It’s playoff time, and the Kentucky High School Athletics Association’s final RPI ratings have been set with implications for home-field advantage in each class after the first two rounds of postseason play out over the next two weeks.
Who are the No. 1’s? In Class A — Russellville; Class 2A — Lexington Catholic; Class 3A — Christian Academy-Louisville; Class 4A — Boyle County; Class 5A — Woodford County; and in Class 6A — Male. As long as those teams survive, their RPI ratings mean their opponents have to come through their home turf until the playoffs reach Kroger Field.
Coach Dennis Johnson’s road to Woodford County’s No. 1 seed has been a long journey. Johnson took over the Yellow Jackets in 2015. Their undefeated 10-0 2021 campaign was built on seasons of 3-8, 3-8, 0-11, 2-9, 6-5 and a COVID-19 shortened 4-3 last year.
“I was in my office and was just looking back three or four years when we were next to the bottom in 5A and I was like, ‘What the heck are we going to do?’” Johnson recalled of those lean years. “You try to stay the course … I’ve done the same thing. I’ve had my plan in place, incorporating in high school what my dad taught me, and (my) college and pro (experience) — kind of a weekly regimen. And we’ve stuck to it. And it’s finally paying off.”
Woodford has Class 5A’s top scoring offense (46.1 ppg) and its fifth-rated scoring defense (12.1 ppg). It’s third in rushing (233.6 yards per game), sixth in passing (153.4 ypg) and fourth in sacks (32.5). And the Yellow Jackets rank in the top four in both fumbles recovered (nine) and interceptions (12).
In short, Woodford County is going to be a problem for folks hoping to come out of Community Stadium at Falling Springs Center in Versailles with a win.
“Our goal was to just get a home playoff game, so to be sitting up there and have home-field advantage as long as we play, that’s a credit to these kids,” Johnson said. “They stayed the course and worked their butts off.”
Among Lexington teams, Sayre holds a No. 6 rating in Class A despite losing to both No. 9 Hazard and No. 2 Pikeville in the regular season, and they must face both of those teams again in District 7 play before the rating matters.
Thanks to the weird way RPI is calculated, No. 1 Lexington Christian has a higher rating than any other school in any class (by a lot). They’ve certainly earned it with regular-season wins over Pikeville, Christian Academy-Louisville, Boyle County and Madison Central, all top-10 teams in their respective classes.
Lexington Catholic ranks No. 2 in Class 4A and will host Bourbon County in the opening round, but the Knights face a likely road game at No. 1 Boyle County for the district title.
In Class 5A, Frederick Douglass ranks second. If the Broncos keeps advancing, they would host through the semifinal round, just like Woodford could.
In Class 6A, Bryan Station ranks third. If the seeding holds for the Defenders and they win their way to the semifinals, they face potentially having to go through St. Xavier in Louisville to earn a trip to Kroger Field.
Since the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) began being produced in 2019, it has been used to seed the playoff in the regional (Week 3) and semifinal rounds of the state playoffs.
The first two weeks of the postseason, which begin on Thursday, are the “district” rounds with district champions being crowned after Week 2. Those matchups are determined by how the teams finished in regular season district play.
Then, RPI kicks in. The region brackets on each side of the state will be seeded so that the top remaining teams in the western half host against the lowest respective western seeds and likewise for the eastern half of the state. The geographical split of the seedings in Week 3 is aimed at avoiding excessive travel so that, for instance, Pikeville doesn’t have to play Crittenden County (a six-hour drive) for a “regional” championship.
At the semifinals round, the top remaining seed will host the fourth-highest seed and the second-highest seed will host the third, regardless of how much any team has to travel, which is good if you want school to be out that day.
While the RPI-based playoff system has critics, it has produced some competitive state championship games at Kroger Field that might otherwise have been semifinals under the old way of doing things. For instance, in 2018 Male played Trinity in the semifinals. The last two years under RPI, the Louisville archrivals have met in the Class 6A championship game.
Here are the top 10 RPI ratings in each class. The rankings are frozen for the playoffs and will not be recalculated based on postseason results. For a complete look at each class’s entire ranking, visit khsaa.org/rpi-ratings-percentage-index/.
Final RPI Top 10s
|4||Kentucky Country Day||3||8||–||2||0.69482|
|8||Holy Cross (Louisville)||2||8||–||3||0.63099|
|9||Letcher County Central||8||6||–||3||0.56301|