2005 Class 3A Kentucky High School Football Preview

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    2005 Class 3A Kentucky High School Football Preview

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    1. Boyle County Rebels (12-3)

    The changes at Boyle County can’t be ignored. The coach who brought the program to prominence is gone. So is his son, the star quarterback, and a number of other players who helped the Rebels reach the state finals for the sixth straight year.

    But are things really all that different at Boyle?

    New coach Chris Pardue said things will remain largely unchanged, both in terms of the way Boyle plays and the goals it plays for. In other words, why mess with what works?

    “We’ve been very successful with what we’re doing, so I don’t see a reason to change,” Pardue said.

    Pardue, who spent 13 years as an assistant to Chuck Smith before Smith left to become the linebackers coach at the University of Kentucky, said the transition has been incredibly smooth.

    “Everybody has made it as smooth as possible,” Pardue said. “The coaching staff basically stayed intact, and they know what’s going on and what to expect.”

    Those coaches haven’t had to spend time putting in a new system, because Pardue said the system will remain largely the same.

    “I don’t see any major changes,” he said.

    Pardue, who spent five years as an assistant at Allen County-Scottsville before coming to Boyle, knows how fortunate he is that his first head coaching job isn’t at some school with a string of 3-7 seasons.

    “This is one of the top programs in the state. I think anybody would feel lucky to step into a position like that,” he said.

    Pardue also knows that this is a test of the program’s ability to remain among the state’s elite, just as schools like Danville, Highlands, Trinity, and St. Xavier have done through coaching changes.

    “Now it’s Boyle County’s turn to see if we can take that next step,” he said. “We’ve got a great bunch of kids, and our coaches understand we’ve got to be even more of a family this year than we have been.”

    The first personnel priority for Boyle is finding a quarterback to replace three-year starter Brandon Smith, but that’s nothing new, either. There were questions six years ago about how the Rebels would replace Bart Johnson, and there were questions three years ago about how they would replace Jeff Duggins. Obviously, both of their replacements worked out just fine.

    When Duggins took over for Johnson and when Smith took over for Duggins, they weren’t expected to carry the offense on their backs from the start, and Pardue said the quarterback who replaces Smith won’t be, either.

    “Brandon and Jeffrey both stepped in as sophomores, and they played well and made good decisions, but they weren’t the ones who would go out and win a game for you,” Pardue said. “(Last year) Brandon was a man who could take over and win a game for you, but the whole team has got to understand now that the quarterback is not going to do that this year. Everybody else has got to be better.”

    Pardue said five players entered preseason practice as candidates to take over at quarterback. He wouldn’t name them, but he said some are players who would likely fill other positions if they aren’t at quarterback.

    “In the spring everybody looked good in the drills, and in weightlifting they all looked the same,” Pardue said. “The telltale sign will be the first week of practice. That’ll separate some of them.”

    The only player with varsity experience at the position is junior Grant Tamme, who threw all of two passes while serving as the mop-up man in Boyle’s blowouts.

    While the quarterback to be named later gains experience, Boyle is likely to turn to two seniors, wide receiver-cornerback Seth Tamme and tackle-defensive end-linebacker Andrew Bertram, for leadership.

    Seth Tamme is the Rebels’ top returning skill player and was one of the state’s top receivers last year with 1,419 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Junior Josh Miller also returns to the receiving corps.

    Boyle also has to replace leading rusher Quinn Givhan, and Pardue said the Rebels will probably use seniors Paul Keen and Philip Dean at running back.

    In addition to Bertram, senior Jed Roth returns as a two-way starter on the offensive and defensive lines. Ryan Marshall also returns as an offensive line starter, and two other seniors, Andrew Cass and Daniel Rigney, also figure to be part of the Boyle lines.

    There are holes to fill at linebacker, and Miller is expected to move from safety to fill one of them.

    The secondary is more solidified, with Dean and Seth Tamme returning at cornerback and Keen filling one of the safety spots.

    Boyle also must find a replacement for its kicker, Adam Dickinson, and a new punter to replace Smith.

    The Rebels will again be favored to win District 4, though Pardue said he expects strong challenges from both Pulaski Southwestern and Pulaski County, who might sense some vulnerability in their nemesis to the north.

    “They’re going to feel like they can play with us,” he said. “Everybody in the district is thinking, ‘We’re getting our opportunity now.’”

    2. Highlands Bluebirds (2-13)

    This year’s Highlands Bluebirds football team will be a much different team than the one who won its first state championship since 2000 last December.

    Gone are all-state players Michael Mitchell, Jordan Nevels, and Mike Stowers, as well as a slew of other starters and key contributors. However, while for the most part, the faces and talent will be all new, the expectations from the Highlands coaches, staff, and the community will not change. It never does.

    On offense, the Birds will return 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior quarterback Chase Cecil, who was at the helm for most of last season, including the state championship win over Boyle County. At the high school level depth is usually a novelty, but the Birds have a capable and accomplished back up quarterback in 5-foot-11, 180-pound, senior Chad Hudepohl.

    At running back, the team also has considerable depth. Jordan Kramer (5-7, 150, Jr.) scored a touchdown in the state championship last December. Also expected to see time in the backfield are Jordan Bridgett (6-0, 180, Sr.), Ben Koester (6-1, 176, Jr.), Mike Schrode (5-6, 155, Jr.), Jake Urlage (5-9, 160, Jr.).

    Sophomores who could break into the running back rotation and get carries include Ryan Ball, Zach Hurtt, and Drew Simons.

    The tight end will be 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior Ben Guidugli, who has worked very hard in the off-season and is expected to have an all-state type season on both sides of the ball. Guidugli will likely be Cecil’s favorite target, however, Brandon Fugate (6-2, 170, Sr.), Spencer Head (5-7, 140, Jr.), Nick Masters (6-0, 160, Jr.), Alex Petracco (6-2, 150, Sr.), Nathan Schiesler (5-9, 170, Sr.) should also get touches at wide out.

    One guy who many expected to be a key contributor as a sophomore was Nick Simpson. However, after a breakout season playing basketball for the Birds, Nick has decided not to play football.

    The offensive line is still largely up in the air. Those competing for positions include 6-0, 220-pound junior Ronnie Ashton, Josh Abell (6-1, 225, Jr.), Eric Theiss (5-9, 219), Stephen Howell (5-10, 240, Sr.), Evan Egan (6-2, 230, Jr.), Richard Koop (6-0, 215. Jr.), Andrew Roller (5-11, 180, Jr.), and Ben Schlosser (5-9, 234, Jr.).

    On defense, the line will be made up of Galen Kidwell (6-0, 226, Jr.) at the nose and Michael Pryse (6-3, 200, Sr.) and Ben Wells (6-0, 200, Sr.) at the ends.

    Starting linebackers will likely be Ben Guidugli, Eric Beck (5-8, 180, Sr.), Ben Koester, and Andrew Roller. However, there are several others who could push these four for starting positions and playing time, including sophomores, Luke Stine, Ryan, Ball, and Zach Hurtt.

    The Birds’ defensive backfield is also still up in the air with starting candidates including 5-foot-10, 150-pound junior Jimmy Daley, Brandon Fugate, Chad Hudepohl, Spencer Head, Nick Masters, Alex Patracco, and Nathan Schiesler, as well as sophomore Greg McGraw.

    The schedule will be brutal on the young Birds. The marquee matchups on Highlands’ schedule is a pair of matchups with Ohio D-1 State Champion Colerain and Kentucky 4A state champion St. Xavier. New faces on Highlands’ schedule includes matchups with perennially strong 4A Madison Central and 3A Southwestern.

    Despite the fact that the entire starting lineup will be new, Highlands can never be written off when considering teams that could potentially be playing the first weekend in December.

    3. Harrison County Thorobreds (8-3)

    The days of Ray Graham’s Harrison County Thorobreds sneaking up on people in Region Three appear over.

    With 16 starters back from last year’s 8-3 team and a #3 ranking in the BGP Preseason 3A Poll, all eyes will be on Cynthiana to see if the ‘Breds can advance to their first region title game in five years.

    “Harrison County is the team to beat in our district. We were lucky to beat them last year, and they have almost everyone back,” Lexington Catholic head coach Bob Sphire said.

    The Thorobreds return quarterback Cory Britt from last year’s team that averaged 38 points and 341 yards a game. Britt threw for 929 yards and seven touchdowns.
    Fullback Caleb Switzer is the leading returning rusher with 470 yards.

    Through the air, the ‘Breds return leading receiver J.D. Ashbrook (15 catches, 437 yards) on both sides of the football.

    The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Ashbrook set a school record with ten interceptions last year.

    “J.D. simply makes plays. He thinks the ball is his, whether he is on offense or defense,” said Graham. “He is a very skillful athlete, and he is very intelligent. He has great confidence, and he has started since he was a sophomore on both sides of the ball. He is a winner, and he will be a great leader throughout the season.”

    Defensive end Chris Marshall also returns to help solidify Graham’s 5-3 defense. Linebackers Tyler Fryman and James Custard also return.

    After giving up just 43 points in their first seven games, Harrison County’s defense became porous and gave up an average of 29 points over their final four games. The defense will be the key to whether Harrison County makes it to the ball or turns into a pumpkin.

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    4. Bowling Green Purples (11-1)

    By Purple Haze

    Head Football Coach Kevin Wallace will enter his tenth season as the Purples’ mentor looking for a few answers on offense. However, if it is true that defense wins championships, then the Purples’ chances should be as good as anybody’s to win the 3A Championship for 2005.

    The Purples return no less than 11 players who started at least part of the 2004 season on defense, and that has folks very excited in Bowling Green.

    Two of BGHS’s seniors made the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Top 32 Seniors List, and they both made another list where the top 26 seniors were recognized. These players are FS/HB Bradley Barlow and DE/OLB/TE Brendan Nestor.

    Barlow will be a fourth-year starter in the BGHS secondary this fall, and will see his first action at HB on offense after being a reserve receiver last season. Coach Wallace is touting him as being one of the top athletes in Kentucky High School Football in 2005.

    Barlow led the team in takeaways with five in 2004 (all interceptions) and was resourceful enough to return them for 128 yards. He also chipped in 45 total stops at FS.

    As a WR last season, he caught eight passes for 145 yards and one score. He has also been BGHS’s top kick returner the last two years. Barlow, at 5-11, 172, is an excellent cover man and should also be a great compliment to Avery Hibbitt in the offensive backfield.

    Nestor, at 6-5, 225, is not your typical DL. But he is ultra quick and very strong for his girth. Only departed Darrick Massey had more sacks than Nestor’s four, and he had four other tackles for losses. He had exactly 100 total tackles on the year in 2004, and he recovered four fumbles in his first year of starting. TE is not usually a high production position in the BGHS Veer Offense, as this position is mainly used for blocking.

    However, Nestor’s quickness just might make him a legitimate target in the BGHS passing offense. And he certainly would not be considered for the TE position if the staff thought he was a weak blocker.

