in 1A.
Aside from the district round-robin, teams can schedule any other opponent during the season. Quite often, the outcomes bring to mind a famous saying paraphrased, that on any given Friday or other night in Kentucky, any team can beat any other team.
In the first few weeks of this season, Kentucky has seen some good teams from lower-classification schools defeat sides from larger-sized campuses.
For example, 3A powerhouse Christian Academy of Louisville opened with wins over three 5A opponents – South Oldham, North Bullitt and Bullitt Central. Kentucky Country Day, a perennial 1A threat, defeated 5A Atherton in week 2. And how about last year’s 4A runners-up, Johnson Central, winning that same week against one of Lexington’s 6A schools, Lafayette?
Not every such matchup ends this way, yet when smaller schools win quite often over the larger ones in Kentucky, does it mean classifying schools by enrollment should still matter?
It would be hard to change an established format like this, and whatever replaces it will never be perfect.
But wouldn’t it be fun if, instead of class-and-district, you would group football teams based on composite regular-season records over a 4-year stretch? Teams that are champs or runners-up in a certain group could get exceptions to avoid being put in a lower class. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if some would find an idea like that leading to a few in-season mismatches.
Or would it be just as much fun to have the most dominant of the smaller schools move up in classification, as is the case in Indiana?
It is called “Tournament Success Factor”, and how I think it would apply in Kentucky would be if a team was a champion or runner-up at least twice in a 4-year cycle, it would move up to the next highest classification.
Had the concept been applied during the current cycle that began in 2019 and ends with this football season, Beechwood, with their last two 2A titles, would move up to 3A starting next year. Boyle Co., back-to-back champs in 4A, would get promoted to 5A, and Belfry, with their 3A titles from 2019 and last season, would jump to 4A.
While the KHSAA has neither of these planned for the upcoming (2023-26) football classification cycle, the ideas are food for thought in terms of future consideration.
Back to the present, the first three weeks of this season have provided their share of unusual happenings. 6A runners-up Male, for instance, suffered consecutive defeats against Ballard and 6A Champs St. X, for their first losing streak since 2012, and their first 1-2 start since 2011. The Bulldogs have the week off before they play at Trinity on September 16th.
Ballard’s 3-0 record is something that school hasn’t seen in at least a quarter-century. As for the team that the Bruins shut out on September 2nd, South Oldham last opened 0-3 in 2009, the year before Jamie Reed became head coach. The Dragons will play nearby North Oldham in one of our broadcasts.
Also on Friday, GLICOD will be covering the crosstown rivalry between Clarksville and Providence, along with PRP at Lexington Catholic, and West Jessamine hosting Harrison Co. Plus, keep up with all the area scores by checking the ticker on our homepage, at GLICOD.com.