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2008 Class 3A Kentucky High School Football Preview


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2008 Class 3A Kentucky High School Football Preview

 

 

 

Adair County (0-10)

Head coach: Eric Graves

2007: Missed the playoffs

 

Adair County suffered through their second winless season in three years in 2007.

 

It is hoped the addition of football at Lindsey Wilson College in the near future will spark a renewed interest in the Adair County football program, which has lost 26 of their last 30 games.

 

Eric Graves, who left Adair County to become an assistant coach at Campbellsville University in 2005, returns to an Indians’ program that has been battling a numbers problem. Graves led Adair County to consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in 12 years and hopes to get the Indians back to that level.

 

Running back Jeffrey Woolridge (5-7, 155, Jr.), and linemen Jordan Grant (5-11, 220, Sr.) and Colin Jacobson (6-2, 210, Sr.) are among those expected to return for the Indians, who scored in double digits in just three of their ten games last year.

 

 

 

Belfry (14-1)

Head coach: Phillip Haywood

2007: Lost to Central 27-17 in the Class 3A state championship game

 

The Belfry Pirates were as close to perfect as any team could get for 14 games last season. The Pirates first string defense did not allow a single point to be scored on them until Week 8 of the season, they dominated their competition by an average score of 44-13, posted a 14-0 mark, and defeated previously undefeated Breathitt County in the state semi-finals by an astounding score of 62-28, all the while never trailing at any point.

 

The Pirates secured their spot at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and a match up with underdog Central. That is when perfection ended as Belfry could not overcome costly turnovers and fell to the Yellow jackets 27-17, ending their dream season.

 

Belfry’s drive for the 2008 season is to finish what eluded them that day on the FieldTurf of Papa John’s.

 

The Pirates are loaded for bear and should continue to add to head coach Phillip Haywood’s legendary win totals. The Pirates must replace one of the school’s most heralded performers in All-State First Team running back/linebacker Dustin May.

 

May who etched his spot as one of the school’s All-Time leading rushers will be missed on both sides of the football, as will two-way performers DE/TE Adam Bowens, DT/HB Phillip Hickman, and SE/CB Ryan Preston.

 

Offensively, expect the Pirates to do what they do best and run the ball. Running back Ivan Lee (1,318 yards; 16 touchdowns) will take over as the Pirates’ feature back after averaging an astounding 9.3 yards per carry last year.

 

Joining him will be Charlie Dotson at the fullback spot, and junior halfback Thomas Varney, who brings a mix of speed and explosion.

 

The Pirates also return one of the better quarterbacks in 3A in three-year starter Andrew Elkins, who has the capability to effectively pass the football.

 

His favorite targets will be junior Timmy Lovern and tight end Corey Coleman.

 

Opening the holes for a committee of backs that produced nearly 2,500 rushing yards will be a veteran offensive line that only lost one starter. Anchoring the line is massive tackle Ryan Blackburn (6-3, 300), who is garnering D-1 looks.

 

Also returning on a line that helped the Pirates accumulate nearly 5,500 total yards are center Chancey Cisco, and guards Randy Webb and Casey Whetstone.

 

Defensively, the Pirates had one of the best units in the state regardless of class last season. The 2008 edition should also flash similar signs of dominance from the unit that only gave up an average of 169 total yards per game.

 

Up front the Pirates return nose guard Randy Webb, All-State defensive end Lee, and tackle Corey Coleman.

 

The loss of May at the middle linebacker spot could result in Coleman switching to a deeper position. If so, expect Cisco to step in on the line.

Other players who should push for a starting spot up front will be Gary Hall, James Hardin, and promising sophomore Shane Blackburn.

 

Charlie Dotson will anchor the linebacker position for a third straight season. Dotson has cemented himself as one of the elite defensive players in the state and was the Pirates’ leading tackler last season, averaging nearly 10 per game.

 

The secondary is the Pirates’ single largest question mark. Cornerback Andrew Elkins will pull his third season of starting duty, and free safety Thomas Varney also returns. The Pirates must replace safety John Young and cornerback Preston.

 

Timmy Lovern will fill one void, but the remaining spot is up for grabs heading into the heat of summer.

 

The Pirates’ special teams units scored more points than opposing offenses put up on the Belfry first-string defense last season. Lovern and Varney both excelled at returning kicks and pose a dangerous combination with their speed.

 

Glenn Earnest graduates, and Ivan Lee will be called on to take on the place kicking duties.