    Coach Wallace, as stated earlier, is looking for some answers on offense. The heir apparent to claim the QB spot after Russell Parker’s graduation, junior Shawn Savage, has decided to cast his lot with the basketball team this school year, leaving Coach Wallace with a small dilemma at this position.

    The two most likely candidates to take over are sophomores, Rondale McMillian and Trent Steelman. Both showed very brief glimpses of what they can do in mop up duty last season, and they will be expected to grow up fast and take charge of the offense, as Parker was expected to do in 2002.

    The rest of the backfield looks great. Avery Hibbitt (5-10, 176) returns after a sensational sophomore year in 2004. He set a new team scoring record for a sophomore last season with 128 points (18 rushing scores, three receiving scores, and a two-point conversion), and that figure also led the team. He ran the ball 76 times for 684 yards (a 9.0-yard average), and caught 19 passes (second on the team) for 314 yards (a 16.5-yard average). Had he been able to get more playing time instead of being removed early in blowout wins, his yardage figures might have been truly frightening to opposing teams! His 96-yard romp against Greenwood in the fourth game last year was the longest rushing play in the history of the program. He has outstanding peripheral vision and a real nose for paydirt.

    In addition to Hibbitt and Barlow at the HB positions, senior Chris Reynolds (5-10, 185) will man the FB spot. Reynolds is somewhat small for a FB, but he does run with a purpose. He ripped off a 77 yard run against a tough Madisonville defense in the second round of the 3A Region One Playoffs last season. He missed quite a bit of time last season due to a preseason injury, but he did manage to run the ball 57 times for 373 yards, an average of 6.5 yards per attempt, and he scored eight times.

    Depth will be provided by juniors Anthony Davis and Chris Johnson, and sophomore Jared Carpenter at HB, and juniors Chase Carpenter and Chris Tucker at FB.

    At WR, BGHS has got a good looking receiver coming back in senior Chip Wilkins. Wilkins caught 11 passes for 197 yards (a 17.9 yard average) last season and scored once.
    At 6-2, 185 lbs, Wilkins also brings good size and strength to the table.

    Senior Tommy Loid, junior Preston Wilson, and sophomore D.L. Moore add depth. In addition to Nestor, junior Derek Hayes (6-2, 183) will see action at both TE and WR this fall.

    Up front, the Purples will have two really good linemen coming back, one a third year starter as of this fall. Senior Slaven Demir is 6-0, 236, and an All-SKY pick for G last season. Joining Demir, playing at T this year, as a returning starter is junior T Stuart Hines (6-4, 276).

    Hines missed some playing time last season with an ankle injury, but he’s big, strong, tough, and smart. This may be the season where Hines establishes himself as one of the top OL prospects in Kentucky come 2006. Senior Matt Baker will back up Demir and Hines.

    Seniors Dan Johnson and Ervin Puskar are slated to start at G, with competition from juniors Travis Lowe and Aric Johnson. Junior Austin Smith, at 6-2 and 252 lbs, gets the nod at Center.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the Purples are expected to shine right away and should be one of the top sets of stop troops in the Commonwealth for 2005.

    The Purples went to a 3-4 Defense last season to take more advantage of the pursuit speed the Purples have. Coach Wallace will have quite a group to pick from for the front three. Nestor, of course, will man one DE if he isn’t at OLB. Joining him will be juniors Stephen Johnson (6-2, 270) and Shawn Finney (6-2, 220), and senior Anthony Jones.

    Coach Wallace said that Jones (6-3, 245) had a super Spring Practice and is a player to watch.

    Providing depth for this group are seniors Puskar and Demir, and juniors Hines, Ian Labron (217), and Nathan Hewitt (5-5, 208). The two ILBs are absolute jewels, and both are returning starters and will be juniors this fall. Chris Tucker (6-0, 197) and Tucker Jackson (6-2, 227) were the Purples’ top two tacklers last year. Both are very athletic and very fierce hitters. Tucker piled up 98 solo stops, 144 total tackles, three QB sacks, and 11 other tackles for losses. Jackson rang up 75 solo tackles, 124 total tackles, one sack, and eight other tackles for losses.

    The OLBs won’t disappoint either. Jeremy Mitchell is a small one (5-6, 163), but that has no effect on how big his heart is. The junior got 33 solo tackles and 66 total tackles last season. The other OLB will be manned at times by either Hibbitt or senior Brendon James (6-0, 173).

    The defensive backfield is where the Purples should really shine in 2005. The Purples have another four-year starter at CB, Carlos Fugate. He hasn’t drawn very much attention because of his steady patrol in his area downfield. Two years ago against Warren Central, the small Fugate blanketed Central’s consensus All State TE/WR Lonnell DeWalt despite the fact that DeWalt, at the time, was over one foot taller! Fugate now is 5-9, 167 lbs, and two years smarter. He has collected seven interceptions and a fumble recovery in his career to date. He also garnered 54 total tackles last season, with five resulting in loss of yardage.

    Junior and second year starter Ryan Beard mans the other corner. Beard, at 5-11, 163 lbs, had an excellent effort for his first year as a starter, ringing up 49 total tackles with four resulting in losses.

    Junior Ike Harris (5-11, 162) has shown tremendous improvement over the course of the off season and will give Beard a tough battle for the other CB spot. Of course, FS Barlow is an outstanding player and athlete as mentioned earlier. His relief will come from sophomore Corbin Smith and fellow sophomore Moore. Wilkins will be the largest member of the defensive backfield at SS, and is a talented athlete in his own right. He contributed two interceptions, a fumble recovery, and a blocked punt to the effort, and had 55 total tackles, with two sacks and four others for a loss of yards. Sophomore Steelman will be his main relief here.

    BGHS is also fortunate to welcome back both of their starting kicking specialists plus a third specialist who could be the starting kicker elsewhere.

    Wilkins handles the punting chores and was voted as All-SKY at P last year. He punted 16 times for a 37-yard average, but opposing return teams managed only four returns for a total of 13 yards against him last season.

    Junior Casey Tinius is another of a tradition of great place kickers at BGHS, and he was an All-SKY selection himself. Last season, he converted on 48 of 57 PAT attempts (almost all of the misses were the result of a bad snap or a bad placement), and the 48 PATs represented one of the highest one-season totals in the history of BGHS Football. He connected on three of six field goal attempts last season, but he booted a 52-yard field goal in the Spring Game a few months ago! Tinius also is tough on kickoffs, having forced the opposition into 25 touchbacks last season. Before he’s through, he should threaten or pass all of BGHS’s kick scoring records, season and career.

    If Tinius should get injured in football or soccer, his teammate in both sports, fellow junior Matt Simpson, is a more than able K in his own right. Simpson hit on seven of nine PAT attempts last season and was true on his only field goal attempt. Steelman is such a good all-around athlete that he could kick or punt in a pinch. Barlow has been the Purples’ most reliable and exciting punt returner since he was a sophomore, and Fugate will be his main backup in this role. He will also be the main man, along with Hibbitt, in returning kickoffs. One slipup in the coverage, and either of these young men can take the ball coast to coast! Bottom line is that the Purples have long prided themselves in having exceptional special teams play, and the 2005 team will follow suit.

    Coach Wallace states that Barlow and Nestor are legitimate All-State candidates for 2005. Other players who should be very worthy of a long look for postseason honors are Fugate (again, a four year starter), Hines, Tinius, Tucker, Jackson, Hibbitt, Wilkins, and Jones. With an injury-free season this year, junior Hines may very well become a top flight OL prospect this season who will be watched very closely next season.

    Jackson, because of his size, is already getting many looks from recruiters. Hibbitt could become BGHS’s all time leader in both rushing and scoring, and he’s only a junior this fall. Wilkins could receive postseason honors at P, WR, and/or SS. Jones is playing for the first time, but according to Coach Wallace, had a huge spring and could be a big surprise this fall on the defensive line. Tucker led BGHS in tackles last season, but his size could hurt in recruiting. However, there’s no denying his heart on the field, and he should be able to play someplace on the next level when his eligibility at BGHS is done. Fortunately for BGHS fans, they still have two more years to watch him play! Also note that five of the players mentioned here will be back again for 2006!

    BGHS compiled an 11-1 record for the second straight year last season. However, they did not play in the Region One Championship Game in either season. The schedule has been the one thing that most people have criticized and blamed as the problem for the last two BGHS teams in having early exits from the playoffs. One part of the schedule, the district portion, can not be helped, as you must play every team in your district to be eligible for the postseason. It is not the fault of the Purples if they have to let Warren Central and Owensboro go to 4A only to be replaced by Adair County and Breckinridge County.

    Also, BGHS keeps Warren Central and another local team, Greenwood, on the schedule for big local interest. This leaves only the first two games (bowl games) as the area where BGHS could improve on their schedule. There will be very few people to argue that the Purples did not succeed in strengthening their schedule.

    BGHS picked up defending 4A Champion St Xavier for The Rafferty’s Bowl, played at WKU’s L.T. Smith Stadium for 2005 AND 2006. The Purples will travel to Franklin-Simpson’s James Mathews Stadium/Hugh Crowdus Field to take on 2A power Trigg County in the first game of The Franklin-Simpson Pigskin Classic in Week Two. Those two games will certainly tell the Purples, their coaches, and their fans, just where BGHS will need to work harder to improve in practice in order to make a serious run later in the season and into the postseason. Even if the Purples lose to St Xavier in the first game in a competitive manner, the Purples should be considered an exceptionally strong challenger for 3A honors, provided that the Purples win the games they should win and win the way they’re expected to win.

    The Warren Central game in Week Three is the third straight stringent test for the Purples out of the gate. The Dragons will not be handicapped with the late signing of a new head coach this year the way it happened in 2004, plus the Dragons return quite an amount of talent. Jacob Davis is back for one last shot at the Purples, but Greenwood doesn’t appear yet to have the Purples’ number.

    In 3A’s Region One, District Two, the Purples should be able to claim the district championship for the third year in a row. The main challenger to dethrone the Purples will be Franklin-Simpson once again. The game should be for all the marbles come Week Eleven.

    The strongest competition the two teams will have in 2005 figures to be from Logan County and Warren East. Lee Proctor’s enthusiasm has worked wonders with Logan County, and they should make the playoffs for the third year in a row. New Head Coach Ben Bruni will have folks in the Raider camp screaming with delight, as the Raiders of Warren East bring back members of last year’s SKY Conference JV championship team. The Raiders should make the playoffs for the first time since Jeremy Britt played for the Raiders in 1997. The winner of the Logan Co/East game should be the third seed in the playoffs, and the loser should be the fourth seed.

    BGHS enters the 2005 football season riding a 21-game regular season win streak dating back to Week Eleven of the 2002 season in the finale against Warren East. Though the Purples might see this streak end at the hands of St Xavier in Week One, it is still one of the longest streaks in school history. Another streak would come to an end with a loss to St Xavier as well, and that would be a 12-game win streak in away games and games played at neutral sites. The streak started in the first game of the 2003 season with a win over Southwestern in The Rafferty’s Bowl. Hopkinsville was the last team to beat the Purples away from Donaldson Stadium/Beard Field in a 9-0 war at the Stadium of Champions in the first round of the 3A Region One Playoffs in 2002.

