Having been absent from the top rung of 4A football since 1999, St. X. had clawed their way into the final game in 2003, only to fall four points short of victory. Having come so close, Coach Mike Glaser and his St. Xavier Tigers rededicated themselves in 2004, and this time achieved the long climb back to the top with a resounding 49-9 state final victory over Scott County.
With the graduation of 37 seniors, and only three starters returning on offense and three starters returning on defense, most schools would be content to merely achieve a winning record while rebuilding. This is not the case at St. X., however, where they have a horde of talent, both remaining and upcoming, who are chomping at the bit for a third straight run to Papa John’s Stadium.
The major areas that Coach Glaser must address in the preseason are finding replacements for what some have called the best defensive line in Tiger history, developing a pass receiving contingent, and unearthing seniors to match the leadership intensity of last year’s graduates.
The coaching staff, which with some major additions (Jim Wagoner, Bart Bruner, and Will Wolford) and reshuffling of duties performed so admirably last season, remains virtually intact for 2005.
The biggest roadblock to the Tigers’ high goals will be another devilish schedule, which shows only three home games all season.
St. X. opens on the road at the Rafferty’s Bowl against Bowling Green. The Purples have put together two consecutive 10-0 regular seasons, and are one of the favorites for the 3A title this year.
The Tigers next venture to Lexington Catholic, where they will confront another 3A power led by super quarterback Justin Burke, who will be eager to atone for their big loss last season.
In week three, the X-men will face their third straight away game as they journey to Fern Creek to face another outstanding quarterback in K. J. Black.
Week four will find the Tigers at home in Manual Stadium in the eagerly awaited battle between the 2004 State 4A and 3A Champions. It’s St. X. versus Highlands.
Following a week off to lick their wounds, St. X. will make their annual visit to Papa John’s Stadium to face their powerful rival, Trinity.
The Tigers then close out their season with district battles against Manual, who expects to have their best team since their 1988 state runner-up finish; Pleasure Ridge Park, who always come equipped with fast backs and giant linemen; Male, who has terrorized everyone in 7-on-7 competition this summer; Iroquois, which should be the only breather on the schedule; and Butler, a perennial playoff contender.
By testing their metal against such tough competition in mostly hostile environments, Coach Glaser should have his team well prepared for a playoff run.
In a break from normal tradition, St. Xavier will depend early on their offense to carry the battle to the opposition while the new defensive line matures. Although the Tigers will once again have available their numerical superiority to wear down adversaries and their low risk ball control capability, they also have the athletes to attack the full field, horizontally and vertically.
To add extra burden to the defense, they will align in a wide array of formations including a split-back veer, pro-I, wishbone, and shotgun spread. Last season this attack set a school record 611 points for the season, for a 41 points per game average. This year’s addition could be even better.
As always, the main barometer for judging the X offense will be the strength of the offensive line, which should be outstanding in 2005.
The two OL returning starters, Derrick Elder (6-2, 295, Sr.) and Justin Jefferies (6-5, 300, Sr.), should both vie for All-State consideration, while the remaining three slots will be up for grabs amongst Jake Kerger (6-2, 245, Sr.), Matt Brumleve (5-11, 250, Sr.), Erik Sturgeon (6-2, 250, Sr.), Jonathan Jansen (6-4, 270, Sr.), Mark Smith (6-6, 280, Sr.), Nathan Hill (6-2, 235, Sr.), Pat McDonald (6-4, 260, Jr.), Taylor Ott (6-0, 245, Jr.), Corey O’Daniel (6-6, 310, Jr.), and Zach Slayton (6-1, 260, So.).
At the all important tight end position, the battle should be between Alex James (6-1, 205, Sr.) and Andy Browning (6-0, 210, Sr.).
With a returning starting quarterback who demonstrated an excellent feel for the passing game, combined with a coaching staff committed to an expanded aerial attack, the Tigers need wide receivers with speed to stretch the field, moves to get separation, and hands to secure contested receptions.
At wide receiver, the Tigers usually substitute a new pair on every play. Of the top four from last season only one returns, so Coach Glaser will be scrutinizing his roster very closely during preseason to unearth the needed replacements. Colt Totten (5-11, 175, Sr.) is the lone returnee, and he is capable of snagging a lot of balls.
The main candidates competing to fill the remaining open slots are Taylor Mayer (5-11, 165, Sr.), Kevin Bertoli (6-1, 170, Sr.), Tim Dougherty (5-10, 175, Sr.), Jon Payne (6-0, 165, Sr.), Doug Hunter (6-1, 175, Sr.), and Dan Eitel (5-9, 165, Sr.). Also expect to see the leading ground gainer for last year’s undefeated freshman team, Will Simmons (5-9, 155, So.), and super running back, Vic Anderson (5-9, 170, Jr.), flanked out in certain sets.
The backfield for the Tigers is loaded and could be one of their all-time best. Brent Curley (6-1, 185, Sr.) returns at quarterback to lead the X-men. Curley was 70-for-122 in passing last season for 871 yards and nine touchdowns. As a former running back, he has both the speed and moves to be very dangerous up the middle on a QB draw, as well as outside on the veer option.
Vying for the #2 spot will be last year’s JV’s Daniel Passifume (5-8, 150, Jr.) and Chris Wade (5-9, 160, Jr.), plus two super prospects moving up from the freshman team, Ben Zoeller (6-1, 190, So.) and Travis Kuiper (5-11, 160, Soph.).
Zoeller has looked good in the preseason, which may allow Glaser to move Passifume to receiver.
The foundation for Coach Glaser’s favored ground attack will be centered on the skills of the dynamic Vic Anderson (5-9, 170, Jr.). He is a definite All-State candidate and has already received scholarship offers from West Virginia and Louisville. Despite his modest size, Anderson can churn for the tough yards inside and leave tacklers grasping for air, as he explodes to the house with his 4.4 speed on the outside. Although not a starter last season, Vic was St. X.’s leading ground gainer with 1035 yards on 139 carries for 27 touchdowns. Because he also possesses superb receiving hands and a strong throwing arm, expect Offensive Coordinator Pat Chitwood to move Anderson around a lot in the Tigers’ multiple offensive sets.
If defenses become too obsessed with stopping Anderson, the Tigers will pound them with experienced strong running by Mike Mattingly (5-10, 200, Sr.), who also has the speed to go the distance.
Kevin Sansbury (6-0, 185, Sr.), a tough returning runner, Drew Eckman (5-9, 175, Jr.), and the aforementioned multi-talented and fast Will Simmons (5-9, 155, So.) will provide first-class backup. Sansbury isn’t showing any ill effects from a knee injury suffered two years ago.
As an extra note, it has been rumored that the Tigers have an incoming freshman running back, Orlando Finch, who may have the talent to see some varsity action. If this occurs, it would be the first time I can remember this happening at St. X. since Dicky Lyons in 1961.
Saint Xavier took a major graduation hit on the defensive side of the ball, losing eight starters from a team which gave up only 75 rushing yards and 11 points per game. They also established a team record with 31 interceptions in one season.
Defensive Coordinator Todd Walsh does not seem to be overly concerned, as the Tigers are ready to reload with talented, but smaller replacements, who logged a lot of playing time in last season’s championship run.
Expected to join sole returning starter Bryan Cardenas (5-9, 230, Sr.) on the Split-6 defensive line are Nathan McGee (5-9, 240, Sr.), Kent Amshoff (6-2, 230, Sr.), and James Carpenter (5-10, 235, So.). Others competing for time are Alex Sattich (6-3, 215, Sr.), Nathan Hill (6-2, 240, Sr.), Jeff Androlla (5-10, 200, Sr.), Sam Oliver (6-0, 215, Sr.), and Matt Smith (6-3, 230, So.).
With nothing set as yet at the defensive end/outside linebacker position, the competition is projected to be fierce amongst Creighton Jones (6-0, 210, Sr.), Matt Stein (5-10, 175, Sr.), West Jones (5-10, 190, Sr.), Connor Cogan (6-1, 175, Sr.), John Bennett (6-1, 180, Sr.) and Pat Bisig (6-1, 185, Jr.). After an excellent junior season, Paul Belshoff (5-11, 200, Sr.) returns to his inside linebacker duties. He should be joined by Chris Dornbrook (6-0, 210, Sr.), with Mike Horrell (6-1, 193, Sr.) providing the main support for the tandem.
The defensive backfield should be one of the best the Tigers have had in many years. Nick Schickel (5-10, 170, Sr.), who had five interceptions, and Alex Kramer (6-0, 180, Sr.), who had six picks, return to occupy two of the starting secondary slots. Star sprinter Shawn Spaulding (6-1, 185, Sr.) will compete with Blake Deeley (5-10, 180, Sr.), Harrison Huelsman (5-10, 170, Jr.), Tony Polio (5-9, 165, Sr.), Spencer Maxwell (6-0, 175, Sr.), Mason Meredith (5-9, 145, Sr.), and David Barito (6-2, 175, Jr.) for the remaining opening.
St. X. has always depended on their special teams play to give them an added edge, and this season they should have one of their best. Coach Glaser blocks out a lot of practice time for the kicking, kick coverage, and kick return aspects of football. Playing mistake-free in this facet, while capitalizing on the special teams errors of their opponents, has resulted in many close-game victories.
Returning kicker, Tim Dougherty (5-10, 175, Sr.) should be an All-State candidate after booming the ball consistently through the uprights and into the end zone. A lot of outstanding return men were left frustrated last year when they were denied the opportunity to return the ball because of Dougherty’s deep kicks.
The Tigers are further blessed with backup Andrew Bosscher (5-9, 175, So.), who is close to Dougherty’s equal.
Bosscher should also compete with Jon Payne (6-0, 165, Sr.) for the punting duties vacated by last year’s star punter, Patrick Mossholder.
Look for Vic Anderson and Alex Kramer to provide the excitement to the kick and punt returns respectively.
Needless to say, the electricity in the air at Tigertown is high as we approach the season, hoping to once again hear the sweet sound of the December victory bell. Coach Glaser and his assistants always seem to smile when they are asked about the 2005 Tiger football team. They know the other two members of the Big Three, Male and Trinity, as well as Henderson County and Manual, should have terrific teams this year. In addition, they realize that other strong contenders will emerge from elsewhere in the state.
Moreover, they fully comprehend that the task of repeating as state champion is always more difficult than the first in the string, because you must go through the entire season wearing a bulls eye on your chest. Yes, the Tigers task will be difficult, but they have walked this way before, and they understand the work elements demanded for greatness.
At the conclusion of last year’s state championship, the challenge was issued to meet in celebration once again at Papa John’s Stadium the following season. If this squad properly dedicates itself to the constant hard work and focus required, and is blessed with a little luck, they have an excellent opportunity to answer that challenge.
It's been three years since Bobby Redman led Male to the Class 4-A state championship game. Yes, that was the amazing 59-56 loss to Trinity in the titanic battle between Brian Brohm and Michael Bush.
But just one year after a stunning loss to North Hardin in the second round of the playoffs, Male is ready to try and regain its spot atop the 4-A heap.
Redman has one of his most talented teams ever ready to rumble after posting an impressive summer display of 7-on-7 competition.
The Bulldogs won the University of Louisville's 7-on-7 event and then took out Class AAA power Hopkinsville in the title game of the Male "Best of the Best" event.
