1. Newport Central Catholic - 1st year Coach Eddie Eviston not only led the Breds to a state title, but every playoff game was a blowout. Coach Eviston's success has many fans wondering if he is the next Mike Yeagle. Like Coach Yeagle, Eviston took over a successful program and elevated it several levels. With the persistent level of talent that flows through this private school, if Eviston is the second coming of Mike Yeagle, NewCath can be expected to win 4 out of 5 state titles. With Fort Campbell moving up a class and Coach Eviston moving in, the Breds are the clear favorite to win the Class 2A title.
2. Danville - There are some who referred to the Admirals as “Anville” in the past couple of the years because the 'D' was missing. After their first losing season in 30 years in 2009, the Ads rebounded with a 10-win season last year. Yet they still showed defensive lapses, including a 61-42 playoff loss to Owensboro Catholic. With several starters back on both sides of the football, Danville expects to once again position themselves as a major player in the 2A race this year. Offensively, the Ads have several big weapons returning, including running back Patrick Brand, who rushed for 231 yards in the loss to Owensboro Catholic. But if Danville doesn't address their defensive issues and find a way to get their best athletes in the right spots, they likely won't advance far in the postseason. Making things tougher was an alignment switch to the eastern side of the bracket. There, they will have to share a district with Somerset, Lexington Christian, and Middlesboro. To make it worse, they will be in a sub-state occupied by defending state champion Newport Central Catholic.
3. Somerset - The Briar Jumpers were unbeaten and one game away from a return trip to the state finals in 2010, before losing to Belfry in the state semifinals. Head coach, Robbie Lucas will face the loss of 18 seniors, an upgraded schedule, and the prospect of dropping down to a much tougher Class 2A. Senior Alex Lange led the Jumpers in rushing and could see an even bigger offensive role if he is moved to quarterback. Senior Storm Wilson (14 touchdown passes last year), also figures prominently into the offense. Somerset took some big losses on the line, but has a lot of experienced depth returning. Somerset played up to Class 3A for travel reasons, but also had a fairly easy path through the postseason. That changes this year with the move to 2A and into a district with Danville, Lexington Christian, and Middlesboro.
4. Owensboro Catholic - Owensboro Catholic rebounded from a couple of subpar seasons to once again become a force in Class 2A. With many of their offensive starters back in 2011, the Aces should have little problem getting back to Bowling Green. And they can thank the realignment, which removed Fort Campbell, Monroe County, and Danville from their region. Russell Hayden has led the Aces in rushing each of his first three seasons and compliments 3,500-yard passer, Issac Hardesty nicely. Several of Hardesty's main targets return. But let's be brutally honest here. Unless OCath has figured out how to stop offenses on the big stage, they will likely bring home the runner-up trophy for the fourth time in eight years.
5. DeSales - Not many people were worried when DeSales lost four close games in the regular season to larger schools. The surprise came in the second round of the playoffs when they lost to Covington Holy Cross. The Colts have a few gaping holes to fill in 2011, but do return quarterback Jared Nauert. Cory Lafever should see more carries in the backfield this year; however, DeSales returns most of their linemen, which should make things easier for Nauert and the offense. The keys for DeSales will be the defense and replacing several standout players. The Colts will enjoy greater depth, which should make them competitive against a tough early season schedule. The Colts also have to adjust to moving to the west region, away from Newport Central Catholic.
6. Lexington Christian - Lexington Christian transitioned smoothly as Ray Graham took the helm from former head coach Paul Rains. They fell just one game short of a trip to the state finals. This year, the Eagles transition to Class 2A. It remains to be seen how smooth this transition will be, especially into a tougher district that includes Danville, Middlesboro, and Somerset. Clay Mossbarger and Sam Maybriar will carry the offensive workload, while the Eagles will look to a talented junior class in the trenches. LCA has the depth and numbers to make the move up in class. However, the playoff path will be tougher in their new district. It may be a while before we see the Eagles back in Bowling Green.
7. Prestonsburg - The Blackcats were a pleasant surprise in 2010, posting an 8-2 regular season mark in what was expected to be a rebuilding year. It's possible that, with the year of maturity last season provided, Prestonsburg could conceivably challenge for a trip to Bowling Green. For that to happen, however, the Blackcats need to develop a consistent running game while adding quality depth on the defense.
8. Christian Academy-Louisville - The Centurions have turned to new coach, and former University of Louisville quarterback, Stefan LeFors to bring some stability to a school that just hasn't turned the corner, since making the move up to Class 2A. The new coach has several holes to fill, but will look to second-leading rusher Ivan Talley as a main cog. By adding Lexington Christian and Male to the CAL schedule, LeFors makes it clear that he isn't shying away from anyone.
9. Holy Cross - Holy Cross overcame a slow start to roll through their district (sans Newport Central Catholic) and record an upset of DeSales in the playoffs. Although head coach Bruce Kozerski has some key pieces returning, it likely still won’t be enough to overcome the 'Breds this year. Kyle Fuller is expected to take over at quarterback and Eric Walker will return at receiver. On defense, leading tacklers, Paul Lampone and Justin Kohake both come back for a defense that must get better in 2011. Another area where Holy Cross must improve is on the line, where the better teams manhandled them last year.
10. Bardstown - You never know what you are going to get with Bardstown, because you never know if they are going to be healthy enough to make a difference. The Tigers have several offensive weapons returning for head coach David Clark. Quarterback Jordan Brewer has several key targets back, including Marcus Cosby, Jack Whitfield, and Anthony Myrks. Bardstown has endured four straight losing seasons -- something that hasn't happened in nearly 30 years. Their three wins in 2010 were their fewest since a 1-10 season, twenty years ago. A toned-down schedule and healthy players should put the Tigers in position to snap their streak of losing records.