    2005 will be the season where Coach Wallace will achieve some milestones in BGHS Football history. He currently has 92 wins in nine seasons as the Purples’ mentor. The sixth win on the season will rank Coach Wallace second in the history of the school in wins. Doug Smith spent 18 seasons (1926-43) at BGHS and piled up 97 wins, and Coach Wallace will pass Coach Smith. He will then rank only behind Dan Haley (1984-95), who had 119 wins in 12 seasons with the Purples. With the Purples’ eighth win, Coach Wallace will join Coach Haley as the only other Purples football coach with 100 wins or more. Coach Wallace also will join Coach Smith (18 seasons as stated earlier), Coach Haley (12 seasons), and Coach Elvis Donaldson (12 seasons, 1944-55) as the only head coaches in BGHS Football to have coached at least one decade. Coach Wallace, going into 2005, has 92 wins against only 20 losses (.821) and has the highest win/loss percentage in the history of this proud program for coaches with at least five years of service.

    The bottom line is that the Bowling Green High Purples should continue their winning ways and continue to be one of the programs with an excellent chance at bringing home the trophy from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium come December. The Purples have some work to do on offense along that end, but the defense will be one of the stingiest in all of Kentucky for 2005. The gauntlet of St Xavier, Trigg County, and Warren Central will tell a large part of the story for the Purples’ fortunes for 2005.

    If they can get through those three with a record of 2-1, then other teams on the schedule and playoff opponents should be warned that to take the Purples lightly will be to invite a huge disappointment. 1998 was the last time the Purples won a Region One title, and this group is hungry enough to want to prove that they still belong among the elite programs in Kentucky. With the right breaks and steady offensive improvement, the Purples just might do that.

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    5. Covington Catholic Colonels (10-3)

    CCH football in 2005 is in for some major changes.

    Legendary coach Lynn Ray has retired and new, young blood has been brought in to replace him in the form of John Rodenberg . Coach Rodenberg brings with him a wide-open offense that features many passes and many formations that have not been seen in Park Hills in the last 30 years.

    Rodenberg was the football coach at Cincinnati McNicholas the past 11 seasons and had eight winning seasons from 1997-2004. He replaces Ray, who was 224-126 in 30 years.

    The new coach walks into a talented team, but also a team that lost the majority of its starters from 2004. In addition, he inherits a schedule that is not for the feint of heart.

    Besides the traditional battles against Boone County, Dixie, Beechwood, and Highlands, Coach R also gets to line up against GCL favorite Moeller, GCL power Cincy St X., and another Ohio power in Bishop Watterson from Columbus. Add in the renewal of the NCC game and you’ve got yourself a daunting schedule to say the least.
    Senior quarterback Drew Ellison will lead the new offense, and it should fit him well.

    With quick short passes and many pass/run options, Drew should be able to flourish as he is the toughest running quarterback in northern Kentucky. Ellison will be backed up by junior Josh Bleser and sophomore John Wehry.

    Drew will also have plenty of receivers to throw to. Senior Brett Sutton and juniors Kurt Bovard and Peter Sutton should see plenty of balls flying their way. All are outstanding athletes with the ability to turn a short pass into a long run. Don’t be surprised to see sophomore Brent Buckley get some time at receiver. He has done well in the summer passing league.

    CCH is blessed to have three strong senior running backs in Sean McGee, Nick Buckley, and Joe Smith. Their challenge will be splitting what appears to be limited carries among the three of them.

    The o-line loses two stud tackles from 2004 in Mike Donoghue (U of L) and Troy Riley (EKU). However, the new offense may make that loss less since it is not a power-based offense. Look for senior Zack Spradlin to lead the offensive line along with junior Nathan Kater and senior Eric Fangman.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest area of loss is on the line. However, Coach Rodenberg favors a 3-3 stack defense instead of the 4-4 or 5-3 that CCH has employed in the past. Senior Michael Hudson is the anchor of the line. Look for Spradlin and Fangman to potentially go both ways along with some underclassmen.

    The linebackers are in good shape with senior Sean McGee and junior Sam Flynn returning. Do not be surprised to see junior Josh Bleser get some looks as well.

    The secondary is in great shape as well. Junior Joseph Castenada will establish himself as the top cover corner in NKY and one of the best in the state. Add in Brett and Peter Sutton plus junior Brandon Brown and senior Alex Frommeyer, and the D-backs are perhaps the strongest unit on the team.

    Look for senior Tony Roch to fill the kicking shoes of graduated Michael Awadalla (Northwestern). If his broken foot causes him problems, CCH will simply bring in junior Shane Popham, who kicked a 44-yard field goal as a freshman. Both are outstanding kickers perhaps the two best in NKY in 2005.

    Once again, junior Josh Bleser returns to handle the punting duties. For those of you at the Highlands games last season, you will remember his booming punts.

    Coach Rodenberg is breaking in new uniforms this year, going with a royal blue helmet and black facemasks. New coach, new offense, new unis. Could lights be far behind?

    6. Lexington Catholic Knights (10-2)

    The 2004 season continued a pattern established in recent seasons, with Lexington Catholic starting strong with an opening win over favored Boyle County, and ending with a disappointing loss in the second round to a Northern Kentucky team (CovCath), thus finishing with a record of 10-2.

    The Knights have been strong over the years at the skill positions but have been undersized on the lines. 2005 is shaping up in a similar fashion.

    When you talk about a Bob Sphire team, you have to start with the offense, specifically the passing game. Returning senior quarterback, Justin Burke, is expected to contend for Mr. Football honors. He is very intelligent and makes quick decisions releasing the ball. Most effective out of the shotgun or on rollout passes, he is also an effective runner finishing second on the team in rushing last year.

    Burke has some excellent receivers to throw to, including senior Cornell Burbage, who led the team in yards per catch last year and was second in total catches.

    Other likely targets include junior Wes Caldwell and sophomore Ben Revere. All three of these players as a group are among the fastest to have played for LexCath.

    Tight end was a position that was heavily affected by graduation and Coach Sphire will need to develop players at this position.

    The run offense lost its leading rusher with the transfer of Tyler Stephenson to Lafayette.

    Sophomore Shane Israel showed extreme lateral quickness playing as a freshmen last year and will probably get a lot of carries this year especially out of the shotgun formation.

    After Stephenson, the most experienced returning inside runner is Truitt Donnelly.
    The offensive line was hit heavily by graduation, but Reid Brown (6'4, 243) A.J. Neltner (5'11, 217), and Juan Maldanado (5'8, 225) should provide a nucleus to build on.

    There is less optimism on the defensive side of the football, which suffered heavily to graduation losses.

    Brandon Logan has gone on to the University of Michigan, but there are still some experienced linebackers returning in Will Osborne, Jacob Lockname, and Zack Jeter.

    Davis Page and John Cox are the leading returning linemen in total tackles.

    The secondary will be highlighted by Ben Revere who led the team in interceptions last year. Several of the receivers will probably do double duty in the defensive secondary.

    The kicking game should be strong with the return of place kicker Brian Behr (4/7 field goals, 50/55 pats), while Burke will probably continue to do the punting chores.

    Both the leading punt returners are back in Burbage and Revere, as are the kick returners – Caldwell and Burbage.

    The schedule opens with the Bluegrass Bowl against Lexington Christian Academy, which may be the start of a much needed city football rivalry. This is followed by a visit from defending 4A state champion St. Xavier. Scott County completes the non-district schedule.

    The toughest District matchups will probably be games at Harrison County and at home against East Jessamine. There is a lot of optimism about making inroads deep into the playoffs but this enthusiasm needs to be curbed by the fact that this LexCath team more or less mirrors recent editions and may get similar results.

    7. Ashland Blazer Tomcats (9-4)

    Expectations for the 2005 season are sky high in Tomcat Nation, and supporters are talking of a trip to Louisville for the first time in 15 years.

    After back to back regional championship appearances, this Tomcat squad seems poised to bring the Region Four Championship back to Ashland for the first time since 1990.

    The 2004 Ashland squad placed nine players on the All-Area team, and another six made honorable mention. Eight of those players return for the 2005 season.

    In his third season, head coach Leon Hart will field a deep team, loaded with speed and experience. The Ashland program has experienced a rebirth under Hart and should have over 80 players in the top three grades.

    Ashland has also spent $50,000 to upgrade their weight room facilities.

    Senior quarterback Ian Holbrook will lead the Ashland offense. After a successful junior season that included over 1,500 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and 406 yards rushing,

    Holbrook will be one of the top players in Region Four and the key to the Ashland offense. His toughness and ability to run and throw the deep ball will be a nightmare for opposing defenses.

    Ashland’s returns a loaded backfield, including their top three rushers from last season. Senior fullback Tyler Reliford (759 yards, 11 TDs) should eclipse the 1,000 yard mark this season, and will benefit from a bigger, stronger, more experienced Matt Thomas.

    Widely considered one of the best freshman athletes across the state last year, Thomas lived up to expectations after being inserted as the starting tailback after an injury to Adam Clark. He will draw most of the attention from opposing defenses.

    As a freshman Thomas gained 676 yards on 119 carries – a 5.7 YPC average – and had over 300 yards negated by penalties. He showed flashes of brilliance with blazing speed and the ability to get to the corner and outrun the entire defensive backfield. His best performance of the season came in the first round the playoffs against Perry County Central with 138 yards on 16 carries and 5 TDs.

    Holbrook will also be a big part of the running attack and should gain more the 500 yards on the ground. Holbrook’s ability to scramble out of the pocket, or keep the option will keep the Tomcat faithful on the edge of their seats.

    Junior fullback Fields Davis should also provide the Tomcats with a tough experienced runner in third down and goaline situations.

    Ashland will need to find a replacement for receiver Sam Hensley, who was Ashland’s big play receiver last season with 634 yards on 29 receptions and 7 TDs. The likely candidate to fill those shoes will be junior wideout Drew McDavid, who proved to be a very solid receiver last season with 292 yards receiving and 2 TDs. Holbrook should have no trouble finding the 6-4 McDavid, whose size and speed will be a huge matchup problem for smaller defensive backs.

    During Ashland’s miraculous playoff comeback against Rockcastle County, McDavid was responsible for a string of acrobatic catches that single handedly brought the Tomcats back. Look for solid contributions from junior Luke Bonner and senior Angel Gurule.

    “With the experience we gained last year and the fact that Ian Holbrook is returning as our quarterback, we should be much improved on offense. Our receivers were terribly inexperienced a year ago and showed marked improvement during spring practice. It is another area where we have outstanding depth and speed,” Hart said.

    The key to Ashland’s success last season was a stingy defense that gave up an average of 15 points per game and held opponents to a ridiculously low 35-percent red zone conversion rate.

    The Tomcats will have a hard time replacing defensive stars Ben Robinette, All-State lineman Brandon Pennington, Jon Neyer, Sam Hensley, Adam Clark, Clarence Sayles, and Cortez Sayles.