Male also won the prestigious Illinois 7-on-7 event by whipping St. Louis Hazelwood in the title game and went 3-2 in the Adidas national event.
Redman said the Adidas event in Knoxville, Tenn., was the best tournament he's ever been to with a ton of Division I athletes and his team competed well.
"We worked on our passing game for an entire month," Redman said after the month 7-on-7 events. "That's 60-70 percent of our offense. We're ready to go."
The Bulldogs have as much talent as any team in the state.
Senior quarterback Brian Anderson will be starting his third season and has already been offered a scholarship by Illinois. However, Anderson turned down the Illini and has verbally committed to Marshall. He's become one of the fastest rising quarterback prospects in the nation after his summer display.
As a junior, Anderson completed 160 of 253 passes for 2,613 yards and 21 TDs. He's thrown for more than 5,000 yards during his career.
Anderson has a lot to work with.
Doug Beaumont will be a top candidate for Mr. Football next season after compiling almost 2,000 yards of total offense as a sophomore. He had 778 yards receiving and five TDs, while rushing for 709 yards and 15 TDs.
Running back Brandon Brown will be a major threat to run and catch the ball, while fullback Marcus Hughes scored 14 touchdowns as a junior.
Nathan Overall will be Anderson's possession receiver and has great hands.
Hughes is a beast on defense at linebacker, while Matt Peyton is also solid and Beaumont and Brown will play in the backfield.
Male will have a leg-up on most teams this season in the special teams' category with kickers Richard Fangman and Scott Aguiar and punter Shane Harvey.
When it's all said and done, Redman will be disappointed if Male isn't playing on the first Saturday in December for another 4-A crown.
3. Trinity Shamrocks (10-2)
There are few constants in Kentucky high school football, but one resonates yearly: Trinity will be a favorite for the state title.
Once again the Shamrocks from Trinity are one of the favorites for their 4-A state record 16th state championship. Look for the Rocks to improve from their 2004 uncharacteristic exit from the playoffs, the first time since 1999 that the Rocks failed to advance to the state finals.
Trinity returns a few offensive starters from the 2004 squad that was upset early in the playoffs. Steve Orndorff (6-0, 190), Donald Barnett (5-10, 200) and Craig Kircher (6-1, 195) all played pivotal roles in the Rocks’ 2004 campaign.
In the trenches, Mike Clark (6-3, 295), the heavyweight state champion wrestler, and Alex Huter (6-4, 245) return from successful junior years.
Junior Nick Petrino (5-8, 170) will try to become the next great Trinity quarterback and expects to be the starter come August. Many have questioned his height, but no one can question his heart. Petrino figures to fit in nicely to Coach Bob Beatty’s system, as Beatty has had success in the past with “smaller” yet mobile quarterbacks.
As we all know, on defense is where state championships are won. Coach Terry Bean has implemented an aggressive defense that will have a larger impact in its second year.
Graham Switzer (6-4, 270) and Tony Klausing (6-3, 235), who are both returning starters, will anchor Trinity up front. Larry Taugher (6-1, 230), Michael Railey (5-11, 200), Chris Wood (5-11, 190), and Andrew Fultz (6-2, 200) are expected to play major roles from their linebacking positions.
As odd as this may sound to longtime Trinity fans, the secondary may be the strength of this year’s defense. Eric Senn, (6-0, 195) who excelled last year at both safety and cornerback returns, as does Blaine Donnell (5-10, 190).
The Rocks have a fantastic senior class who has provided great leadership and guidance to the underclassmen during off-season workouts. If you are a Trinity supporter, go ahead and mark your calendars for a football game on December 3, 2005 at Papa John’s Stadium – opponent to be announced at a later date.
4. Henderson County Colonels (12-2)
It was supposed to be a season where the main question was how to replace an experienced line.
However, a couple of more questions have now surfaced for Henderson County head coach Duffer Duffy as his Colonels prepare for the 2005 season.
A couple of questions have already been answered as Duffy had the interim tag removed from his title after last year’s 12-2 season and region title.
Also, quarterback Will Fidler ended all speculation about his college choice by picking the University of Kentucky earlier this month.
One question Duffy knew he was going to have coming into the season was how to replace most of their starters on the line – a task he began undertaking shortly after Henderson County’s 32-7 loss to St. Xavier.
However, Duffy has had to shuffle his defensive unit around with the loss of Cedric Rainey, who was pegged as a returning starter at linebacker and running back.
Rainey may miss the season after suffering a knee injury in a 7-on-7 passing league in Owensboro in June. He was one of the top returning offensive players with 1,113 yards and 16 touchdowns and added 51 catches for 484 yards out of the backfield.
While those numbers are impressive, Duffy will have a tougher job replacing Rainey on the defensive side of the football because of his depth at running back.
Word out of the Henderson camp is that Jamaal Cosby (5-11, 160, Sr.) will move to linebacker from safety and Graves County transfer Daniel Thacker will move into the secondary.
Offensively, Antoinne Lightfoot will likely move from receiver to running back, with Cosby and Jesse Gillham also seeing time in the backfield.
And of course, there is Fidler.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback is ranked as one of the nation’s best after throwing for 4,000 yards and 45 touchdowns last year.
Fidler, a prototype pocket passer with some mobility, will be tested early against a tough schedule and operating behind an inexperienced line.
His receiving corps is solid with the return of Chris LaMar (6-3, 183, Sr.), who had 1,249 yards and 19 touchdowns last year.
John Nord (6-2, 168, Sr.) returns after missing last year with a broken collarbone, and Thacker, a junior, should also see time at receiver, a position he played at Graves County last year.
Center Graham Herron (6-0, 225, Sr.) is the lone returning starter on the line, while Dustin Lock (6-4, 244, Sr.) could grab a starting spot.
Duffy’s roster has also been boosted by the additions of Lon Schuester, a transfer from Texas, and T.J. McElveen, who moved in from Louisiana.
Henderson County has the skill players to compete with anyone in 4A and a return trip to the region finals is not out of the realm of possibility. But Duffy will earn his young coaching stripes early as he tries to cultivate an offensive and defensive line while playing a schedule that includes Indiana 5A schools Newburgh Castle and Evansville North as well as Paducah Tilghman, North Hardin, and Ohio power Cincinnati Moeller.
After a promising start to the season, including a close loss to Trinity, duPont Manual’s football team finished last season on a three-game losing streak.
After falling to St. Xavier, Male stunned Manual with a late field goal to win the Old Rivalry game 24-23.
Manual then bowed out in first round of the playoffs with a loss to hard-charging Nelson County.
There is much promise to this year’s squad, however.
Manual returns five starters on offense and six starters on defense, along with several key backups from last year’s team stepping up into larger roles.
The Crimsons will also benefit from the experience of 31 seniors returning to the team, a class that has been seen as one of the most talented in recent years.
Their freshman campaign was a strong showing against the area’s best teams, with the only loss coming in the fourth overtime to Trinity. Not surprisingly, there are several players that have been the subject of college recruitment speculation.
“[Aundre] Henderson is the only player that has been offered, no matter what else you hear,” explained head coach Joe Nichols, now in his fifth year as head coach of the program.
Other players have also been discussed as gaining the attention of schools at the next level, most noticeably HB/DB JaVeare White (6-0, 190, Sr.), whose 40-yard time was clocked in the 4.4 range at the Ballard combine.
White is just one of several promising Ram running backs for the 2005 season.
LeVon Carter (5-11, 195, Sr.) was also clocked at 4.4 in the 40 at the Ballard combine.
Tim Horton (6-0, 165, Sr.) proved to be a valuable scat back for the Crimsons last season, providing a change of pace from the punishing Quintin Diggs, while averaging nearly 10 yards a carry. Horton was also a key part of the passing game last year, so look for the versatile player to continue to contribute all over the offense.
Manual’s offense is run-oriented, so all of these players will be invaluable aspects of the season.
Vance Woods (6-0, 170, Sr.) will take over as the quarterback from departing senior Austin Tiller. He is a well-tested signal caller, and has had considerable game time experience. While Woods has played multiple positions for Manual in the past, as the starting quarterback he will only see time at free safety on key passing downs.
Wood’s 4.5 time in the 40 makes him an excellent fit for Manual’s offense, and gives the Crimsons another player for the defense to worry about in the backfield.
In front of that backfield will be a very capable offensive line. Manual’s starting linemen will all be seniors with starting experience.
Daniel Powers (6-2, 245, Sr.), Evan Geraci (5-11, 215, Sr.), and Ian Herrick (5-8, 175, Sr.) will headline a group that banks more on the speed, savvy and skill of the unit than on size. Typical of Crimson lines in the past several years, Bell described the set as “quick, not big.”
The line “does everything together,” according to Geraci, including interviews apparently – they preferred that as many players be included as possible.
“I’d say the season really looks bright,” predicted Bell. He attributed his optimism to several reasons. “We have great coaching, and that means a lot. And this is a good class, athletically.”
“The 2001 Male game had a lot to do with that,” added Herrick. “That and the Trinity game in 2003 really showed that Manual can compete with the Big Three. We have a lot of seniors, and that’s going to help with leadership late in the season.”
When asked, the seniors all agreed that motivation and morale were nowhere near where they need to be following the losses to St. X and Male. They hoped this year’s seniors might be able to take some experience from that and guide the team through the rough patches of this season.
“I wasn’t able to play in those last two games,” said Powers, “and it feels like I haven’t been on the field in forever. This year, we’re going to be focused no matter what happens.”
Manual’s defensive line will also be quite formidable. Aundre Henderson (6-4, 270, Sr.) will anchor the defensive line along with another big body, Marcus Jackson (6-2, 250, Sr.). Henderson is listed among elite lists of defensive tackles in the country, and Jackson has speed to make his large body an even greater weapon.
Other key players include TE/DL Marcus Board (6-2, 187, Sr.), DB Cameron Hillerich (6-1, 175, Sr.), LB Austin McKinney (5-11, 195, Sr.), and TE/DL/P Nate Miller (6-3, 220, Jr.).
The key strengths of the team are the overall speed at all positions and the talent at the top of the depth chart.
However, the overall depth is a concern.
Coach Nichols considers the team a contender, with a favorable schedule of home games, but he still remembers the 2003 season’s battle against injuries.
“Year in, year out, we can compete, but you get banged up during the season. You always got to have luck.”
6. Madison Central Indians (11-2)
In 2005, the Madison Central Indians will be looking to continue their dominance of Class 4A, District 8 teams. The Indians have not lost a game to a district opponent in two years.
Coach Kenny Turner’s team features a backfield that quite possibly could be considered as one of the fastest in the state. The backfield will be lead by Seniors Paul Warford, Ronnie Letcher and Andrew Mathis.
Warford and Letcher have 40-yard times around 4.5. Due to graduation, Turner will look toward Jared Barnes to take over the quarterback duties.
This year’s edition of the Indians will be a tough team to run on because of their overall team speed. Turner and his staff will be working hard to improve their pass defense. This will be a key to the team making it to the carpet in December.
Madison has also upgraded their non-district schedule to better prepare them for the playoffs.
The Indians will be appearing in their first bowl game in two years when they travel to Mt. Sterling (Recreation Bowl) to face Lafayette to open the season on August 20.
On August 26 they will travel to Lexington to square off against Paul Dunbar.
