Preview: Simon Kenton at Ryle

It’s off to the Bluegrass State for the Blitz 5 Tour as it stops in Union, Kentucky to watch Simon Kenton and Ryle duke it out for the Class 6A, District 6 title. Both teams have won two straight and look to keep that momentum rolling heading into the playoffs.

Quality wins have been hard to come by for Simon Kenton and Ryle. A victory on Friday night would go a long way in boosting confidence versus upper-level competition as the postseason approaches.

#21 SIMON KENTON PIONEERS (5-3, 2-0) at RYLE RAIDERS (5-4, 2-0)
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Borland Stadium
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: Simon Kenton freshman QB Chase Crone has had his growing pains. There are encouraging signs about the way Crone has played, having thrown for 1,090 yards, run for 247 yards and accounted for 11 touchdowns (eight passing, three rushing) with just six interceptions. Skill position players RB Austin Hammack, WR/RB Erik Brown and WR Evan Mulberry have been good, but need to be even better at this stage of their senior year. Hammack has rushed for 535 yards with a team-high eight touchdowns.

Seniors DE Vuk Sajlovic, DB Zack Koenes, DL Jack Milton, LB Elijah Weaver, LB Luke Huesman, LB Aric Hoffman and LB Spencer Rash are the heart-and-soul of the Simon Kenton defense. Koenes leads the team with 70 total tackles. The Pioneers have forced 16 turnovers. Seniors DB Tyler Musick (two FRs, two INTs), DB Tyler Parks (four INTs) and DB Isaac Bleier (two INTs, one FR) have come up with 11 of those takeaways.

The centerpiece of the Ryle offense is RB Kyle England. The senior has 852 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing. Junior RB/WR Conner Lee has been a nice compliment to England, amassing 548 yards from scrimmage with a pair of scores.

Seniors WR/DB Ryan Planck and LB Dillon Talmon have a knack of coming up with big plays for the Raiders. Planck has four interceptions. Talmon tops Ryle with 52 total tackles. He also has eight tackles for loss (TFL) and 4.5 sacks.

The future looks bright on the defensive side of the ball for the Raiders. Junior LB Mathias Cusick and sophomore DE/OLB Gabe Savage have had breakout campaigns. Cusick leads Ryle with 5.5 sacks. Savage has a team-best 8.5 TFL.

TEAM TRENDS: Over the last two weeks, Simon Kenton and Ryle have beaten district foes Campbell County and Dixie Heights each by a combined 46-point differential.

The Simon Kenton offense has found its groove as of late. The Pioneers are averaging 31.75 points per game over their last four outings. They averaged just 18.5 points in their first four contests.

Ryle has 22 offensive touchdowns. England has 17 of those trips to the end zone. Only six Raiders have found the end zone this season. The defense has played decently. They have held five of their last eight opponents to 16 points or less, including two shutouts.

RYLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY: Force the Simon Kenton freshman quarterback to make plays at pivotal times of the game. Pressure by the Raiders’ front seven on defense will force errors by the youngster. That all starts with being able to get ahead by establishing the run and maintaining a lead going into the fourth quarter. Getting a multiple-TD performance from someone other than England would be a huge bonus for the Raiders’ offense.

SIMON KENTON’S KEYS TO VICTORY: It is that time of year where the seniors must step to the forefront. The Pioneers upperclassmen have been through the wars in November. It is time for them to go to the next level. The Simon Kenton defensive line can make life miserable for Ryle if they can dominate the play in the trenches.

Prediction: Simon Kenton 24, Ryle 20

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