    Ashland’s best defensive asset this fall will be in their secondary. Filled with depth, experience, and speed, returning starters Drew McDavid, Luke Bonner, and Angel Gurule have the talent to shut down even the most potent passing attacks.

    “We have as good or better speed on defense this year as we did last year, and they carried us most of the season,” Hart said.

    All-Area defensive end Joe Smith is primed for a big season. After missing games in 2004 because of a shoulder injury, Smith looks to be healthy and ready to make an impact. Last season Smith showed a nose for the ball and was responsible for a number of forced fumbles and recoveries.

    Special teams assassin Aaron Cordial will also see some time at the other end spot. Cordial, usually known for his reckless abandon on special teams, saw increasing playing time near the end of last season.

    The Tomcats should finish the regular season at 9-1, possibly 8-2. An undefeated district campaign is well within their grasp. Ashland’s biggest tests of the season will come against Ironton, OH, and new district foe Johnson Central.

    Come playoff time expect the Tomcats to be mentioned with the likes of Highlands as the teams competing for the AAA crown.

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    8. Bell County Bobcats (13-1)

    Bell County won with defense in 2004.

    This year, they’ll have to win with inexperienced mixed in with eight returning starters.

    The Bobcats must replace running back Shawn Robbins and his 2,625 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns.

    Quarterback Kyle Nelson (6-1, 158, Soph.) returns to lead the Bobcat offense, and talk around Log Mountain is that head coach Dudley Hilton may have a couple of suitable replacements for Robbins.

    Jeff Howard (6-0, 188, Sr.), FB/TE Brent Slusher (6-3, 225, Jr.), and T.R. Christopher (5-11, 182, Soph.) could give Bell County a three-headed attack in the backfield with each runner bringing something different to the table.

    Steven Hunter (6-1, 175, Sr.) and Ryan Whitaker (6-2, 165, Jr.) both give Nelson sizable targets to throw to.

    Three of Bell County’s five offensive linemen are expected to be seniors – center Abraham Slusher (6-2, 260) and tackles Matthew Veach (6-2, 192) and Jordan Wagers (6-2, 239).

    Derek Miracle (6-1, 229, Jr.) and Justin Drake (6-4, 235, Soph.) are expected to be the starting guards.

    Several of Bell’s offensive stars will see considerable time on defense as Hilton tries to build depth on that side of the football.

    The veteran coach enters his 30th season of coaching with an overall record of 273-91 – good for fifth on the Kentucky coaching list. With eight wins, he passes Paintsville legend Walter Brugh for fourth place.

    If the Bobcats can put together a defensive effort that closely rivals last year, Hilton could notch those eight wins before the playoffs.

    In an improved region that now adds Johnson Central, that may be a tough order.

    Bell County opens the season Aug. 19 in the City/County Bowl against Tennessee 4A school Knoxville Central, who was 10-3 last year and return quarterback Zach Helton to their pass-happy offense.

    9. Central Yellowjackets (10-3)

    The Yellowjackets again will be one of the main contenders for the Region Two, District Three title with a stellar defense.

    Coach Steve Serotte always has some of the best athletes in the Louisville-area and will again have one of the top players in linemen Corey Peters.

    All-Stater James McKinney graduated after last season and is at the University of Michigan, but at times last season Peters was better in the trenches than his older teammate.

    Peters is considering Auburn, Kentucky, Michigan and Louisville.

    The offense will be led by senior all-purpose back Rico Neal, who rushed for over 800 yards last season and also had several hundred yards receiving.

    10. Rockcastle County Rockets (8-4)

    Chad “Statman” Hensley

    By many standards, consecutive seasons making it to the second round of the playoffs are a good season, but by Rockcastle County standards it’s a disappointment.

    After four consecutive regional championship appearances and three of those appearances ending with regional championships (2000, 2001, & 2002), the last two years have been successful, yet disappointing.

    In 2003 Rockcastle County fell at Mason County 21-19 and in 2004, Rockcastle County fell to the hands of Ashland Blazer 34-27 in double OT.

    With the core nucleus of last year’s team returning and some talented young players joining the ranks, look for Rockcastle County to make another appearance in the regional championship game.

    Rockcastle County returns several starters (eight on each side of the ball) that are looking to advance deeper into the playoffs.

    Coach Tom Larkey has his speedy Rockets set to return to the style of play that saw them make it to back-to-back state championship game appearances (2001 & 2002).

    From the information that I have been given through an unnamed source, Rockcastle County a minimum of seven players that have run a 4.7 40-meter dash or better. The best times were from junior TE/S Shawn Childress (4.56) and junior RB/CB Dusty Miller (4.57).

    Rockcastle County also has what some around the tiny town of Mount Vernon has called the best and possibly the biggest offensive lines in recent memory. The smallest player is listed as junior guard Donovan Pigg (6-3, 240). Besides being a big offensive line, the guys down in the trenches are also pretty strong. The bench press totals are anywhere from 275 pounds to well over 400 pounds, while the squat totals are anywhere from 425 pounds up to well over 500 pounds.

    As far as what to look for from the Rockets offensively, the best way I can describe it is as a multiple set offense. You can guarantee that Rockcastle County will from time-to-time line up with two tight ends and a full house backfield in short yardage situations when needed.

    You can also guarantee that Rockcastle County will be in a spread formation, which is a shotgun formation with a single back in the back field and four wide receivers a lot throughout the game. Senior quarterback Matthew Burkhart is back for his third year behind center for the Rockets.

    In early June Rockcastle County competed in a 7-on-7 passing league at EKU and went undefeated. They beat the likes of Henry Clay, Belfry and Leslie County at the league.

    I also forgot to mention that Rockcastle County also went to a combine in late April-early May at Lynn Camp High School and won every event at the competition except for one.

    As far as starters on the offensive side of the ball, look for senior Mikey Denney to be at center, while freshman Scott Daugherty and Pigg will be at the guard positions. Juniors David Robinson & Brad Durham anchor down the tackle positions.

    At split end will be highly touted junior Shawn Childress. Shawn has been the go to receiver in his first two seasons for the Rockets.

    Larkey said that Childress and Durham caught the eye of coaches from Kentucky, Louisville, Eastern and Western Kentucky at the spring combines.

    The tight end will be senior Charles Cunnagin. The Z- back will be junior Izak McQueary, while juniors Dusty Miller and Bucky Skinner will be the tailback and H-back respectively.

    Other players that will receive playing time at either a receiver or backfield position are: senior Gabe Stallsworth (RB/WR), senior Jarrod Brown (SE/WR), and junior Lynn Miracle (TE/SE).

    Defensive coordinator Adam Coleman, along with the expertise of longtime assistant coach Tony Saylor, will once again have a strong defensive unit.

    In the past Rockcastle County has been known to be run-stoppers. In 2001 they set a state record for fewest rushing yards in a season with 184 yards in 15 games, which is around an average of 12.3 ypg.

    Many fans have always been worried about the pass defense of the Rockets, but once again look for the experienced players to step up and lead this team. Last year in a few games, there were a few defensive backs that couldn’t make an open field tackle, but with the graduation of one of those players, the open field tackling will be much improved.

    Coach Coleman will have the defense run as many looks as Coach Larkey has the offense running but look for the Rockets to use what they call a base defense more often than not.

    Starters on defense should be something like Denney and Daugherty at the defensive guard positions, while Durham and Pigg will anchor the line at the defensive tackle positions. Sophomore Zack Burkhart, Cunnagin, and Skinner will be the linebackers.

    The cornerback will be McQueary and Miller, while the safeties will be Childress and Matthew Burkhart. Also look for Miracle to get some good playing time at either a cornerback or safety.

    The Rockets will be putting some miles on the buses this year as they have six away games. The Rockets will travel to Danville for the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic to take on the host Admirals in the first game of the season. They will also be making other trips to Cawood (week 2), Harrison County (week 3), Bell County (week 8), Letcher County Central (week 6), and Knox Central (week 11).

    Their home games will be against Lincoln County in the Renfro Valley Jamboree Bowl (week 4), Clay County (week 7), Madison Southern (week 9), and Perry County Central (week 10). The open week will be week 5.

    Rockcastle County has just as much potential as in years past, but can they produce what the Rockcastle County fans want so badly to possess again? I say yes they can.

    Look for Rockcastle County to be playing in the regional championship and winning it. Also look for Rockcastle County to make some noise against whoever the opponent shall be in the state semifinal game as well.

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    Previews of other Class 3A schools

    Adair County

    Last year, Adair County made the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1991-92.

    However, head coach Eric Graves left after just one season to become the offensive coordinator at Campbellsville University.

    The Indians have hired Clark Teague, a former assistant coach at Corbin and Whitley County, as the school’s third coach in three years.

    While Adair lost many of their starters from last year’s 6-5 team, they do return speedster Oba Thompson.

    Allen County-Scottsville

    Allen County-Scottsville is looking to end a two-year streak of losing seasons after Jeff Reese’s Patriots were just 2-8 last year.

    Running back Brack Sikes will be one of many ACS starters that will have to play on both sides of the football this year.

    With Logan County and Warren East improving in the district, the Patriots may find themselves on the outside looking in for a third straight postseason.

    Anderson County

    A coach with a history of revitalizing football programs has been brought in to work his magic at Anderson County.

    Mark Peach, an All-State lineman during one of the most successful periods in Anderson County football history, was named the new Bearcat coach in December – just weeks after resigning after two seasons at Campbellsville University.

    Peach played on a pair of ten-win teams in 1986 and 87 and hopes to bring that same success back to a Bearcat program that has won just five games in four years.

    The new coach, who also helped turn around programs at Hancock County and Paul Dunbar, will have the services of his two leading offensive threats from last year.

    Junior quarterback Clay Cox threw for 1,519 yards last year but struggled at times behind an inexperienced line, completing just 40-percent of his passes and throwing 27 interceptions and 12 touchdowns.

    Cox should improve in 2005, aided by the return of senior receiver Cory Quisenberry, who caught a school-record 37 passes for 405 yards.

    Peach was also pleased with what he saw in the spring from Matt Suddath, Jon Noble, and Jonathan Peyton.

    The Bearcat program will also benefit from the addition of assistant coaches Duane Hammons, who was the head coach at Mercer County for the past five years, and Travis Gay, an All-Conference lineman at Floyd Central High School in Indiana and an honorable mention All-American under Peach at Campbellsville in 2003.

    Hammons will serve as offensive coordinator, while Gay will coach the linemen.

    With Peach at the helm, it should be just a matter of time before Anderson County wins their first playoff game since 1992 when the Bearcats were in 2A.

    Atherton

    Atherton hasn’t won more than three games since 1979 and have won just one game each of the last five seasons.

    The good news for Gary Satori’s club is the Rebels drop from 4A to 3A this year into the district with several other Louisville-area schools. But that doesn’t guarantee the school’s first-ever playoff appearance.