The next week will see Tates Creek make to trip to Richmond.
The final non-conference game will be on October 7 against 3A perennial power Ft. Thomas Highlands.
Madison Central will open conference play on September 16 at home against Montgomery County.
7. Scott County Cardinals (12-3)
Scott County was one win away from the school’s first state title when they were a 2A school in 1975.
St. Xavier put a quick end to the Cardinals’ season with a 49-9 win in the championship game.
Jim McKee’s squad returns about half of his starters from that game and has some major holes to fill.
Gone is leading rushers Ted Sberna and Percy Hargrove and receiver William Lewis. Also gone are two starters from their offensive line.
However, it’s not like it’s a total rebuild job for McKee and given the wild history of Region IV in recent years, a trip back to Louisville is not out of the question.
Quarterback Cody Andrews (6-1, 210, Jr.) helped lead Scott County to a 14-3 record in 7-on-7 competition over the summer. Last year, he threw for 1,242 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing over 50-percent of his passes and showing off a two-to-one touchdown to interception ratio.
“Cody had an outstanding off-season and is better in every aspect of the game. I will be surprised if he is not one of the top quarterbacks in the state this year,” McKee said.
Jimmie Warren (5-11, 180, Jr.) will take over the rushing load in the backfield for McKee, who expects a big season from his fullback given the experience the Cardinals return on the line.
“Our overall collection of skilled athletes is among the best in the state,” McKee said, “but we have always had good skilled kids and closing the gap on the line with the Catholic powers is our focal point.”
Guard Dustin Shephard (5-11, 205, Sr.) and center David Murphy (6-1, 250, Sr.) bring experience to McKee’s wing-T offense, which also saw Cameron Mueller (6-0, 195, Sr.), Shawn Jones (5-10, 245, Jr.) and Justin Brown (5-10, 215, Sr.) make contributions throughout the season.
Defensive end Adis Ramic (6-1, 210, Sr.) has added 20 pounds in the off-season and should be ready for a breakout senior season, according to McKee.
Linebackers Dustin Shephard (5-11, 205, Sr.) and Jason Rusch (6-0, 200, Jr.) should help stop the run, while Warren and Rodney Haddix (6-2, 195, Jr.) patrol the secondary.
Scott County also has a couple of new faces that should make an immediate impact on the Cardinal D-line.
Justin Jones (5-11, 255, Sr.) will start at tackle after missing last year with a torn ACL, and Jose Gomez (6-0, 305, Sr.) transferred from Rock Hill High School in Ironton, Ohio and will start at nose guard.
Also back is kicker Jesse Hawkins (5-9, 150, Jr.), who is already one of the best kickers in the state.
Hawkins is one of 22 juniors on the roster, giving McKee a chance to solidify Scott County as a 4A football power year in and year out.
Last year, Scott County used a potent offense to reach Louisville. This year, they may have the defense to take them there.
North Hardin may possess one of the most potent backfields in the state, which makes them the favorite to win Region II, District III.
Junior Mark Terry rushed for 975 yards and 12 touchdowns, while sophomore Taneareus Collins has transferred to North Hardin from Fort Knox, where he rushed for 1,046 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
The Trojans lost quarterback Skylar Lear to graduation, but head coach Joe Washington looks to move junior Andre Autry from receiver to quarterback.
Cody Owens, a transfer from New York, could also challenge for the quarterback spot and allow Washington to keep Autry at receiver.
North Hardin has three offensive linemen returning in four-year starter Joey Brown, Steven Dow, and Josh Chafin. Josh Collier and Matt Ballinger could also see significant time on the line.
If Washington can develop some depth on defense, the Trojans may again find themselves in the region title game for a second straight year.
9. Henry Clay Blue Devils (6-6)
It’s been 24 years since a Lexington school won the 4A state title.
Henry Clay was the last team to pull off the feat, and if the stars align right in 2005, they may end the nearly quarter century drought endured by the state’s second largest metropolitan area.
Sam Simpson’s Blue Devils have some future stars and experience coming back from last year’s 6-6 team that dropped a 45-42 heartbreaker to Scott County in the second round of the playoffs.
Nine starters on offense and eight more on defense are slated to return, giving the veteran coach a reason to think his squad could be in the thick of the 4A race in late November.
The Henry Clay offense starts with Simpson’s son Salin, who threw for over 1,300 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
The 6-foot-3, 197-pound senior has drawn the attention of Michigan State, Miami of Ohio, Wake Forest, and Vanderbilt, thanks to his athletic ability and his weighted 4.2 GPA.
Sam Gardner, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound senior tight end, caught 25 passes for 312 yards last year and is drawing multiple interest from Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Clemson. Gardner’s grandfather, Harry Denham, played football and basketball for UK in the 1930s.
Senior Rod Johnson also returns for Simpson at running back and has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards the past two seasons for the Blue Devils.
Marcus Bentley, Clark Jeter, and Chase Minnifield are three other players that should shine on offense for Henry Clay.
Simpson is especially high on two of his defensive players.
“I feel like I have a dominate inside player in Jermaine Birch. He and two-year starter at tackle Chris Hawkins were the two strongest performers at the combine held at Dunbar High School,” he said.
Henry Clay played a tough schedule last year and won just one of their first four games. However, that strong slate helped them go 4-2 in district play, losing only to Scott County and Tates Creek.
This year’s schedule is a little different but equally tough. The difference will be the home portion of the schedule, which will be played at Henry Clay’s new athletic facility.
The $1.75 million project included the demolition of the old stadium structure, which was condemned after 30 years, and features a stadium with upgraded lighting and new restroom facilities.
After starting the season with road games at Belfry and Boyle County, the Blue Devils will christen their new stadium Sept. 2 against Bell County before heading to western Kentucky to play at Christian County Sept. 9.
Henry Clay returns one of the most experienced teams in all of 4A, which is why people in Lexington are putting all of their chips on the Blue Devils to be the first Fayette County school in 24 years to bring home the state championship.
10. Warren Central Dragons (6-7)
Warren Central’s first five games in 2004 must have felt like a preseason schedule for head coach Bill Cox, who had some NFL experience before taking the Dragons’ coaching job late last summer.
Central struggled early, losing four of their first five games before falling to Henderson County 41-21 in the Region I final.
“I came so late in the season, and it took most of preseason to get a feel for our team and players. After a rocky start, our team came together and we were able to get on the same page,” Cox said.
With a full spring and summer under his belt, Cox may have the surprise team in 4A when all is said and done.
“I think this season will develop faster, and with the coaching staff intact, we won't spend all of preseason finding players. Now, we have some idea of who we have to work with and can began to teach from the start.”
Cox has nine starters coming back from an offensive unit that averaged 24 points and 311 yards per game.
Quentin Curry (5-9, 168, Sr.) returns as one of the state’s best running backs with 1,336 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. He also caught 20 passes for 401 yards.
Junior quarterback Blake Ayers threw for 1,840 yards and 12 touchdowns last year in his first season as a starter.
Lee Owens (5-8, 168, Sr.), who led the team in receiving with 35 catches for 413 yards, also returns.
Tackle Durham Davidson (6-4, 255, Sr.) anchors a line that includes center Spencer Smith (6-1, 239, Sr.) and Chris Moyers, (5-10, 243, Sr.).
Owens returns in the secondary where he had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries last year.
Shawn Offutt (end), Alden Lipjankic (tackle), and linebackers Jake Forrester and Aaron Rhodes should also have solid seasons on defense, Cox said. They are among seven returning starters on a unit that should improve over last year.
The Dragons will find out early just how far they have come under Cox in a year. Warren Central has Franklin-Simpson, Paducah Tilghman, and Bowling Green – all expected to fare well in 3A this year – and 4A DuPont Manual in their first four games.
Owensboro Catholic will no longer be the only run-and-gun football team in Owensboro.
New Apollo head coach Jeff Carlberg has promised a style of offense he calls “a fast break on grass” as the Eagles look to improve on last year’s 8-3 season that saw them fall to Warren Central in the first round of the playoffs.
Carlberg comes to Apollo from Lexington Catholic, where he served as defensive coordinator for nine years. He replaces Dan Gooch, who was 71-43 in ten seasons at Apollo before taking the Montgomery County job in the offseason.
The new coach has the horses to run with teams in Region I, especially in the backfield.
James Williams (5-8, 155. Sr.) has explosive speed, which he demonstrated last year by rushing for 729 yards and 13 touchdowns. Williams ran a 4.55 40-yard dash in the spring combine.
Senior quarterback David Howard displayed uncanny accuracy, throwing for over 1,600 yards with a 4-1 touchdown to interception ratio.
Receiver Jordan Gray also returns after catching 30 passes for 629 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, the Eagles also bring back Grant Todd (6-0, 166, Sr.), who picked off three passes in the secondary last year, and linebacker Travis Rightmeyer (5-10, 200, Sr.), who should both fit in well with Carlberg’s 4-3 base defense.
Michael Evans (6-0, 243, Sr.) is among the players expected to open holes for Williams on the line and give Howard time to work in the pocket.
While everyone is focusing on Henderson County in District II, Apollo could be a team like Warren Central last year that sneaks up on people late with a new coach at the helm.
Led by coach Mark Catlett, Ballard has been the team that consistently posts a winning record and is knocking at the district championship door in recent years.
The Bruins already have 37 wins this decade and haven't had a losing season since going 4-7 during the 1996 campaign.
And don't expect a drop off this season.
The Bruins did lose a bunch of standout players from last year's 7-4 team that took an early exit from the playoffs with a bruising loss to Boone County in the opener. But there are still plenty of weapons in the fold with six starters returning.
All-purpose back Garnett Phelps is one of the top athletes in the state. He also is a standout basketball player and will play wide receiver, running back and defensive back for the Bruins this season. He had 1,100 yards of total offense last season.
Fullback Williams Childers ran for 524 yards and eight touchdowns last season and also returns to make up an explosive backfield.
The defense has some holes to fill, including the loss of All-State lineman Earl Heyman. But defensive end Demarco Williams is a big-time prospect, and linebacker Rayshad Withrow is one of the top tacklers back from last season.
The Bruins might not have enough weapons to knock off Trinity for the district title this season but they will again be in the mix for a top playoff spot.
Barren County hasn’t had a winning season since tying for the 2000 district title and hasn’t won a playoff game in 13 years.
Now, the Trojans have their third head coach in as many seasons as offensive coordinator William Howard takes over the reins.
Barren County was 3-7 last year and had trouble scoring, scoring a touchdown or less in half of their games.
The 2005 Boone County Rebels will enter the season in a rebuilding mode.
After a Final Four appearance in last year’s state 4A playoffs with a 9-5 record, expectations remain high, as always, for the Rebels.
The team loses 25 seniors from last years squad and returns only about five or six starters.
With the most of the rest of the district losing a lot, the Rebels are confident as they head towards summer workouts.
Key returning starters include offensive linemen Marcus Davis and Rocky Blier, who anchored what was a young line last season. Davis is getting some college looks for his play on defense, head coach Rick Thompson said.
Other key players returning are WR/DB Kyle Gibson, who led the Rebels in interceptions last year, and WR/DB Kyle Lightner.
DB/WR Anthony Kammer will also play a big role for the Rebels.
