Coming off a 51-14 win last week against Clay County to even their record at 1-1, the Harlan County Black Bears earned a top 10 ranking in the first Associated Press poll of the season, coming in at 10th.
Bowling Green, the defending 5A state champs, is in its familiar spot at No. 1. Pulaski County, last year’s state runner up, is a solid second. The Maroons are favored to win the Region 4 title again after beating Madison Southern in last year’s championship game.
Madison Southern, ranked fourth in the poll, is again led by All-American running back Damien Harris. The Eagles and Harris knocked off Harlan County in last year’s semifinals and could be headed for a rematch this November if Harlan County can extend its string of District 8 titles to five. Letcher Central could provide a challenge to the streak as they enter the season’s third week only two spots behind Harlan County. The Cougars are off to a 2-0 start with blowout wins over Berea (30-0) and McCreary Central (54-0), but Letcher will face a much tougher test Friday against Hazard, the state’s seventh ranked Class A team.
Mayfield, the defending champion, is ranked first again in Class A with all 14 first-place votes. Williamsburg, last year’s runner-up coming off the first regional title in school history, is third in the poll after a 2-0 start.
Louisville DeSales is first in 2A, edging Caldwell County by only seven points. Murray is a solid third, also with a 2-0 record.
Belfry, which will play host to Harlan County on Friday, is the No. 1 ranked team in 3A and is the defending state champion. Bell County is off to a 2-0 start and is a solid second in the 3A rankings. Corbin, a district rival of Bell’s, is eighth in 3A.
Highlands is No. 1 in 4A after a 1-0 start, but Boyle County and Covington Catholic are both 2-0 and not far behind the Bluebirds.
Male is No. 1 in 6A, only one point ahead of defending state champ Scott County. Perennial Louisville powers St. Xavier and Trinity are third and fourth, respectively.