    Bourbon County

    Bourbon County returns eight starters on offense from last year’s 0-10 team that carries a 13-game losing streak into the 2005 season.

    Head coach Aaron Dahlstrom should have the services of senior quarterback Andrew Gamebrel and senior receiver Neil Auxier.

    Since winning the 2A state title in 1997, Bourbon County has won just one playoff game and has endured losing seasons three of the last four years. Dahlstrom is hoping 2005 serves as a turn-around year for the program.

    Boyd County

    After losing four of their first five games, Boyd County rebounded in midseason to win five of seven and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

    Head coach Dane Damron returns 11 starters from that 6-6 team that was 4-1 in district play.

    Running back Brennan Sargent rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last year in Damron’s spread offense, which also returns the versatile Alashujon Smith in the backfield.

    Austin Hunter split time with Derek Jackson at quarterback last year but should have the job to himself this year.

    Breckinridge County

    Breckinridge County’s 11-2 season in 2000 was one of the best in the school’s history.
    Unfortunately, the Bearcats have won just seven games since.

    Walt Hildenbrandt expects 14 starters – seven on each side of the football – to return in 2005, which will be his 20th as head coach.

    The coach’s first priority will be to find some offense. The Bearcats were outscored 219-0 in their final five games last year.

    Hildenbrandt will turn to running back Tyler Jackson (5-11, 190, Sr.), receiver Grant Hess (5-10, 170, Sr.), and tight end Grant Phelps (6-0, 200, Jr.) to turn things around on offense.

    Mike Corder (5-11,250, Sr.), Tim Woods (6-0, 265, Sr.), and David Coots (6-1, 215, Jr.) are expected to be the main cogs on the Bearcat line.

    Bullitt East

    Mike Settles enters his fourth year at Bullitt East with 11 starters returning from last year’s 8-4 team that lost to Central 47-14 in the second round of the playoffs.

    As a darkhorse to capture the Chargers’ first region title in six years, Settles has a good mix of experience returning from a team that averaged nearly 30 points a game on offense, while giving up 17 points and 233 yards on defense.

    The Chargers will return junior quarterback Travis Broughton, who threw for 790 yards and nine touchdowns last year.

    “His experience last year will help us become more aggressive and allow our running and passing game to improve over last year,” Settles said. “Anytime you have a quarterback start for you that doesn't have his driver's license yet, you’re going to have some breakdowns. He learned from last year, and he will be more of a factor in running the football as well.”

    Broughton’s development last year was also aided by the assistance of former Charger quarterback standout Brandon Egan, who helped the team in a volunteer role.

    Also helping Broughton will be the return of senior tailback Corey Rakes, who rushed for 963 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. Settles said he expects Rakes to be their offensive workhorse in 2005.

    Senior Josh Mutter, junior Evan Cambron, and sophomores Phillip Snyder and Tony Knox could also see carries.

    Seniors Drew Phelps and Kyle Mullins are the likely starters at receivers.

    Up front, the Chargers return several underclassmen that saw considerable action at times last year.

    Seniors James Clark (6-1, 306) and Kenny Thornsberry are expected to return on the line, while juniors James Bozarth and Will Boyle, as well as senior Ryan Kurtz will vie for a starting role.

    On defense, Rakes and Kurtz will anchor the defense from their linebacker spots, a position that has always been a strong suit for Bullitt East.

    Thornsberry and Chase Vancelette should see time at tackles, while Bozarth and senior Matt Darbo will play defensive end.

    “Darbo is one of those players that every coach loves to have because he is always making plays," Settles said.

    Cambron, who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered last September, and Mutter, who picked off eight passes last year, lead the secondary, which must improve after allowing 102 yards through the air last year.

    Calloway County

    Calloway County finds itself in a rebuilding mode and has a new coach to begin the construction.

    Josh McKeel, a 1997 CCHS graduate, takes over the reins from Joe Stonecipher, who stepped down last year after 27 years with the program – the last eight has head coach.

    McKeel has many of the starters from last year’s 1-9 team that missed the playoffs for the third time in four years.

    McKeel’s first order of business is to get the Laker roster back to the size of other 3A schools.

    Calloway County did lose their quarterback, who transferred to Marshall County, but return receiver (Jacob Young (6-0, 155) and tight end Pete Thackston (6-3, 220).

    McKeel is also high on senior lineman Lucas Stone (6-1, 235), who is one of three starters returning on the line.

    Clay County

    Aaron Stepp scrapped the Tigers’ option offense and spread the field more last year. The result was an 8-3 record and the school’s first winning record in eight seasons.

    However, Stepp must replace dual threat James Patterson at quarterback and Joey Mason in the backfield as the Tigers set to rebuild once again.

    Doss

    Doss emerged from the 2004 football season with a 5-5 record – their first non-losing season since 1997.

    The Dragons proved they were no longer a pushover by knocking off 1A up-and-comer Holy Cross and losing close games to Bullitt East (13-12), Waggener (10-7), and Central (19-6).

    However, Ty Scroggins must replace graduated fullback Jesse Jones and linebacker Josh Scott and returns just thee players on each side of the football.

    Senior quarterback Marcus McGinnis returns to run the Dragons’ pro-style option offense

    East Jessamine

    Mike Bowlin takes over an East Jessamine program that has strung together three consecutive winning seasons, including a 9-3 mark last year.

    Bowlin, who comes to EJHS from Grant County, will have the services of junior running back Rex Hager, who rushed for 1,274 yards and ten touchdowns as a sophomore.

    Junior Ryan Hager is expected to move into the starting quarterback position after seeing limited time last year.

    Bowlin is also high on junior tight end Dylan Daniels.

    The new coach said the Jaguars will run a multiple spread offense with some shotgun looks.

    Defensively, Bowlin looks to use a 3-5-3 defense and blitz quite often.

    Senior linebacker Micah Moore and senior nose guard Adam Cobb will anchor a defense that allowed just 14 points a game.

    Although the Jaguars return five players on both sides of the football, Bowlin is still in the orientation stage with his team and district.

    “I haven’t coached in this district yet, so I don’t know where we fit in. We’re just going to go out and do our best every week and see what happens.”

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    Fairdale

    The Bulldogs lost all-state running back Maurice Grinter and head coach Mike Gossett.
    Grinter, who rushed for over 3,300 yards in his Bulldogs career, is headed to the University of Louisville.

    Gossett, who guided Fairdale to a 50-38 record in eight seasons as head coach, stepped down after last year’s 5-6 campaign.

    The new coach is Doug Lucas, a former quarterback for Butler High School and the University of Louisville. He was the head coach at Bullitt Central in 2001-02, where his teams lost 19 of 20 games, and served as an assistant coach at Butler last year. He previously was the offensive coordinator at Fern Creek.

    While the Bulldogs must compensate for the losses of Grinter and Chauncey Deal, who also appeared in the backfield and picked off three passes in the secondary, Lucas is expected to have the services of quarterback Kyle Stallcup, and another Grinter – lineman Montrey, who recovered five fumbles last year.

    Franklin County

    After a winless 2003 season, Franklin County has put together consecutive 6-5 seasons, and head coach Donnie Walker thinks his team is ready to make some noise in the playoffs.

    The Flyers return eight starters on offense and six on the defensive side of the football.

    “The whole program has steadily improved over the last three years and, provided we stay healthy and get a good break or two, we should have the deepest team since I’ve been here that is also experienced and has some quality talent,” Walker said.

    Perhaps the most talented player on the Flyer team is junior quarterback Kaelin Ammons, who proved he is a dual offensive threat last year. Ammons threw for 2,2028 yards and 25 touchdowns and added 982 rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground.

    “Kaelin has started 20 games for us so far, and it was great for him to get to play in the playoffs last year just to get a feel for it. I think what will make the biggest difference in Kaelin’s progress is that he has dedicated himself to the weight room. He has gotten much stronger and faster during this offseason,” Walker said.

    Ammons also has several of his receiving targets returning in seniors Shane McDonald (39 catches, 499 yards, 5 TDs) and Colton Riggs (44 catches, 826 yards, 9 TDs).

    Leading tackler Matt Stiles returns on defense as does Riggs, who led the team with nine interceptions.

    Franklin-Simpson

    The Region I team with the longest current streak of winning seasons isn’t Paducah Tilghman, or Hopkinsville, or even Bowling Green.

    It’s Tim Schlosser’s Franklin-Simpson Wildcats, who have strung together 12 straight winning seasons – Schlosser has been at the helm for the last seven.

    A lot of people feel like the 2005 Wildcats could challenge Bowling Green for the district title and make some noise in the playoffs, where F-S has advanced past the first round just once in the past five years.

    After years of airing the football out on offense, F-S went to a more run-oriented offense last year to better utilize the Wildcats’ team speed.

    Franklin-Simpson gained just over 2,600 rushing yards in 11 games and averaged 6.2 yards per carry on the ground.

    The Wildcats also produced more than 3,700 yards total offense and scored 380 points, averaging 337 yards and 34.5 points a game.

    Senior running back Jacquese Savage (5-11, 175) rushed for 794 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, teaming with Cailyn Hogan to produce a powerful 1-2 punch in the backfield. With Hogan gone, Savage can expect to hear his number called more often in 2005.

    Despite F-S opting for a more run-oriented attack, first-year quarterback Trevor Madison (6-3, 180, Sr.) threw for 1,028 yards last year with 14 touchdowns while completing 56-percent of his passes.

    The Wildcats should be improved on the defensive side, with senior linebacker Trapper Williams (6-2, 210, Sr.) returning after leading the team with 112 tackles last year.
    Defensive tackle Ronald Butler (5-11, 260, Sr.) is one of three returning starters on the line.

    Junior defensive back Glen Dalcourt was second on the team in tackles with 87 and led the team with three interceptions.

    The Wildcats are also expected to return senior defensive back Terrell Hogan, who picked off two passes, and senior lineman Kurt Dinkens and junior end Craig Hansen, who led the defense in quarterback sacks.

    While a 13th straight trip to playoffs is likely for Franklin-Simpson in 2005, Schlosser would like to advance past the second round for the first time in six years.

    Grant County

    Grant County lost 17 starters and their head coach from last year’s 4-6 team.

    Mike Bowlin resigned in February after compiling a 10-31 record in four seasons as Braves coach. Bowlin was hired as head football coach at East Jessamine.

    Enter Mike Davis, who led Class 2A East Ridge to a 5-15 record the past two seasons.
    The new coach plans to install an option offense and run it out of the power-I formation.

    Grant County will play a multiple-40 defense, showing different looks that encourages pressure.

    Davis may not have to look far to find a quarterback to run the new offense.

    His son Andrew alternated between quarterback and receiver last year at East Ridge.
    Cory Schadler (5-11, 270, Jr.) and Stuart McAdams (6-0, 195, Sr.) could see time in the trenches for the Braves.

    A committee of running backs that could include Nathan Garretson (5-11, 190, Sr.), Cory Haar (5-10, 160, Sr.), and Michael Miller (6-0, 180, Sr.) are also options for Davis.