As of right now, the quarterback position is up for grabs between Josh Alexander and Corey Farris. My source tells me that Alexander is the leading candidate to replace Quron Meeks at the head of the Rebel offense.
The Rebels looked strong at the Lexington passing camp, only losing one game to Dunbar by two points.
Defense will most likely be the backbone of the Rebels this season. Led by defensive coordinator Kyle Niederman, Boone County is always known for having a tough and reliable defense.
As usual, the Rebel offense will be a run first type offense. The carries will most likely be split between Corey Farris and Tyler Gieske.
Even though the team loses a lot, it is Boone County football and everyone knows the expectations surrounding Thompson, who did an unbelievable job last season, and will lead this young team into battle once again this year.
I look for the Rebels to compete for another district title.
Since Eric Shelton led the Defenders to a state runner-up finish in 1999 with a 13-2 record, Bryan Station has equaled that win total – in the last five years combined.
Traye Moore enters his third season as head coach with one of the top offensive guards in the state in Quintin Borders.
But Moore must replace defensive standouts Jamuan Andrews and Corey Blackburn, who signed with Kentucky State, and quarterback Chris Tichenor, who is going to Central State in Ohio.
Receiver/cornerback Jay Brashear (6-2, 180, Sr.) could be the offensive standout for Moore and the Defenders this year.
Defensive lineman Tony Woodruff (6-0, 280, Sr.) returns to anchor the Defender defense.
When Willie Foster bolted for Waggener after a 7-13 record in two seasons at Bullitt Central, he didn’t exactly leave the cupboard bare.
New head coach Justin Abnee, the defensive coordinator at BCHS for two seasons, inherits eight returning starters on both sides of the football.
That alone should be enough for the Cougars to improve on last year’s 3-7 record and quite possibly bring home the school’s first winning season in 15 years.
Before coming to Bullitt Central, Abnee spent two years as an assistant at Nicholas County and was an assistant offensive line and strength coach at East Tennessee State University.
With the experience returning, Abnee plans to run a double-slot offense and 4-4 defense.
Running back Preston Cissell returns after rushing for nearly 700 yards last year, and leading receiver Shane Allen is back after leading the Cougars in receiving yards and touchdown catches last year.
New players moving into starting roles include Billy Cawthorne in the backfield and Michael Beatty at quarterback.
Allen and Cissell also led the Cougars in interceptions last year.
If the Butler Bears' program headed by Steve Jewell was in any other district in the state, the Bears could be one of the state's top powerhouses.
But it's hard for Butler to keep up with all the athletes that teams in their district such as St. Xavier, Male and Manual have each season.
Jewell doesn't make excuses, he just keeps plugging away.
And once again fans can expect Butler to field a solid team this fall with Jewell having enough experience returning to make a return trip to the playoffs.
Butler, which made it to No. 1 in several statewide polls two years ago, won five of its first six games last season before dropping four of its final five. The Bears lost 33-26 to North Hardin in the playoffs.
Defensive tackle Brian Terry and linebacker Andrew Baker will help form another stalwart defensive unit for Jewell.
Fullback Ike Gardner is one of the top offensive threats, while Butler has one of the state's top kickers in Desi Cullen.
Campbell County’s rebuilding plan took a major hit when John Schlarman left for Newport earlier in the summer. After a winless 2002 season, the Camels rebounded to post a 7-13 in two seasons under Schlarman.
Enter former Camel all-state player and assistant coach Troy Styer, who has just a handful of weeks to implement a new system.
Styer is a 1982 CCHS graduate that was an all-state center for the Camels and a two-time NCAA Division III all-American offensive lineman at the University of Dayton.
The new coach has four starters on each side of the football returning, including quarterback Steven Brown (5-9, 150, Jr.).
Styer looks to open the offense up a little more, still using the option and I-formation at times.
The new coach hopes Brown has matured from his sophomore season where he threw for 1,157 yards and four touchdowns but also tossed 17 interceptions.
Hunter Craig (5-11, 175, Sr.) caught 20 passes for 258 yards last year and is the Camels’ leading returning receiver.
Running back Johnny Popp (5-9, 150, Sr.) saw limited time last year due to a broken ankle, and Zach Rose (5-11, 175, Jr.) should battle for time in the backfield. Rose rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown in limited action last year.
Brandon Hobbs (5-10, 175, Sr.) also returns at tight end and will be one of the returning starters on defense at end, where he led the Camels in sacks last year.
Matt Sauerbeck (6-0, 210, Sr.) led the Camels with 139 tackles from his linebacker spot, and should get help from Nate Singleton (5-8, 200, Sr.) this year.
Ernest Barnett (5-10, 155, Jr.) returns in a secondary that will have to be on their toes as Styer plans to put seven to eight players in the box on defense.
Campbell County may struggle early as the Camels adjust to their new coach but could be a team to watch as the season progresses.
After a season of running the single wing offense, Central Hardin head coach Chris Bauer has scrapped the antiquated style for the current vogue – the spread offense, although the offense will feature a single wing look at times.
Quarterback Joe Hall will be called upon to direct the new offense, with Travell Taylor returning in the backfield.
The Bruins struggled to a 3-7 record last year and missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
Bauer has a large and talented freshman class that could be pressed into duty, especially up front as he hopes to be able to use a platoon system with his linemen to keep them fresh.
Junior Michael Roberts and freshmen Josh Monin, Tommy Blackston, Richard Nichols and Nolan Kilgore saw most of the snaps during spring practice and will gain needed experience as the season progresses.
Things appear to be on the upswing for the Central Hardin program. The Bruins upset cross-county rival North Hardin last year and kicks off the 2005 season in a newly-created bowl game doubleheader, partnering with Elizabethtown. Central Hardin plays Ohio County in the opener, while E-town plays Campbellsville in the nightcap.
After nine straight losing seasons, Christian County has racked up three straight winning campaigns for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Mike Whitaker returns eight starters from last year’s 9-3 squad that lost to Warren Central in triple overtime in the playoffs.
The Colonel offense will be centered on junior quarterback Keith Tandy, who threw for 2,545 yards and 27 touchdowns last year.
Senior running back Mack Dillard (5-8, 182) also returns after rushing for 987 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.
Matt Sowell (6-3, 254, Sr.) and James Shepherd will anchor the offensive line.
Linebacker James Willetts (6-1, 205, Sr.) returns to the field after recovering from a leg injury suffered last year.
“Both Keith and James will be tremendous leaders for us and will be counted on a great deal on both sides of the ball,” Whitaker said.
Christian County will have the athletes to fare well in the district. If their line play improves dramatically as the season progresses, the Colonels could advance far into the playoffs.
The 2005 season that is upon us finds the Conner Cougars looking for a new identity.
For the past two seasons, the Cougars have been identified with Trevor Stellman on offense and Victor Singleton on defense. Yet, time marches on and both of these outstanding athletes have graduated.
This season will mark the start of a new era in Hebron. This preview will look at how the offense, defense, special teams, schedule, etc. will play into the success of the 2005 Cougars.
The offense will be somewhat different than in the past two seasons. This offense will center on senior quarterback Matt Hunley and highly regarded senior wide receiver Lance Durbin.
The offense will change somewhat due to the strengths of Matt. Where Trevor was a trim and very mobile quarterback, Matt is a strong kid that stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 215 pounds. His strength is staying in the pocket and stepping up against the rush to find the open receiver as opposed to running until the receiver comes open.
His main target this season should be Durbin, who finished last season as one of the top receivers in Northern Kentucky as well as the state.
Nick Hammonds, a 290-pound senior guard, will anchor the offensive line.
Along with Nick will be senior Jon Whitefoot at guard, Alex Cote at tackle, and Evan Draper at the other tackle. The center position is still being decided upon among senior Kenny Taylor, senior Zack Kordenbrock, and junior Andrew Hill.
The running backs will most likely be “by committee” like last season with senior T.J. Shinkle, junior Ben McQueen and junior Brian Samad vying for the tailback position.
Junior Shane Taylor should fill the fullback slot with a few others vying for playing time.
This offense should be a balanced offense that runs multiple formations and a good pass/run mix. Coach Stellman has a large play book with multiple styles of play and will find the right combination to fit this group of players.
Senior Dale Stone will anchor the defense at middle linebacker. Dale received numerous all-star honors last season and should return for a fine senior season.
Along with Dale at linebacker, juniors Shane Taylor, Brian Samad, and Kyle Scroggins should be in the mix to fill the other linebacker positions.
The defensive line must be rebuilt and will be a main focus during the preseason. The only returning D-linemen are T.J. Shinkle and Matt Hunley at the defensive ends. These two will probably play very little on the defensive side of the ball due to their prominence on the offense.
There are ample replacements in juniors Zack Ryle and 6-foot-7 Ryan Chell, along with senior Drew Johnson and junior Andrew Hill.
Durbin anchors the secondary and should be one of only a few players that will go both ways. Senior Talon Smith also returns as one of the cornerbacks.
Newcomers from the soccer team, Ben Wassler, Chad Schepper and Zack Payette, will also figure into the mix on the defense.
Three-year kicker Daniel Sheridan will anchor the special teams this season. He is a soccer player that has really worked on his leg strength and has great accuracy in the kicking game.
A punter must be found during the preseason, yet there are numerous candidates for this position. Kick returners will also have to be found, but there is no end to the candidates for these as well.
The schedule for this season will be much more formidable than in the past few seasons.
Along with the very strong NKY 4A district teams of Boone County, Ryle, and Dixie Heights, the Cougars will play three non-district games against South Dearborn, Ind., Highlands, and Fern Creek.
The other district teams in NKY 4A are no slouch either. It will be very difficult, though not impossible, for the Cougars to turn in another 10-0 regular season record like the past two seasons.
My prediction for the regular season is 8-2 with a playoff berth. How the playoffs turn out as relates to victories is hard to predict at this time.
To summarize the 2005 Cougars, they lost a number of fine athletes from the 2004 campaign but return an equal number of fine athletes for the 2005 season.
The schedule is much harder than in seasons past, especially the non-district portion. Yet, the outlook is encouraging for another fine fall of exciting football in Hebron.
Daviess County head coach David Barnes enters the 2004 season looking to replace a large chunk of his offensive from last year’s 6-6 team.
Quarterback Timmy Wimsatt rushed for 1,038 yards and threw for 2,467 more, while slotback Nate Logsdon caught 84 passes for 1,237 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Both have graduated, with Wimsatt slated to play baseball for the University of Kentucky next spring.
Barnes does have nine starters returning, with Tyler Beddow (6-0, 170, Sr.) replacing Logsdon in the
Jordan Leach (5-9, 150, Jr.) and Scotty Smith (6-0, 160, Soph.) are expected to challenge one another for the starting quarterback spot in the Panther wing-T attack.
The good news for Barnes is that he only lost two senior linemen from last year, with Jesse Wright (6-0, 250, Sr.) and Chris Armstrong (6-3, 265, Sr.) expected to return.
After coming off a 10-3 season and suffering a very disappointing defeat to district rival Boone County in the regional championship, the Colonels feel as though they have some unfinished business entering this season.
The 2005 Graduating class will be sorely missed, but the team looks as though they have sufficient talent to pick up where they left off.
At quarterback, the heir apparent is Brady Hunefeld. He is a 6-foot-3 senior who has good arm strength and is an excellent student in the classroom as well.