    Greenup County

    Greenup County has produced just one winning season in the last four and has named Mike Sammons as head coach.

    Sammons has previous coaching stops in Raceland and Portsmouth, Ohio.

    He will have to build an offense around receiver Justin Bradley, who led the Muskateers with 52 catches for 841 yards and seven touchdowns, and Joe Riley, who caught 38 passes out of the backfield for 568 yards and accounted for 11 total touchdowns.

    Hopkins County Central

    Hopkins Central missed the playoffs in 2004 for the first time since 1998 with a record of 3-7.

    Head coach Rick Snodgrass returns seven starters on offense, including running back Tristan Pettus, who rushed for 863 yards and four touchdowns.

    Also returning in Snodgrass’ spread offense attack are receivers J.J. Bell (39 catches, 691 yards, 9 TDs) and T.J.Martin (31 catches, 344 yards, 2 TDs), although Martin could also see time in the backfield this year.

    Martin and Brad Menser also return at linebackers for the Storm, who are expected to return six starters on defense.

    Bell returns in the secondary after picking off six passes last year.

    The Storm will be without 6-10 defensive end Albert Jackson, who announced plans earlier this month to transfer to Oak Hill Academy to play basketball.

    Hopkinsville

    Hopkinsville has gone P.C. – Post Curtis.

    After losing Mr. Football Curtis Pulley to the University of Kentucky and head coach Craig Clayton to a coaching job in Franklin, Tennessee, the Tigers find themselves in a transition mode.

    Dixie Jones, who won 97 games at Trigg County and led the Wildcats to the 1989 Class A state title game, was named Clayton’s successor earlier in the summer.

    Jones served as an assistant coach under Clayton for two years before leading Madisonville to a 10-3 record last year.

    His first chore is to replace Pulley, who threw for over 2,500 yards and ran for 1,200 more last year, in addition to returning two interceptions for touchdowns.

    That job could go to Brandon Robinette (6-2, 210, Sr.), who played tight end last year, or Chuck Thomas (6-0, 180, Sr.), who is the more mobile of the two.

    If Thomas doesn’t line up at quarterback, he and junior transfer Emmanuel Taylor will see plenty of time in the backfield as will Mario Brasher (5-9, 170, Sr.), who moved into the starter’s role last year.

    Speedy receiver Josh Ladson (6-2, 175, Sr.) caught 44 passes for 751 yards and five touchdowns last year.

    Up front, the Tigers return some experienced linemen, including tackles Forrest Pittman, Will Beville, and Curtis Hancock.

    Defensively, Lavar Weston (5-10, 235, Sr.) returns as one of the strongest players in the state. He will anchor the defense on the line along with Pittman and Spencer Warren.

    Many of Hopkinsville’s skill people will also see double duty on defense.

    While a lot of people expect Hopkinsville to be down this year with the losses of Pulley and Clayton, they do bring back enough to claim the school’s eighth region title in 11 years.

    Jeffersontown

    Former assistant coach Scott Carmony is returning to the Charger sidelines after stints at Butler as a head coach and Tates Creek as an assistant.

    His first task is to mold the Chargers into a group of players that can end the school’s seven-year absence from the postseason. J-town hasn’t won a playoff game since 1992.

    Carmony should be able to base his offense around two returning starters in the backfield – Cedrick Ware and Rayshawn Walker – who combined to rush for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last year.

    While J-town must find a new starter at quarterback, the Chargers haven’t been known in the past as a team that like to air it out.

    Johnson Central

    A 7-3 record wasn’t good enough for the Golden Eagles to make the playoffs last year.

    That was in 4A. This year, that record should be enough to advance to the postseason as Jim Matney’s squad makes the move down in class.

    Last year’s mark was JC’s first winning season in four years, and Matney hopes this year’s team can advance into the playoffs in a tough region.

    Quarterback Sean Music returns under center. His broken arm suffered in October last year contributed to the Eagles’ last season struggles.

    Running back Ron Blume should have another strong season, aided by the return of several starters on the offensive line.

    There are some questions on defense, especially in the secondary, which needs to be corrected before the Eagles play Ashland, Lawrence County, and Mason County.

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    Knox Central

    Knox Central appears on the verge of snapping a streak of 11 straight losing seasons.

    Wayne Mills’ Panthers return 14 starters and have no intention of posting another 3-7 record in 2005.

    Things appear to be on the upswing in Barbourville with upwards of 60 kids out for practice.

    “Our goal was to gain respect and be competitive last year , and we feel like we accomplished that,” Mills said. “We were two plays away from being 5-5 instead of 3-7. The players have been great and have done everything we have asked.”

    Most of the 14 starters returning will be seniors, led by running back Matt Ramsey who rushed for 1,188 yards and ten touchdowns last year.

    Bob Blevins, who passed for 789 yards and five scores, returns at quarterback.

    On defense, Mills welcomes back Chris Brown, who led the Panthers with four picks last year, as well as Josh Jones and leading tackler Stanton Peace.

    Lawrence County

    Lawrence County struggled to only their second losing season since 1990 with last year’s 3-8 worksheet.

    Head Coach Billy Goldsmith plans to use Jason Spradlin every way he knows how.

    Spradlin led the Bulldogs with 36 catches for 643 yards and four touchdowns and also stands out on defense, where he had three interceptions and scored five touchdowns on either defense or special teams.

    Senior Aaron Smith and sophomore Morgan Roberts return in the backfield and should have decent seasons behind an experienced offensive line.

    Sophomore Cory Humphrey will likely take over at quarterback.

    Goldsmith also expects his defense to be much improved, especially up front.

    Letcher County Central

    The combination of Whitesburg, Fleming Neon, and Letcher has begat 3A Letcher County Central.

    Hillard Howard, who coached the Pikeville juggernaut in the late 1980s, is the choice to start the Cougar program from the ground up.

    Early response has been positive, with nearly 80 kids out for the start of practice. Cory Bentley and Brian Sexton (Fleming Neon) as well as running back Phillip Bentley (Whitesburg) could provide Howard with some immediate experience.

    But the veteran coach will have to find a way to mesh the group, who was a collective 2-28 last year, into a single unit.

    Logan County

    Logan County should offer a mixture of size and speed in 2005. How much will determine how far the Cougars go.

    After three straight 1-9 seasons, head coach Lee Procter has turned the Logan County program around with two straight winning seasons and two straight playoff appearances.

    Procter will have the services of six players that were starters last year, including a hefty line.

    Tackle Ben Carpenter (6-4, 260, Sr.) and tight end/defensive end Justin Locke (6-7, 230, Sr.) are both getting looks from Louisville, Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Procter said.

    Austin Pogue and Erick Greer are also returning starters from last year’s offensive line.
    Procter will also have the services of quarterback Alex Graves and running back Jeffrey Sydnor.

    “As far as the region goes, we finished last year in upper middle of the teams and hope to improve on that this year,” Procter said.

    Madison Southern

    One preseason question has been answered at Madison Southern but several others remain.

    The first question was answered in mid-June when stud tight end Luke Stocker committed to the University of Tennessee, ending a recruiting parade that included offers from Virginia Tech, Clemson, Kentucky, Purdue and Louisville.

    The 6-foot-6, 230-pound tight end caught 38 passes for 337 yards last year and runs a 4.7 40-yard dash. Those aspects, along with a 3.6 GPA, caused his stock to grow almost as fast as the three inches he grew between his freshman and sophomore years.

    With the question of where Stocker will play college football at now over, the next question is what kind of product will Madison Southern put on the field returning 20 starters from last year’s 3-7 team.

    Head coach Doug Carter returns the bulk of his starters, including running back Robert Dees and quarterback Casey Hatcher.

    Despite the number of starters Carter has returning, the underclassmen aren’t as experienced.

    “We’ve got 15 seniors this year and depth is a problem. If we stay healthy, we can compete. If we don’t, we become a real average team,” he said.

    Madisonville North Hopkins

    Bernard Brant was named the head coach at Madisonville the year after the Maroons won their last region title. That was 1971.

    After some time away from the Maroon program, the 67-year-old Brant is ready to take the Maroons to a 14th game once again.

    Brant takes over for Dixie Jones, who guided Madisonville to a 10-3 record in his only season with the Maroons. Jones took the Hopkinsville job earlier this year.

    Brant was head coach of the Maroons from 1972-80, coaching former UK great Sonny Collins during his stay.

    Brant then returned to his alma mater Danville as an assistant coach and enjoyed the Admirals’ run of state titles.

    The Maroons lost a good part of last year’s team that lost 16-13 to Hopkinsville in the region title game, including Louisville signee Blake Boyd.

    However, Madisonville returns all but one offensive lineman from last year, including Tim Steele (6-4, 285, Sr.).

    With an old-school coach like Brant, you can bet he’s glad to have an experienced line as he stresses blocking and tackling.

    Marion County

    Jeff Robbins took over a team last year that suffered through a winless season in 2003.

    The Knights did end a long losing streak, but it turned out to be their only win as Marion County missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

    Year two of the Robbins regime should be met with improvement, although the Knights could enter the 2005 season with as few as three seniors.

    Robbins expects the seniors – linebacker Mark Williams, and linemen Jay Robinson and Michael Price – to have a big impact this year.

    Juniors Adam Blair and Josh Buck also return in the backfield for Robbins.

    Blair threw for 255 yards last year, while Buck was a pleasant surprise in the backfield, eclipsing 100 yards several times for the Knights. Buck was also one of Marion County’s leading tacklers on defense.

    Mason County

    David Buchanan’s Royals won 44 games in four seasons before 2004.

    Mason County suffered through youth and injuries and struggled to a 1-9 record – the school’s first since 1995.

    Mason returns 12 starters, including seven on defense, as the Royals try to avoid being shut out of the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1996.

    Quarterback Ty Sargent, who was lost for the season in the second game last year, returns for Buchanan.

    He’ll get help in the backfield from newcomers Chase Crawford and Korey Henry, while Corey Jett, Chris Hull, and Darius Miller return at receiver. Jett caught 25 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns last year.

    Both Jett (four interceptions) and Hull (two picks) will be expected to help revitalize a Royal defense that allowed 342 yards and 34 points a game last year.

    “We have to improve each day and through the season. After last year, we need to focus on getting better one day at a time. Hopefully by the time we reach district play, and hopefully November, we will be playing good football,” Buchanan said.

    McCreary Central

    Jack Arthur has done something that hasn’t happened in four years. He’s returning for a second season as head coach of the Raiders.

    Wins have been hard to come by for McCreary, who was just 1-9 last year and have won three games in four years.

    Muhlenberg North

    Since the program returned to the gridiron two years ago, Muhlenberg North has lost 19 of 20 games. However, things appear to be looking up for head coach Phillip Oliver in 2005.

    The Stars return 14 starters and are expected to have 40 players on their varsity roster – a problem that caused the school to not field a team in 2001 and 2002.

    Quarterback Aaron Givens returns after throwing for 490 yards and three touchdowns last year.

    Receiver Dean Romans and tailback Steven Rader also return for the Stars, who must generate more offense than the 83 points they scored last year.

    Because the Stars are not playing a district schedule, Oliver thinks North can bring home the school’s first winning season in seven years.

    “We hope to be competitive in every game, and our goal is a winning season,” Oliver said.

    North Bullitt

    Brett Newton needs just 11 wins to become the Eagles’ all-time wins leader at North Bullitt.

    While an 11-win season is unlikely this year, the Eagles should be vastly improved over last year’s 1-9 season.

    Newton returns six starters on both sides of the football as he tries to guide the North Bullitt program back to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

    The Eagles return senior quarterback Travis Harris, who completed over 50-percent of his passes for 773 yards last year. However, he threw more than twice as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns (6).

    Newton said that sophomore quarterback R.D. Reynolds will push Harris for the starting position in the preseason.

    Senior Shane Scroggin, one of the team’s better athletes, will be moved from receiver to the wingback position in order to get the football more in Newton’s Wing-T offense.

    The move will allow Newton to also utilize seniors Kevin Stallings and Corey Crenshaw, who sat out his entire junior season with a knee injury, in the backfield.

    Newton is also high on freshman Dalton Cissell, a standout on the freshman team last year as an eighth grader, who the head coach said could be a breakout player for the Eagles.

    “He loves contact and has a true passion for the game. He is going to be a special player before he is done here,” Newton said.

    The offensive line will feature senior Timmy Ridley at one guard and senior Bud Jones, and juniors Mitchell Draper and Brandon Blevins also seeing time up front.

    Blevins is also a standout at defensive tackle and will be called upon to help improve a defense that gave up 35 yards a game last year.

    With the experience Newton has coming back, working hard in the offseason was a top priority.

    “We have, as a team, had the best off-season in the weight room in a long time. We will be able to knock some people around, although we will still be young in spots,” he said.

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    Paducah Tilghman

    Is it reloading or rebuilding at Paducah Tilghman? Even coach Perry Thomas isn’t quite sure.

    “We’re going to be awfully young,” said Thomas, who said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Tornado starts two or three freshmen before the season is done. “We’ve lost two good classes back-to-back, and it’s tough to replace that kind of talent. I feel good about this team, though. These guys are young but they’ve already shown me that they’re willing to work really hard to get better. By the end of the year, we could be a pretty decent team.”

    The Tornado returns just four starters on each side of the ball from a team that went 8-4, finished third in the district and lost to Hopkinsville in the second round of the playoffs. Several of the district’s coaches see Tilghman as a slight favorite to unseat Hopkinsville, reflective of their respect for the speed, quickness and athleticism that the Tornado regularly puts on the field.

    Tilghman lost a slew of speedy backs and receivers, however, aside from quarterbacks David Jones and Logan Parrott. Thomas sees another competition in preseason practice for the job. Parrott won the job last year, but broke his collarbone in a preseason scrimmage and sat out most of the season. Jones threw for 1,596 yards with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions, but most of his receiver corps is gone. The loser of the quarterback battle could end up at tight end.

    “We had a lot of guys that could run and make plays,” Thomas said. “The guys we have now have some speed, but there aren’t any real blazers out there. We have a lot of guys that could play, but it might take a while to sort them out.”

    Tim Travis is the most experienced receiver, and Thomas likes what he’s seen from junior Michael Senter, a transfer from Colorado. Sophomores DeMarcus Topp and Bradley James are also in the mix.

    Thomas expects to run the ball more this year, with sophomores Isaiah Holt and Dewayne Jones the top candidates to start at tailback. Thomas also likes to use his receivers in the running game.

    “It seems like we have a lot of halfback types,” Thomas said. “We’re always going to spread the field and throw the ball, but we might be a 70-80 percent running team this year. In the past, we’ve been more 50 or 60.”

    Three of the four returning offensive starters are on the line in Bryan Hall (6-1, 250), Alex Coltharp (6-2, 230) and Matt Wallace. Andrew Carr gives Tilghman a proven punter and placekicker.

    Hall is a standout at linebacker and has Louisville and Ball State showing the most interest. Coltharp and Antonio Faulkner (6-3, 270) are back on the defensive line.
    Elsewhere, Tilghman will try to fill in the gaps with youngsters. Thomas has never been afraid to play underclassmen in key roles.

    “If that’s the best we’ve got, we’ll play some sophomores and freshmen,” Thomas said. “We may take some lumps early, but we’ll be all right by the time we get into the district schedule.”

    Tilghman could get off to a rough start, with three of the first five games against teams ranked in the top five of their respective classes -- longtime rival Mayfield is one of Class A's best clubs and Fort Campbell is considered the best Class 2A team in western Kentucky.

    Also on the slate are Henderson County, a top-five team in Class 4A and perennial power Warren Central. Tilghman could field a solid team yet be 1-4 going into district play.

    By November, though, Tilghman could join Hopkinsville and Franklin-Simpson as potential challengers to regional favorite Bowling Green.

    “It’s a tough way to start the season, especially with us being so young,” Thomas said. “It might take us a while to get settled at some positions.”

    Pendleton County

    Pendleton County’s second year of football produced a respectable 5-5 record, although the Wildcats are still a couple of seasons away from district competition.

    Head coach Tim Carver finally settled on a veer offense that his young team seemed to adapt well to.

    Senior quarterback Michael McNay (6-0, 200) returns to run the Wildcat offense, while senior Derek Amburgey (5-10, 160, Sr.) also returns in the backfield.

    On the line, Rob Breitkreutz (5-8, 260, Sr.), Mark Ferguson (5-8, 235, Sr.), and Josh Harvill (5-11, 250, Jr.) could be called upon to replace several starters lost to graduation.

    On defense, Carver has several key players returning, including senior linebacker Jared Leabo, senior nose tackle Joe Hughes (5-11, 190) linebacker Jess Lorenz (6-0, 205, Jr.), and tackle Kyle Deglow (5-7, 180, Jr.).

    Perry County Central

    Two years after the school’s first winning season, Perry Central has slipped 5-6 and 4-7 in successive seasons.

    The good news for head coach Jason Chappell is that most of his offensive line returns in front of tailback Brandon Willis, who rushed for 741 yards and eight touchdowns last year. He also caught ten passes, but his role for PCC isn’t immediately known. There has been some talk of Willis moving to quarterback.

    Regardless, Chappell must cultivate some defensive depth in order for this team to make the playoffs.

    Pulaski County

    Coach John Hines of Pulaski County has considered changing the nickname of his 2005 squad from Maroons to Greens. Inexperience is the order of the day.

    The Maroons will have only five seniors on the roster, and they lost 99-percent of their passing and 88-percent of their rushing from their 2004 run to the playoffs.

    Eight starters are also missing from the defense. And remember, this is a team that played in a regional final two seasons ago.

    Hines has five starters returning on offense and just three on defense.

    “By mid-season we’ll have to be ready for district play,” is how Hines is approaching this campaign.

    The Maroons aren’t making excuses. There is talent available, but it is all young.

    The leaders will be two senior linemen, Blake Gumm and Josh Eggers. Gumm has worked his way down to 270 pounds and has the athletic ability to play middle linebacker as well as the o-line.

    “Blake is being recruited by Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Eastern and Western Kentucky. He should be one of the most dominant players in the state this season,” Hines said of his linebacker.

    Eggers is a three-year starter who will play the middle of the line on both sides of the ball.

    Size and depth up front has been a characteristic of Pulaski for years but other than junior Phillip Neikirk, the search is still underway.

    Sophomore Kyle Hawk is a possibility. Jordan Gillum, Josh Morris, Lukus Mofield, Cody Warren, and Jonathan Vacek will be considered for line play, although all are undersized.

    Defensively, Steven Baker and Seth Meece are early candidates at end in the 4-3 alignment. Brandon Tomlinson will join Gumm at linebacker with Jordan Harris and Michael Phipps getting a crack at jobs.

    Mitch Keeney will lead the secondary with help from Derrick Bechard, Zack DeCross and maybe newcomer Jacob Floyd. Freshman Ty Perkins will be another candidate.

    Speaking of Perkins, Ty’s older brother John is the front-runner as the signal caller in the multiple formation offense. Perkins, after sitting out last season after starting as a freshman at Wayne County, has been ruled eligible by every court except maybe Judge Judy.

    Bechard is the favorite to be the workhorse in the mostly one back attack. Keeney will be the go to receiver. Floyd, Ty Perkins, Tomlinson, and Chris Harness will also see action at the skill positions.

    Pulaski has the raw talent, but it is mostly untested. Those tests will come early in the form of Lincoln County (a former district foe), Somerset, Franklin, Corbin and Campbellsville on the non-district slate.

    The success the Maroons have in 2005 will depend on how quickly the youngsters grow up. It’s that simple.

    Rowan County

    Rowan County returns 2,000-yard rusher Wayne Stevens, who accounted for 192 of the Vikings’ 304 points last year.

    The junior running back broke Rowan’s 22-year-old single season rushing mark formerly held by Marvin Adkins.

    Sophomore Josh Clark will likely move into the starter’s role, while junior Brett Norman and sophomore fullback Robby Waggoner also return.

    Russell County

    Veteran assistant coach Bill Sharp takes over for Vic Clark at Russell County, who was bumped up from 2A after a 3-8 record last year.

    Sharp is very familiar with the Laker program, serving as an assistant coach for 16 seasons. He also had stops at Nelson County, Marion County, and West Hardin High School where he worked under current Lexington Catholic head coach Bob Sphire.

    The Lakers appear suited for their leap to 3A by returning eight starters on both sides of the football.

    Russell County returns halfbacks Chris Coffey, Jordan Pierce, and Justin Lafavers from a flexbone offense that mirrored a triple option. It’s not known if Sharp will tweak the offense any.

    Also back is quarterback Nick Huckaby, lineman Kennedy Coffey, and linebackers Chris Willis and Grant Sharp.

    Coffey and Willis are drawing college attention from Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and several NAIA schools in the state, Sharp said.

    With the move up, Sharp is just hoping to keep his entire team intact. The Lakers ended last season having lost their starting quarterback, a running back and a couple of linemen to injury.

    “Any time you move up in class, your work just got more difficult. Add that to that the fact we enter a district loaded with successful programs, which compounds the situation. We are looking to be competitive within the district and to begin the process of building a successful program in all facets,” Sharp said.

    Russell County has recently built a new field house and weight room to better the football program. Sharp hopes those improvements as well as playing better competition in their new district pays dividends down the road.

    South Oldham

    In Nathan Jones’ first season as head coach, South Oldham showed they could hang with some of the region’s top teams before talent and experience won out.

    This year, he is hoping the Dragons can seal the deal.

    South Oldham returns nine starters on both sides of the football and enter the 2005 season as a darkhorse in Region Three.

    “I see our team doing well. We lost three starters from last year and have 22 seniors coming back,” Jones said. “We had a great offseason and have more team speed and quickness than previous years.”

    Senior quarterback Caleb Newton (6-3, 205) returns to lead the Dragon offense, which failed to score two touchdowns in five of their 11 games last year.