Dixie has a history of developing quarterbacks over the last decade, so I wouldn’t look for them to change the offensive package too much.
Hunefeld will be replacing Greg Preston (Tennessee Martin), who had a great career as a Colonel after winning the job early in the 2003 season as a junior.
Hunefeld is an excellent athlete and good ball carrier in traffic. He reminds me of another ex-Colonel, Tyler Florez. The size is comparable and both love to hit people. Brady did just that last season on special teams and sniffed out opposing team’s returners quite often. I would expect to seem him also as a Safety in the defensive secondary.
Head coach Tom Spritzky and defensive coordinator Dave Sorrell don’t seem to mind letting their quarterbacks play a little defense. Last season’s freshman team was another good one, and the quarterback at the helm of that squad, Joey Bricking, will surely challenge Brady in the preseason. His only fault is youth. He has a great arm, technique and foot work. One would expect the coaches to allow him to develop more fully at the JV level first, but he could prove ready for varsity this season. Either way, the passing game will be in good hands.
Some big shoes will have to be filled at the receiver position.
Scott and Phil Gerbus (Morehead State), Dusty Bowman, Steven Bartlett, (WR) Eric Mauer (Morehead State), Nate Wilkerson, (Slot back) and Josh Lyons have all graduated.
The Colonels usually employ alternating sets of receivers, so the first team has four wide receivers, two slotbacks, and one or two tight ends.
Only junior receiver Matt Mosier and senior slotback Adam Huber return with any quality minutes with the first team.
Juniors Ross Vocke and Jake Neugent, and sophomores Tommy Gibson and Dan Eastham will help fill out the receiver position.
Junior slotback Caley Brandon will fill in the other slot position.
Senior Scott Gumble has moved from the line to tight end. Scotty has shown nice hands in the preseason and is a proven blocker. He’ll be a huge asset on offense this season.
A host of other players are looking to unseat them if they falter. All players have decent speed, and seem very comfortable in the system. The depth at this position looks very good for future teams as well.
In the backfield, senior tailback Nick Metzger will return to take his place again in the backfield and will be looked on to carry the Colonels more than usual for a tailback in Coach Spritzky’s offense.
Junior Caley Brandon and senior Adam Huber will battle it out for the fullback duties. Both are tough, hard-nosed runners who would just as soon run over you as look at you. Brandon is the offseason, penciled-in starter of the bunch. Huber has some of the best hands I’ve seen in a while and will be needed as a replacement for the Colonels depleted receiving core. He catches just about anything and should get quite a few touches this season.
The only starter returning on the offensive line is senior guard. Though this may look like trouble, it’s not.
The Colonels have some excellent lineman returning with varsity experience as well as a great group of underclassmen who will anchor this team for years to come. Look for Donnie McQuire, Jesse Winning, and Alex Koski to be on the line for sure.
Josh Belbot, Chris Hatter, Andy Rudd will challenge early for starting positions as well as a dozen more under classman. Overall they are bigger and should prove more physical than last year’s squad. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a few sophomores crack the starting rotation, as last year’s freshman linemen are very good.
Overall, the running game will be better than last season with the new offensive line. Pass blocking is rarely an issue for Dixie. Metzger (entering his third season in the backfield) will get the bulk of the carries, along with Hunefeld taking the usual number of QB draws and traps. Metzger is a shifty, fast footed, complete running back. He can catch, run, and block, and does them all extremely well. Hunefeld is an excellent ball carrier with better foot speed and quickness then Preston. Preston was bigger though, and punished defenders regularly when he ran the ball last season.
The passing game will be fine at the QB position again, and it seems that they have the talent to replace the WR core. Experience will be the primary issue. The wide receiver core was nearly decimated by graduation, so the boys will have to mature in a hurry.
On defense, the secondary should be a strength early on with Matt Mosier, Nick Metzger, and Brady Hunefeld all have extended varsity experience in the secondary and should help to maintain last years ranking as one of the best defenses in the state. Jake Nuegent and will fill the other spot to complete the secondary.
Linebackers Adam Huber and Scott Gumble return with loads of experience, and Caley Brandon gathered lots of minutes later in the year. Jesse Winning and Andy Rudd will lead the challengers. I look for Winning to cement a spot in the starting rotation before the start of the season.
On the defensive line, Ryan Atchley will undoubtedly be everywhere with at least 12 other quality candidates to fill out the other spots.
The biggest hole will be defensive end where Phil Brockman and Justin Hunter both graduated this year and left no one obvious waiting in the wings.
The only foreseeable hole on defense is the end position. Though the defense as a whole will be solid, a couple of big time pass rushers will need to emerge for the Colonels to be able to play the type of team defense they are accustomed to.
Kicker Jonathon Sparrow graduated this past season after starting for three seasons and replacing him won’t be easy. The gentleman taking up the task is Richie Arana. He has all the tools to pick up where Sparrow left off this season for the Colonels.
Adam Huber looks to replace Eric Mauer this season as the team’s punter. He’s been punting for the Colonels since his freshman year and should do well.
The Colonels will go through some growing pains early because of graduation, but will look the much the same in November as last season.
The schedule is tough early on with scrimmages against Conner, and NCC and then regular season games against Highlands, Covington Catholic and Lloyd. By the time district play begins in the fifth week of the season, the Colonels will be firing on all cylinders and will once again challenge for the district and regional titles.
Coach Sprtizky and his staff continually get the utmost out of their players, and this season will be no exception. How many players will go both ways will depend largely on how well the underclassman do in the first six weeks of the season.
The regular season this year concludes against Ryle, who is picked by many to be the preseason favorite to win the district.
The district winner could come down the last regular season game of the season. The players feel a repeat of last years playoff performance of a regional title appearance is more than possible and that they have some unfinished business going into this season.
Time will tell if their ambitions will hold true. All of this adds up to a lot of fun for Colonel Fans this season. Go Colonels!
Coach Ken Whalen didn't have a great first season at the helm of the Eastern Eagles program, finishing just 4-7 and allowing 325 points.
But after the dismal performance, Whalen said the program had recommitted itself to the weight room and had an excellent off-season workout regime.
Now, will that translate into more wins?
There could be a few more bright spots this season as Whalen's bunch will return six starters on each side of the ball and there are several talented youngsters in the fold.
“We will be a skill oriented team,” Whalen said. “We return a lot of speed and will have more depth, but our young guys must produce in order for us to be successful.”
J.T. Thomas is one of the most underrated players in the Louisville-area. He should be a standout for Eastern at running back and defensive back.
Linemen Tyler Wagner, Nick Brents, Desmond Beamus and Aaron Wise will help make up for some inexperience in the skill positions.
Remember Seneca, 2003?
Yes, that Louisville team that not a lot of folks around the state heard much about in the preseason but went on to win 10 of its first 11 games.
The Redhawks made it to No. 1 in the polls that season.
And that's what this year's edition of the Fern Creek squad could turn into. The Tigers are not that well known after a 5-5 campaign and just 10 wins the previous four seasons under three different coaches.
But new coach Bob Bronger - a veteran in the Louisville-area - had a boatload of talent and perhaps the best quarterback in Louisville.
K.J. Black - who is 6-foot-4, 220-pounds and had a strong arm – will turn into one of the best quarterbacks in the state by the season's end. He led Jefferson County in passing last season with 2,471 yards.
For his career, Black has 4,550 yards and 45 TDs in 19 games.
And he's not alone. He has talented receivers, a veteran line and a defense that was young last year but should be much improved.
Bronger has spent time as a head coach at Holy Cross, Valley and South Oldham, was an assistant last year at Fern Creek.
Watch out for the Tigers as the season goes along. They could bring home the school’s first playoff win in six years and will look to advance to the region title game for the first time since 1996.
George Rogers Clark
George Rogers Clark has just one wining season in their last nine, and that came two years ago.
The Cardinals were 5-6 last year but finished second in their district thanks to a come-from-behind win over South Laurel in which they erased a 20-point deficit.
Paul Columbia’s squad returns just eight starters – four on each side of the football.
Durrell Hallamon rushed for 670 yards and eight touchdowns last year and is ready for a stellar senior season.
Henry Hudson will likely be the quarterback, but Columbia must replace just about every starter on both sides of the line.
Mike Rogers’ first season at Graves County produced the school’s first winning season (6-5) since 1999 but ended on a sour note in the first round of the playoffs.
The Eagles lose many of last year’s starters but do return a small nucleus that could gel into a unit that could play spoiler in the region.
Wyll Dunbar (5-10, 175, Sr.) was one of Graves’ leading rushers last year, topping 1,050 yards. He also played linebacker on defense.
Offensive lineman Cody Widelski also returns as Rogers tries to mix and match players in his Wing-T scheme.
Defensively, the Eagles are in better shape with seven returning starters.
Matt Colley (6-3, 225, Sr.) can play either linebacker or defensive end and is one of the better defensive players in the region.
Lance Klumper and Dustin Hawkins also return on defense.
While the Eagles may not repeat last year’s success, the future looks bright for a program that has long lived in cross-town rival Mayfield’s shadow.
Rogers had over 30 players from his undefeated freshman team return this year as sophomores.
“We were competitive in every game and lost a couple that we shouldn't have. Our kids grew up a bunch during the 2004 season and learned how to win. We have worked hard enough in the off season to become more competitive. It will just take some time for us to gain experience,” Rogers said.
Ed Smart summed up his first season as Grayson County head coach in one word – failure.
The Cougars suffered through the program’s first losing season in eight years.
However, Grayson is expected to return as many as six starters on offense and seven on defense, making a winless season unlikely again in 2005.
After producing only the school’s second winning season ever last year (6-5), Greenwood returns one of the better running backs in western Kentucky in Jacob Davis.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior rushed for 1,050 yards and 15 touchdowns last year and turned some heads at the spring combine by running a 4.5 40-yard dash and showing off a 32-inch vertical leap.
Davis will have a couple of studs to run behind in Justin Kealhofer (6-2, 307, Sr.) and Preston King (6-6, 248, Sr.).
Roy Phillips (5-11, 185, Sr.) and Kyle Golden (5-9, 191, Sr.) will also figure into head coach Mark Nelson’s 2005 game plan.
Holmes By Dan Pugh
Last year, the Bulldogs labored through a difficult 3-7 season last year, that was as frustrating as trying to clean up after a one year old eating their first Cheerios.
The Dogs were plagued with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball. At times the offense flowed consistently, but the defense could not hold up their end of the bargain. Then the next week saw the defense play well, but only to see the offense cough it up and give opposing teams short field’s to work with.
Not exactly the formula that portends to successful football in the all-tough Northern Kentucky 4-A district.
With the new campaign on the horizon, Coach David Trosper has to be liking what he sees coming through the program.
Yes, they are losing seven offensive starters, including four o-lineman, as well as losing nine starters from their defense, but the prior season there was ample opportunity for the talented sophomore class to get serious playing time.
That sophomore class is now juniors and will be part of an overall junior class that is very talented in both football and basketball, which many players play both.
Some have mentioned that this is the best run of talent through Holmes since the early 1990s.
So despite the loss of 16 starters, the cupboard is not exactly bare. In fact, many feel this group of Dogs, which is small in physical stature compared to the rest of the 4A, may be one of the fastest and most athletic team’s in the Northern Kentucky 4A class.