    This year should be more productive for Newton, who will get blocking help up front from Jonathon Hooper (6-1, 265, Sr.). Both Newton and Hooper are drawing interest from several Ivy League schools.

    Wes Finch (6-1, 275, Sr.) also returns for the Dragons on their line.

    Mathias Gordon (5-9, 205, Sr.) returns after a junior season that saw him rush for over 750 yards.

    Joe Gamsky (6-1, 195, Jr.) and Seth Gordon (5-9, 180, Jr.) also return to the backfield.

    Cody Williams (6-2, 205, Sr.) caught seven touchdowns last year and is South Oldham’s most experienced receiver coming back.

    The defense is anchored by Taylor Scherer (6-1, 230, Sr.), who is the two-time defending state wrestling champion in the 215 weight class.

    On the line, Jones expects a big season from tackle Logan Butler (6-0, 270, Sr.) and Finch.

    If the Dragons can overcome their offensive problems that plagued them last year, there is a good chance they can claim their first winning season in five years and win the school’s first playoff game in 12 years.

    “I feel very confident that our program has turned the corner and is ready to make some noise,” Jones said.

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    Southwestern

    by bucknut

    The 2005 version of the Southwestern Warriors may look a whole lot like the 2003 team that lost its first 6 games of the season only to come back and four of their last six games, including a 20-19 upset of Central in the playoffs.

    The Warriors will open the season against Corbin, then Danville followed by GRC, South Laurel, Highlands, and Boyle County.

    A 3-3 record would be a pretty good start for a young team that has to replace several skilled position players.

    Southwestern will return 6 starters on each side of the ball with the offensive and defensive front lines being the strength of the ball club.

    Offense:

    Josh and Jacob Crockett, Matt McWhorter, Calvin Ratliff will help all-state candidate Josh Minton anchor the line. Although the Warriors lost standout running back Lee Renfro and starting quarterback Todd Daulton, the Warriors will have some talent at the skilled positions. Wes Hampton, Josh Smith and Clay Welch should get plenty of opportunity to carry the football.

    6-foot-3 Todd Jones will provide good size at the quarterback spot.

    While the receiving corps is somewhat inexperienced, they are very quick and athletic. McWhorter will give SW a large target at tight end.

    By the time the Warriors begin district play I would look for Eric Wright, Kyle Klinginsmith, Cody Gibson and Matt Robertson to be regular contributors to the Southwestern air attack.

    Defense:

    Again it will be the depth and experience of the defensive front that will stand out for the Warriors.

    The defense starts with defensive end Josh Minton, who already has offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Ole Miss among others.

    Minton led the Warriors with 87 tackles (17 for loss) and 13 quarterback sacks.
    Another member of that defensive front, Matt McWhorter, is also attracting attention from Ole Miss, Clemson, Eastern and Western Kentucky.

    Also back on the line are Ratliff and the Crockett brothers.

    The linebacker group for the Warriors may be on of the best ever as a group and includes veterans Clay Welch, Cary Pickerall and Jordan Walters.

    The secondary was the hardest hit by graduation, but Patrick Wright, who will take over the “Brave” position, is quick, strong, and smart. He will definitely make a name for himself by the time the season comes to a close.

    The kicking game should be much improved as Ryan Pruitt returns from last season’s squad and should handle the kicking duties.

    Wes Hampton, with his lightning quick speed, will be a very dangerous return man.
    Southwestern’s first district game against Boyle County could very well be the game that decides the district title, but until someone knocks off the Rebels they are king of the mountain.

    Another Southwestern preview….

    Southwestern will have their best team to date this season.

    With the seniors that play this year, they made a significant difference in this team last year by helping them to an 8-2 regular season record compared to 3-7 the year before.

    Among the impact seniors and D-1 college prospects is Josh Minton (OL/DE). A few wins this year will come from big plays from him on defense.

    Matt McWhorter (TE/DE) is another impact player. With a lot of attention being spent on Minton, McWhorter will have a great season on defense. I believe McWhorter’s biggest asset to the team will be on offense as a big scoring threat.

    The next D-1 prospect is Ryan Pruitt (PK/K), who also plays on the soccer team. He was putting kickoffs into the end zone as a sophomore.

    The following players will be playing at the next level if they want -- Calvin Ratliff, Josh Crockett, Jacob Crockett, Cary Pickerell, and Jordan Walters. These guys are the weight of our offensive line, with Pickerell, and Walters playing linebacker on defense. All four are the impact guys on OL/DL. Without these guys doing their job up front, we won’t be as good as I predict.

    Clay Welch (RB/DE) and Josh Smith (RB/LB) will be our force in running the ball, with Welch returning as fullback.

    The other running back will be junior Wes Hampton, who has very good speed and, along with Smith, are going to be our impact player on offense.

    Patrick Wright and Josh Anderson saw significant playing time last year in the defensive secondary and will need to get ready to stop the pass.

    At quarterback, we’ll have a choice to make between Logan Viers and Mike Jones. Both are new in the position, and both have different strengths at the position. One runs better with size and speed, and the other is very accurate in passing.

    Southwestern’s defense will be the reason we will be a top ten team next year with the whole defensive line and linebacker returning from last year. Matt Roberson, Eric Wright , Sidney Allin , Cody Gibson, James Fulz , and Tyler Dalton are all juniors and have good speed. I look for them to get a lot of playing time in the secondary.

    At linebacker, Eric Rice, Justin Baker, and Nick Roberts will all see playing time.
    Players on the defensive line that will play a lot are Cody Wilson, Justin Hampton, and Mack Carrender.

    Southwestern will be a deep team, with players at all positions that can come in and take over for the starter and not miss a beat.

    With a senior laden team and huge junior class behind them, it will be hard for any others to hit the field early. I look for this team to make it to the regional final game at least and, with a little luck and determination, we make it to Papa John’s Stadium. Good luck to everyone………….A BIG FAN

    Taylor County

    A losing record has been enough to get Taylor County into the playoffs each of the past four seasons, but that may not be enough in 2005.

    Second-year head coach Rodney Turpin may have enough talent to post the school’s first winning season in six years.

    The Cardinals return 13 starters from last year’s 2-9 team that was drummed by Central in the first round of the playoffs.

    Senior running back Chase Porter returns after rushing for over 900 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Porter also stands out in the classroom, with a 4.0 GPA, which ranks him third in his class. Several Ivy League schools have contacted Turpin about Porter.

    Junior Neil Sanders returns at quarterback, as does junior receiver Kyle Cox.

    Senior Joe Dunlap leads the Cardinal defense from his linebacker position.
    Dunlap, like Porter, also sports a 4.0 GPA and ranks just behind Porter at fourth in his senior class.

    “He has Division-I hitting ability and size. He just needs to improve his speed,” Turpin said

    Union County

    Two years after suffering through a winless season, Union County rebounded to post a 7-4 record in 2004 – their first winning season since 1999.

    While head coach Danny Bean returns several skill people from last year, he’ll only have nine starters total coming back.

    Running back Justin Foster (6-2, 200) rushed for 649 yards and 13 scores, while Antonio Davis added 400 yards and four scores. Davis also caught 15 passes for 279 yards and
    four touchdowns.

    Valley

    Roger Deskins again finds himself in a rebuilding mode for Valley, although his second season should be a little easier than the first.

    Senior Joe Raleigh returns after nearly rushing for 1,000 yards a year ago, as does receiver Lydell Green.

    Deskins will have to find a replacement for three-year starting quarterback Patrick Burke as well as replace some key people on the line, but does return five starters on offense and four on defense.

    Linebacker Avery Ford returns to lead the Viking defense, which gave up 152 points over their final three games last year.

    Waggener

    Willie Foster takes over a Wildcat program that has recorded winning seasons six of the past seven years. Foster, 7-13 in two seasons at Bullitt Central, takes over for Chris Wolfe, whose six seasons produced a 46-25 record and left him the all-time wins leader at the school. Wolfe left Waggener for PRP.

    Last year’s team won their first nine games before losing two of their last three, including a second-round thrashing at the hands of Boyle County.

    The Wildcats lost speedy back Alphonso Smith to graduation but return senior Rontray Winston, who saw considerable action last year when Smith was nursing an ankle injury.
    Jeffrey House and D.J. Bruce could also see time on the offensive side for the Wildcats.

    Warren East

    With 18 returning starters, improvement is expected from last year’s 2-8 season for Warren East. Despite the large number of returnees, there are only five seniors on the Raider roster.

    New head coach Ben Bruni – a former Bowling Green assistant who coached one season at Todd County Central two years ago – expects a stronger and more physical team on the field this year.

    “We have a large and hard working junior class with an athletic sophomore class, both of which saw significant playing time in varsity last year,” Bruni said.

    Jaron Weigel is expected to be the quarterback for the Raiders, who will also feature a deep backfield.

    “Our offensive line will be light but athletic and is strong across the line, but learning a new offense could spell some problems,” Bruni said.

    Defensively, Warren East returns an experienced linebacker corps and a secondary with speed.

    “Turnovers have killed this team for the past three years. Our linebackers will need to carry the load on defense and get some help from the defensive line,” Bruni said.

    West Jessamine

    After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, West Jessamine may be in a position to sneak into the postseason and perhaps secure a first round home game.

    Head coach Wes Johnson enters his fifth season with eight starters returning on both sides of the football.

    Quarterback Eric Coker (6-2, 215, Sr.) returns as a dual threat, rushing for 979 yards and 13 touchdowns while throwing for 337 yards and a score.

    Leading rusher Eli Darby (5-9, 180, Sr.) ran for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns last year. Both Coker and Darby should pass the 3,000-yard mark for their careers this year, and both are getting looks from Navy and Ivy League schools.

    Defensive end T.J. Sisler (6-2, 260, Sr.) and linebacker Jake Carlson (5-11, 200, Sr.) return to a defense that allowed just 15.7 points and 227 yards a game last year. Western Kentucky, Ohio, and Miami (Ohio) are among the schools taking a look at Sisler, who also plays offensive tackle.

    After finishing 5-5 last year, Johnson knows the district is wide open and his team could finish anywhere in the mix.

    “Our district will be super competitive and very balanced. Most of the teams are senior dominated and have lots of experience. This will be a fun year because anything could happen.”

    Western Hills

    Western Hills has produced just one winning season (2000) since 1986. While that streak may not be broken in 2005, the Wolverines should improve upon last year’s 1-9 record.

    Senior quarterback Charles Keene returns to run the offense for new head coach Chris Engstrand, a former assistant coach at Western Hills.

    Engstrand, who served as the Wolverines’ offense coordinator in 2003 before leaving for Nelson County, replaces Scott Mooney, who resigned in December after two seasons to take a coaching position at Campbellsville University.

    Engstrand is hoping the construction of a new field house last year will help increase the number of players for the program. There were 37 players on the Western Hills roster last year, which was double the number from the end of the 2002 season.

    Junior Tyler Combess, last year’s leading rusher, is another player Engstrand should have back in the mix for 2005.

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