The staff at Holmes is hopeful that this young fruit will ripen and result in more wins and a playoff berth in 2005.
On offense, it seems likely that the Bulldogs will go to more of an option-attack to take advantage of their overall speed and athleticism. The likely signal-caller will be junior Duran Jefferson (5-11, 160). Jefferson’s exploits on the hardwood have been duly noted, but he can be equally capable at the quarterback position, giving them a look similar to that of Brandent Englemon, who now roams the defensive backfield at Michigan.
Jefferson does not possess the throwing capability that Englemon had, but is quicker and faster and may be more difficult to catch and bring down.
Lining up behind Jefferson will likely be three running backs that include junior Rodney Covington (5-10, 175), sophomore Rashaad Palmer (5-10, 165), and senior Tim German (5-10, 160).
Covington is an elusive back who has the potential to take any carry to the house once he turns the corner.
Palmer can get some tough yardage inside, as well as turn it on while in the open field. Those two will likely be the option targets for Jefferson.
The receiving corps should be solid with a big tight end target in senior Drew Scales (6-3, 235), and an athletic wideout in junior Austin Hill (6-3, 170), who has the knack to go over smaller DBs and secure lob passes, as well running after the catch.
This year the Bulldogs will have a new defensive coordinator in former Scott head coach R.J. Reigler, who will likely bring a new look to the Dogs defensive scheme this year.
The Bulldogs lose nine defensive starters from a very inconsistent unit, but will return one of their leading tacklers in senior B.J. Avery (5-9, 185), who was the backup point guard for the Ninth Region champion Bulldogs.
It isn’t everyday you see a kid that plays linebacker as well as point guard. Don’t let that fool you. Avery may be short on size, but plays much bigger than his size. He sheds blocks well and pursues the football very well and is the team’s most consistent tackler.
Behind Avery, the defensive secondary will be the strong suit of this unit. It may be one of the better overall secondaries in all classes in Northern Kentucky.
Rodney Covington, Rashaad Palmer, and safety Duran Jefferson will anchor the defensive backfield. All are above average pass defenders and pursue the football with above average speed.
The Bulldogs have high hopes for this year’s squad, as do most every team. However, this offseason has been very good for Holmes. The returning players received valuable playing time last year, and have had a productive season in the weight room, which many close to the program feel that this may be the strongest unit strength-wise, that the Dogs have had in a few years.
The key for success this year, as it is for any team in the physically tough 4A is to avoid team-crippling injuries and for the offensive and defensive lines to play consistently. These group of kids have not had a whole lot of game experience, but the staff likes what they have coming up through the ranks.
Of course, the Bulldogs need consistent play from the kids they have in their offensive and defensive backfields, but the ability to open holes and hold the line defensively up front, may ultimately determine the success of this years Holmes Bulldogs.
Iroquois may have the toughest uphill battle of any football team in the state.
The Raiders have the smallest roster of any District IV team yet must compete with the likes of St. X, Male, Manual, Butler, and PRP.
Head coach Shawn Thompson has already fixed one of those problems with as many as 40 players in grades 10-12 coming out for practice.
“I really believe that overall, we are headed in the right direction. The attitudes are a lot better, and the kids are working very hard,” said Thompson, who added that some hallway recruiting has added a couple of more players.
Iroquois graduated 11 seniors and returns ten starters from last year’s 2-8 team that averaged less than 12 points a game.
Junior Nate Anderson (6-2, 235) is the player most Iroquois opponents will focus on. Thompson said his defensive end and tight end has great speed for someone his size.
The Raiders are hoping twins Trent (5-9, 160, Jr.) and Trey (5-9, 150, Jr.) Maddox can provide double-trouble in the backfield. Thompson calls the brothers “very quick and athletic.”
Marquis McAfee (5-11, 160, Jr.) was to have had a greater role in the offense last year as a receiver but only played in three games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Quarterback John Walker (5-10, 160, Sr.), who threw for over 700 yards and six touchdowns in six games, and junior tackle James Payne (6-1, 240) also return for the Raiders.
While things are on the rebound at Iroquois, Thompson isn’t naïve enough to start ordering a district championship banner for the football field. But, he does like what he has seen so far.
“We are nowhere near where we want to be yet. Our goal right now is to continue to work hard and learn how to win.”
After four years of existence and three straight winning seasons, John Hardin is ready for their football program to take the next step – win a playoff game.
The Bulldogs return several key players that could challenge district favorite North Hardin and make a serious playoff run.
In all, 11 starters return for head coach Mark Brown.
Senior quarterback Jerren Morning proved to be a dual threat last year – throwing for 800 yards and rushing for 600 more.
Senior Alan Dean led the Bulldogs in rushing last year with 800 yards and five touchdowns.
Also back is leading receiver Germain Smith, who caught 19 passes for 230 yards last year.
Brown says most of his linemen are back, giving the skill trio time to operate.
Linebacker D.J. Marcum returns to anchor a defense that held six of their 11 opponents to two touchdowns or less last year.
“The program seems to have made leaps and bounds since the school was formed a few years back,” Brown said. “Playing in the same region with St. X and Male makes it hard to advance in the playoffs, but I think we can be in the hunt for a district championship.”
Lafayette won five of their first six games last year but slumped at the wrong time, losing four of their final five and bowing to Madison Central in the first round of the playoffs.
Mike Harmon’s Generals return 14 starters from that 6-5 team, which posted the school’s third straight winning season after 15 straight losing campaigns from 1988-2002.
Lafayette boats one of the top athletes in the state in wide receiver and defensive back Enrique Shaw (6-3, 175, Sr.), who led the Generals in interceptions (4), was their top offensive threat last year.
Kentucky, Louisville, Marshall, Ohio, and Miami of Ohio have all shown an interest in Shaw, who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash.
Demario Richardson (5-10, 215, sr.) and Trey Shaftner (6-2, 205, Jr.) return in the backfield, while Chris Tune (6-3, 190, Jr.) took over for the injured Jered Patrick at quarterback midway through last season.
Jonny Meyer (6-2, 170, Sr.), who is being recruited by several Ivy League schools, returns at wide receiver for the Generals.
Defensively, the Generals must replace All-State defensive lineman Demar Shearer, who took his act to Eastern Kentucky.
Shaw shines in the secondary, while Jared Leedy (5-8, 160, Sr.) returns after recovering three fumbles and picking off three passes last year.
“This is going to be the most athletic team I have ever had, but we are also the smallest in size. I think if we can get tough up front, we will have a great year,” Harmon said.
Lincoln County By Jonathon L. Smith
For the first time since the school’s inception in 1974, Lincoln County will not play football in Class 3A.
Through reclassification by the KHSAA, the Patriots move to Class 4A, District 8 with George Rogers Clark, Madison Central, Montgomery County, North Laurel, South Laurel and Whitley County.
Second year head coach Larry French returns only five seniors from last year’s 3-7 team. However, those returning seniors and other returning lettermen are all battle-tested from last season’s tough campaign.
On offense, Lincoln County will again utilize a one-back spread offense lead by junior wide receivers Braxton Miller (5-10, 175) and Trent Calhoun (5-10, 165). Senior Hagen Folger (5-10, 175) is expected to start at running back.
Lincoln County had expected senior Jared Long to return at quarterback, but he has been accepted to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and will be enrolled there for the 2005-2006 school year.
Either sophomore Levi Rogers (5-10, 160) or sophomore Devon Denson (6-0, 185) will get the nod behind center.
The interior line will lack the experience and depth evidenced by the skill positions. Four of the five starting offensive linemen were lost to graduation from 2004. Seniors Joseph Gutenson (6-2, 270) and Brian Glass (6-0, 265) are the only experienced linemen on either side of the ball.
The “44” defense will be anchored by inside linebackers Jake Elliott (6-1, 210, Jr.) and sophomore Devon Denson. Seniors Mark Davis (5-10, 160) and Matt Blair (6-1, 170) bring experience to the defensive backfield.
The Lincoln County faithful are hoping that the change of scenery in Class 4A might help the Patriots return to their glory days of the 1980s and early 1990s.
The Patriots have posted four consecutive losing seasons and last made the playoffs in 2000. That’s a far cry from being a perennial playoff contender and making the 3A finals twice in four years, with runner-up finishes in 1990 and 1993.
Historically, Lincoln County has a 40-24 (.625) win-loss record against the teams on the 2005 schedule. However, absent from the Patriots’ schedule this season are local powerhouses and state contenders, Danville and Boyle County.
Lincoln County will open in its own bowl game, The Death Valley Bowl, with neighboring county school and former district rival, Pulaski County. The other non-district opponents are Garrard County, Rockcastle County and McCreary Central.
Mike Lawson may just have the gunslinger to propel Marshall County back to the playoffs after a four-year absence.
The second-year head coach has 13 starters returning from the Marshals’ 2-8 season from a year ago – none more important than quarterback Daniel Ard.
The 6-foot-6, 211-pound Ard completed 50-percent of his passes for 1,166 yards and eight touchdowns in just seven games before a season-ending injury sidelined him.
“Daniel is the overall best athlete I have had at quarterback,” said Lawson, who coached Zach Bernard for a season at Owensboro Catholic before moving to Draffenville. “Zach had the best pocket presence of any quarterback I have coached, but I feel Daniel can play quarterback at the Divison-I level.”
Ard was also the Marshals’ leading rusher with 809 yards and four scores.
Ard, who averaged 22.8 points last year on the hardwood, has already been offered a scholarship in both sports by Murray State, has also drawn interest from Louisville, Kentucky, Illinois, Wake Forest, Memphis, and Eastern Kentucky.
If he can stay healthy, Ard should flourish in his senior year in Lawson’s spread offense, helped by the return of leading receiver Cole Thomas (6-1, 170, Sr.), who caught 30 passes for 416 yards and four touchdowns last year.
Josh Moreland (6-2, 170, Sr.), and sophomores Alan Williams and Brandon Walker should also see several passes thrown their way.
Jeremy Gourley (6-5, 250, Sr.) is Marshall County’s most experienced lineman that returns, however several players have grown bigger thanks to additional work in the weight room.
“Physically, we had a very difficult time matching up with our opponents last year. The absence of an offseason weight program was quite evident, but I feel we have made a great deal of improvement in the off season.”
Meade County football coach Larry Mofield wants his Green Wave to be more physical.
That was the one area that stood out to him when assessing last year’s 4-7 team – his first as MCHS head coach after 14 years as an assistant coach.
Mofield has several linemen returning that either started or saw considerable time in the trenches last year, including senior Garrett Brown and junior T.J. Millay at the tackles, and senior Clayton Basham, junior James Donahue, and senior Keith Medley at the guards. Senior Andrew Garverich is also looking for a return to the line after missing some games with a foot fracture.
Those players will have to do a better job of blocking for senior quarterback Bryan Dowell and senior running back Derrick Nevitt.
The Green Wave also return senior kicker Eli Dix.
Montgomery County waited until the season’s final game before breaking into the win column last year.
Now, the keys to the Indians’ program have been turned over to Dan Gooch, who spent the past ten years as the head football coach at Apollo.
Gooch, who was 71-43 at Apollo, named former Paris head coach Mark Allen Crain his new offensive coordinator.
The Cardinals return two of their top rushers from last year but little else as head coach Bill Mason tries to equal last year’s 7-5 record and avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Jamie Keene (6-0, 195, Sr.) has rushed for 1,800 yards the past two seasons and is drawing college looks from Cincinnati, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Indiana, and Eastern and Western Kentucky, Mason said.
Junior fullback Matt Rogers (5-8, 180) has rushed for 1,900 yards the past two seasons in Mason’s offense.
However, Nelson needs Keene, Rogers, and Steven Crepps to stay healthy in 2005.
Rogers was bothered by a shoulder injury and a sprained ankle, Keene a hamstring injury, and Crepps a sprained ankle and broken thumb.
When Greg Duncum took over the Jaguars football program in 2000, they were considered one of the worst teams in AAAA. To say he leaves the program in much better shape than how he found it would be an understatement.
The Jags were 1-9 in 1999 and had around 18 players on the entire team.
In 2003 and 2004, the Jags had back to back winning seasons and playoff appearances for the first time in school history and expect over 55 players to suit up for the Jaguars in 2005.
New head coach David Abbott, who has served as the defensive coordinator for the Jags the past couple of seasons and will be entering his seventh season on the Jaguar coaching staff, takes over the helm and is excited about what the future holds for his squad.
The Jags ended the 2004 season by taking the eventual 4A runner up Scott County down to the final play of the game.
The good news is that most of the coaching staff will return and knows this team very well. Coach Abbott feels very comfortable with his returning players, especially after their performance in the first annual Blue/White scrimmage where the defense stood out as the Jaguars’ strong suit.
The new offensive coordinator for the Jags will be Darren McWhorter, who will be in entering his sixth season as a Jaguar coach. He knows the personnel extremely well, having coached the sophomore and junior classes as freshmen.
Assistant coaches Bill Carson, Ben Miller, and Rocky Ryser will also remain with the staff. The two open positions remain to be filled at this time.
The junior class was supposed to be the best at The Jungle in several years. Last year as sophomores, several from that class stepped up and became key players. This is the year that the rest have to step up as well.
Coach Abbott has been very pleased with the numbers and the offseason work that his players have been putting in and expects it to show on the field.
North Laurel has never won a playoff game since the inception of the school in 1992. Coach Abbott believes that his Jaguars have the potential to achieve another first this season by doing so. The players have set that as one of their biggest goals and may just have the horses to do it.
Offensively, the first and most gaping hole to fill will be two-year MVP and All-State tailback Nik Blair, who had the ability to turn any play into a big play with his speed and amazing quickness.
Coach Abbott describes Nik as being "one of those special players that you cannot replace.”
Senior Kyle Sizemore, the starting fullback in 2004, may move to the tailback spot. The position will probably be by committee with Sizemore, senior Justin Rice, junior Chris Maggard, and junior Brian Hughes all getting time carrying the ball.
The next hole to fill will be at quarterback with the graduation of Kyle Parsley, who had his best season as a Jaguar in 2004.
Junior Trae Stuber is expected to get the nod as the signal caller. When he went down with an illness at the beginning of the 2004 season, the Jags may have gotten a blessing in disguise, as Stuber was forced into starting the first three games (2-1) and gained the confidence and much needed experience he will need in 2005.
He completed 57-percent of his passes in 2004, and Abbott has stated that he is very confident
that he is ready to assume the quarterback position for the Jags this season.
Stuber will have some big targets with proven playmaking ability to throw to in 6-foot-4 senior Chris Cessna and 6-foot-3 junior Shawn Asher, as well as a host of others in seniors Joey McKnight and David Lamb, and junior Shylow Robinson.
Cessna is drawing the attention of several Division-I schools and may make his announcement before the season begins.
In the trenches, the Jags bring a lot of experience back, but do have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of two-year starter and Kentucky All-Star Chris Collins at the center position.
Seniors Ricky George, Shawn Boroviak, Lance Woods, juniors Scott Hartney, Cameron Lee, Greg Smith, Dylan Hampton, and sophomore Dustin Saylor should compete for spots on the line.
The Jags’ offensive line will be small as offensive lines go, but are very aggressive and tough as nails.
Linemen such as Hartney, Lee, Hampton and Smith showed great promise last season as sophomores and will be expected starters in 2005, given the excellent offseason work they have been doing.
The Jags have always been a running team and this season should be no different. They may pass it a little more without a back able to bust 80 yard TD runs as Blair could the past few seasons, but still expect them to be a ground-oriented team who throws it every once in a while.
To have success, Cessna MUST be the go to guy and may be moved into several different positions to utilize his skills. He had over 500 yards receiving in 2004 and needs to build on that in 2005, hoping for closer to 750-1,000 yards.
Ironically, the last 1,000-yard receiver the Jaguars had was in 1999 when Chris' older brother Conrad Cessna reached that mark.
If Shawn Asher reaches his potential, this could be as deadly a receiving combination in the region.
Defensively, Coach Abbott will continue to run the defense, which should be the Jaguars’ strength in 2005.
North Laurel should be very solid on defense, returning players who made 82-percent of their tackles in 2004.
North finished the season playing the best defense of the year as many players stepped up their games and made the Jaguars defense one of the most improved squads in the district in 2004.
North returns their two leading tacklers in Chris Cessna and Kyle Sizemore. They will anchor the linebacking corps, which also returns Chris Maggard, Joey McKnight, and Trae Stuber.
Expect senior Stephen Brock , Stuber, and sophomores Joey Rotundi, Denver Tyree, and Tyler Pennington to see time at the cornerback positions, replacing Blair and Parsley.
The surprise of the spring was probably Rotundi, who moved into London from Montgomery County just before Christmas time and really stepped up big in the Blue/White scrimmage.
The defense should give the offense the needed time to find their legs. Senior Shawn Boroviak returns as the leading tackler among the defensive linemen and will likely be the biggest linemen in regards to his height, along with Ryan Brandenburg, who actually started half of the season as a freshmen in 2004.
Another anchor will be senior Lance Woods. The 285-pounder showed his strength at the Lynn Camp Powerlifting competition by winning the overall total weight with 1,130 pounds on his three lifts. He was also impressive at a recent combine, benching 185 pounds over 32 times.
This will be another very athletic group of Jaguar defenders who love to hit. The Jaguars may be able to platoon players between offense and defense on the front line for the first time since the 1994 district championship squad as their depth is much improved.
If the defense can build on their success the last half of the season, then this should be a
very tough team to score many points on this season.
Ohio County saw their streak of three straight winning seasons end with last year’s 5-6 mark.
Head coach Dan Crume does have some building blocks to work with to avoid a second consecutive losing mark.
Senior running back Justin Woods topped 1,000-yards last year and returns behind an experienced line, led by 6-foot-7, 320-pound tackle Aaron Brown.
Lonnie Oldham has proved that you can go home again.
The 1986 graduate of OCHS takes over the Colonel program from Mike Jackson, who resigned over the summer after seven seasons to take the head coaching job at Pikeville.
Oldham, a standout linebacker in his Oldham County playing days, was the Associated Press Coach of the Year two years ago after leading Seneca to a 10-2 record, which included a regular season win over eventual state champion Trinity.
Oldham spent last year at Western Hills in Cincinnati and was a former assistant coach at St. Xavier.
His first chore will be to restore the numbers of the Oldham County program, which have slipped in recent years and caused the program to struggle to field a freshman team last year.
Oldham will need a numbers boost as the Colonels move up to Class 4A.
One of the players returning for Oldham County is junior quarterback Josh Koebel, who threw for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
One target for Koebel will be 6-foot-5 tight end Matt Guida.
Defensively, Cody Surface (6-5, 250, Jr.) returns to the line, while Tom Baesler (5-10, 175, Sr.) can play either linebacker or cornerback.
Oldham is hoping his hallway recruiting can fill some big holes for the Colonels, who lost leading rusher Kevin Bramblett to graduation.
Rob Hofstra and Aaron Riordan, who served as assistants under Jackson, are expected to return, while Oldham’s older brother Loren will be the new offensive coordinator, the same position he had at Seneca.
Things are on the uptick at Owensboro Senior, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for head coach Joe Prince.
The Red Devils have endured three straight losing seasons since back-to-back appearances in the state title game and subsequent 11-win season in 2001.
With Apollo and Henderson County expected to lead the way in the district, Prince knows the battle for every playoff position will be a tough one.
After a couple of seasons with low number, Prince expects over 50 players to be on the roster for Owensboro this fall.
“I feel that things are starting to take hold here. We had an excellent spring with 47 kids out, and we expect about ten more when summer baseball is over,” he said.
Prince’s offense will revolve around senior Tyler Wimsatt (6-2, 220), who will make the move to quarterback after rushing for 785 yards and ten touchdowns as a running back last year.
Wimsatt is being heavily recruited because of his size and athletic ability – he runs a 4.5 4—yard dash and has a 32-inch vertical leap.
Senior receivers Tyson Hamilton and Lee Skinner will be the likely targets for Wimsatt, who is one of six starters back on offense.
Defensively, Prince returns ten starters from a unit that allowed 29 points a game.
Up front, the Devils should be improved, aided by the return of defensive end Jamison Johnson and in the linebacking corps by juniors Eric Sapp and Frankie Duncan.
Prince is getting extra help from former Red Devil and Western Kentucky standout Buster Ashley, who has joined the Owensboro staff.
If Owensboro makes some noise this year, it will be a nice stepping stone for 2006 with only seven seniors on the current roster.
Paul Dunbar may very well be the mystery team in Lexington this year.
David Hensley, who was 27-9 in three seasons at East Jessamine, takes over as head coach of the Bulldogs, who are two years removed from winning the Region IV title.
One of the players Hensley will have to build around is quarterback Chris Franklin, who threw for 1,431 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season at PLD after transferring from Scott County.
Franklin’s top target from last year, Keith Bailey, also returns after a junior season that saw him catch 21 passes for 408 yards and six touchdowns.
One hole Hensley will have to fill is at running back where the graduated Bobby Vyverberg rushed for over 800 yards last year.
The Bulldogs also feature one of the top Lexington underclassmen on the line in tackle John Asher (6-4, 270) and junior defensive back Casey Dunn (6-0, 170).
Pleasure Ridge Park
Chris Wolfe rebuilt the Waggener program into a winner, recording a winning record in four of the past five seasons.
And he did it without a great deal of big-name talent.
Now, Wolfe is going to try and re-energize a Pleasure Ridge Park program that has won six games just one time in the past five seasons. He replaces Danny Leasor, who retired after going 77-44 in 11 years at PRP.
PRP went 5-5 last season in the rugged district with Male, St. Xavier, Manual and Butler and the Panthers also lost a ton of talent from that team. JaJuan Spillman was an All-State all-purpose back and the team's main weapon.
But Wolfe is excited about his squad and said he could have as many as eight sophomores in the starting lineup when the Panthers take on Lincoln County on Aug. 19.
The biggest position Wolfe wants to settle early in practice is at quarterback where senior Josh McCloud and sophomore Josh Deacon will battle for time. Wolfe will employ the Wing-T offense and there's a lot of learning for that position.
Running back Wes Brown and fullback Jerray Smith help make up a potent backfield, while linemen Brandon Newman and Josh Hardin are solid.
Nose Tackle Carvez Gibbs will lead the defense, alone with Marcellus White. Sophomore linebacker Ethan Henry is a top young prospect. He was a member of the Valley Sports Little League World Series championship team three years ago and is one of the top up-and-coming athletes in Louisville.
With already a brutal district schedule, the Panthers will also face a rugged non-district slate that includes Paul Dunbar, North Hardin and Central.
If a few youngsters step in and play as expected, PRP should be battling for one of the playoffs spots in the district.
Anticipation is high for the 2005 football season in Union.
The Ryle Raiders, for the first time in a long time, are being picked by many to win the district.
With loads of returning talent, and a large departure of talent from other teams in the district, it’s easy to see why all the fans in Raiderland are so excited.
On offense, the Raiders return almost all of their skill positions, and most of those players have more than one year of varsity experience under their belts.
Junior running back Scottie Gray, junior receiver Vince Murray, and senior receiver Tyler Madlom all return after very productive 2004 campaigns.
Madlom, a 6-foot, 173-pound senior, was a first-team All-Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference selection after catching 48 passes for 678 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.
Expect all of these players to improve on their 2004 performances this fall, and to start drawing interest from college recruiters as well.
If the Raiders are to win the district this year, they will need to fill a couple of holes caused by graduation.
Gone are quarterback Eric Northrup, fullback Mike Hamlin, and linemen Tommy Neal, Cory Southworth, and Ben Fleissner.
Senior Jordan Brady looks to have the inside track at the quarterback position, while the Raiders may try a number of bodies on the offensive line.
If the Raiders talented trio finds someone to get them the ball, and a little blocking, they could be very dangerous this fall.
The defense will be a much improved unit from last year, led by coordinator Mike Woolf.
The Raiders return many players with significant varsity playing time on defense. Look for Gray (CB), Madlom (CB/LB), and Murray (LB) to all pull double duty this year.
Senior Jarod Babik returns in the defensive backfield as well and should have a terrific senior campaign.
The key for the Raider D will be finding a replacement for stalwart linebacker Mike Hamlin, and finding some depth along the defensive line. After a very successful freshman season in 2004, look for several upcoming sophomores to contribute as the season goes on as well.
Expect the Raiders to improve on back to back fourth place district finishes under third year head coach Bryson Warner this season, with a very good chance at capturing the district crown.
The key, with several new starters in key positions, will be to get off to a strong start. If the Raiders are 3-0 heading into district play, look out! It could be a season to remember in Union.
There hasn’t been a winning football season at Scott since Chris Sabo helped lead the Cincinnati Reds to the 1990 World Series title.
While new head coach Casey Fisk likely won’t don goofy goggles or make silly statements to the media, he should provide the same kind of spark to his team that Sabo did for the Reds.
His first chore will be to get more players out for the football team after the Eagles graduated 14 seniors off of a 42-man roster.
Last year, Scott scored only 102 points operating a run-and-shoot offense that looked more like a chuck-and-duck scheme.
Slotback Zach Mucha (6-0, 165, Sr.) and running back Michael Haught (6-2, 185, Jr.) gives Fisk some experience in the backfield, along with the return of senior quarterback Derek Martin (5-11, 180, Sr.).
Justin Cooper (6-1, 245, Sr.) and Nathan Maston (5-11, 255, Sr.) could provide some beef on the line.
Mucha leads the defensive secondary, while Kyle Finn (6-1, 190, Sr.) leads the linebackers.
If the line develops and Scott finds a way to put some points on the board, the Eagles could challenge for their first playoff trip in three years.
It was a tale of two seasons for the Seneca football program.
The Red Hawks were 10-2 just two years ago but graduated a talented and large senior class.
The result last year in Louis Dover’s first season as head coach was an 0-10 record – the school’s first winless season in over 50 years.
While Seneca still lacks the key performers to challenge for the district title, the Red Hawks shouldn’t repeat their goose egg from last year.
Travis Endler appears ready to take over at quarterback and should have the services of leading receivers Julian Brown (30 catches, 306 yards) and Fred Smith (24 catches, 400 yards).
Greg Wilcox led the Red Hawks with four interceptions in the Seneca secondary last year.
After a year of the spread offense that saw the Rockets finish 4-7, Todd Shipley is going back to the wing-T offense.
Sophomore quarterback Alex Matthews will be in charge of directing the Shelby County offense after passing for 951 yards and nine touchdowns last year.
Shelby County also returns running backs Avery Murphy and Emanuel Patterson. Murphy, who Shipley said was getting college looks from Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and Alabama A & M, will be the running back, while the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Patterson will be the fullback.
Shipley was also impressed with Dee Williams, who played running back on the J.V. team last year.
There are more questions on defense where the Rockets return just three starters.
Senior Forrest Coleman will step in at a linebacker spot in the 4-4 scheme that graduated all four starters from last year.
Williams will also see time at linebacker as will Patterson.
Spencer Goetzinger is expected to see plenty of time at defensive end.
After enjoying great success in the 1980s, Shelby County has had just five winning seasons since 1990 and none since 1996.
“Every year the district seems to be between Trinity and Ballard with one of the others fighting for the top spot. I don’t think much will change this year and with the addition of Oldham County back to the district, things look tougher,” Shipley said.
Simon Kenton has put together just one winning season in the last ten years, but the 2005 Pioneers could put an end to that streak with 11 starters coming back from last year’s 2-8 team.
Most importantly, SK will need to find a way to get the ball into the end zone after scoring just 81 points in ten games.
Head coach Jeff Marksberry does return some key components that should result in surpassing the program’s total of three wins in the past two years.
Something that gives the Pioneers a light edge over some of their other district rivals battling for a playoff spot is the return of three players on their offensive line.
Offensive guard Andrew Damico (6-2, 245, Sr.) is garnering the most attention, with several Ivy League schools and Eastern Kentucky showing the most interest.
Tackle Mike Bustle (6-3, 240, Jr.) and tight end Kyle Rabe (6-3, 200, Sr.) also return on the line.
Quarterback Josh Elbert (6-3, 170, Jr.) runs the show after throwing for 536 yards last year.
Junior running back Brent Bishop (6-0, 220, Jr.) led the Pioneers in rushing (610 yards) and scoring (4 TDs) last year.
South Laurel By Peter W. Zubaty
Even though he doesn’t know for sure who’ll be quarterbacking his team, South Laurel coach Jep Irwin feels like he has a team capable of unseating Madison Central from their perch atop class 4A’s District 8.
“This is our best senior class in my four years here,” Irwin said. “Our goal is to win the district and make a run in the playoffs.”
The Cardinals boast a high-octane offense that averaged 37.5 points per game last year, but much of their success will be predicated upon replacing the 2,900 total yards and 30 touchdowns generated by quarterback Chris Riley, as well as running back Jake Karr’s 960 rushing yards and 16 scores.
The quarterback job is up for grabs between junior Jantzen O’Neal and freshman Ricky Bowling, and the rushing load will be picked up by seniors Reece Schenkenfelder and Cory Brown, and Irwin feels like the Cardinals’ up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense can take care of the rest.
“We feel pretty good about offensively being able to move the ball and score and control the clock and get first downs like we did last year,” he said.
Part of that assuredness comes from the fact that Irwin returns all his receivers, including the 79 catches and nearly 1,000 yards posted last season by senior Zach Marcum, who Irwin calls one of the best receivers in the state.
Marcum “stirs the drink for us on offense,” Irwin said.
Irwin says there is talent on the offensive and defensive lines, but the Cardinals are thin there, so avoiding injuries will be key. Three-year starter Glen Baker, a 6-foot, 250-pound senior anchors things up front.
Another area of concern is youth in the secondary, but the Cardinals do return leadership there in the form of Brown at strong safety and senior Eddie Walden at corner.
The Cardinals return three linebackers with starting experience, including junior Jeff Ledford and senior Kevin Barnes, South Laurel’s top returning tackler.
There are holes to fill on special teams, with the punter and kicker jobs open.
South Laurel went 7-4 last season, falling 56-34 in the first round of the playoffs to Tates Creek. They open play Friday, August 19, in the Cumberland Valley Bowl (televised live on WYMT-TV in Hazard) against former district mate Johnson Central, who dropped down to 3A after last season.
Southern is looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
Chad Lyons’ team returns ten starters from last year’s 2-8 team and has 54 players in grades 10-12 on his preseason roster.
Running back Joe Powers returns to the Trojan backfield, but Lyons must replace quarterback Ryan Richey.
Reuben Jones was one of Southern’s top defensive players last year, with Lyons hoping for big seasons from Dettrick Briggs, Isaiah Jones, and James Bragg.
Tates Creek must find a way to replace six players that were Lexington Herald-Leader First-Team All-City performers last year.
The Creekers do feature a solid 1-2 punch in Kenzeale Bell (5-9, 170, Sr.) and Pete Nochta (6-6, 219, Sr.).
Bell rushed for 1,003 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, while Nochta was moved to quarterback and threw for over 300 yards in the ground-oriented Commodore offense.
Nochta is getting some serious college looks as a tight end. His father, John, played at the University of Kentucky and was the head coach at Bourbon County and Bryan Station.
A large senior class and 17 returning starters have people in Versailles revved up for the 2005 football season.
Chris Tracy begins his third season as head coach with the task of trying to lead the Yellowjackets to the school’s first region title game in eight years.
Receiver Tyler Carter (6-2, 190, Sr.) and running backs Kienan Franklin (5-11, 185, Sr.), and Derek Faught (6-1,200, Sr.) all return for Tracy, who said the trio is getting some college interest from Louisville, Eastern and Western Kentucky.
Drew Stakelin (6-5, 245, Sr.) is the leader on the line and is being recruited by several Ivy League schools.
The Red Storm look to be much improved with a larger number of players than Whitley County has ever seen – dressing nearly 75 players with only 10 seniors.
In 2004, the Red Storm had to play a lot of younger players and, with a year of experience, they will be much improved.
Whitley County graduated six seniors from last year’s team that finished 5-5 and missed the playoffs.
Senior running back Ladale Rider (5-7, 165) looks to improve on a junior season that saw him lead the state in rushing for most of the year. Rider rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last year in head coach Mike Campbell’s Power-I set.
A bigger, stronger offensive line should provide more running room for all the backs, including freshman Cody Jones (5-10, 175).
Fans may see big changes with the new offensive coordinator, Tim Cooper, taking over the offense in 2005.
In the past, Whitley ran the ball as their bread and butter, but this year they will be looking to put the ball in the air more, using the pass to set up the run.
On defense, the Red Storm will look to be more aggressive and cause more turnovers than in 2004 when the Red Storm finished with the worst turnover margin ever under Campbell (-4).
Eli Rhodes (6-2, 230, Sr.), Shawn Baird (6-4, 240, Soph.), and Brandon Pratt (6-0, 190, Sr.) will be looked upon to lead the Whitley defense.
The Red Storm will have a new look this year. Gone are the traditional uniforms, replaced by new contemporary uniforms.
“We felt like this might jump start the kids excitement for the game,” Campbell said, referring to the new uniforms.
“We have worked hard, and the kids are more excited than they have been in some time about the upcoming season. We are bigger, stronger and faster and we want to get back to the playoffs.”
With a tougher schedule, including Middlesboro, Shelby County, Lynn Camp and Breathitt County as non-district opponents, the Red Storm should be ready for the rugged district schedule which includes Madison Central, George Rogers Clark, North and South Laurel, Montgomery County, and district newcomer Lincoln County.