 

All things considered, the expectations for the 2008 Belfry team are very high. The Pirates have everything in place to be one of the state’s better teams. Belfry has reached the state semi-finals the past five seasons, and everything appears to be in place for the Pirates to potentially make their fourth trip to Papa Johns in the last six years.

 

 

Breathitt County (13-1)

Head coach: Mike Holcomb

2007: Lost to Belfry 62-28 in the state semifinals

 

Very little seems to change for the Bobcats, who are expected to make another run at a 3A state title with seven starters back on defense and five on offense from a squad that opened the season with 13 straight wins before falling to Belfry in the state semifinals.

 

Only Belfry in 3A had a more prolific offense than the Bobcats, who put up a whopping 591 points a year ago and could be just as good this year with Channing Fugate (6-3, 220) returning for his junior season at tailback. Fugate gained 1,727 yards on the ground on 191 rushes and caught 45 passes for 625 yards.

 

Senior tight end Ryan Allen, who added 45 catches for 851 yards, will likely be another favorite target for junior Jade Haddix (6-0, 190), the brother of former Breathitt star Justin Haddix, who takes over for Colby Fugate at quarterback.

 

Scott Bailey (6-1, 240), a four-year starter at tackle, and Chris Spicer, a four-year starter at end, lead a Breathitt defense that also features senior nose guard Juan Little (6-1, 230) and senior linebacker Dusty Allen.

 

 

Butler County (6-5)

Head coach: Robert Tuck

2007: Lost to Edmonson County 35-29 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Expectations are little higher in Butler County this year with 15 starters back from a team that won six games with a young squad last year.

Still stinging is a 35-29 loss to Edmonson County in the first round of the playoffs in their first season in Class 3A.

 

“That loss has probably drove our team harder in the offseason more than any year I have been coaching,” said head coach Robert Tuck.

 

Up front, the Bears have three starting linemen back. They are Tyler Rhoades (6-0, 190, Jr.), Noel Belcher (5-11, 250, Jr.), and Nathan Belcher (6-0, 280, Jr.).

 

They will be opening holes for the bulk of last year’s returning offense.

Quarterback Jess Stivers (6-0, 170, Sr.) completed 134 passes for 1,798 yards and 17 touchdowns, which is impressive for a program known more for their ability to run the football.

 

Jason Byrd (5-10, 175, Jr.) rushed for 909 yards and 11 touchdowns and also caught 19 passes out of the backfield.

 

Among the targets returning for Stivers are Matt Hudnall (5-10, 160, Sr.), who hauled in 31 passes for 421 yards and seven touchdowns; Eli Embrey (5-7, 145, Jr.), who had five catches for 92 yards; and Cody Murphy (5-8, 160, Sr.), who had eight catches for 95 yards and a score.

 

Tuck said they were able to platoon many of their players last year, but that may not be the case this season. He said the progress of linemen Trent Shain, Jeff Bratcher, and Danny Brosnan will determine if the Bears can play some of their linemen on just one side of the football.

 

Butler County has seven starters back on a defensive unit that was stingy at times, allowing less than ten points in five of their games.

 

On the line, Silas Arnold (5-10, 185, Jr.) and Danny Brosnan (6-1, 180, Sr.) are back along with linebackers Clay Daugherty (5-11, 175, Jr.) and Jack Daugherty (5-11, 170, Jr.).

 

Dillon Cox (5-10, 240, Jr.) and Thomas Oliver (6-1, 290, Jr.) could also see some action on the line.

 

Embry, Hudnall, and Josh Nicewinter (5-10, 140, Jr.) return in the secondary.

 

Butler County should be more competitive in their district and could advance as far as the region title game if they can finish the regular season atop the district standings.

 

 

Casey County (3-7)

Head coach: Andy Stephens

2007: Missed the playoffs

 

Andy Stephens begins his eighth season at Casey County fighting the same battle he faces every season – numbers.

 

“We are not where we want to be with our program. We are battling numbers every season. We have to change attitudes. Our kids and parents have to realize the commitment it takes to be successful and buy in to our program and where we want it to go. It takes a whole community to make a program successful,” Stephens said.

 

The Rebels’ move to Class 3A didn’t go as they would have liked, missing the playoffs and getting wins over three teams that won a combined four games.

 

Defensively, Casey County should be improved with the return of six starters.

 

“We feel like we will be good on our defensive front. We have good size and strength there, Stephens said, adding “We are going to make the move from an odd front this season to an even front defense to try to take advantage of our depth of defensive linemen.”

 

Marianno Gonzalez (6-1, 255, Sr.) had 35 tackles, including four sacks, at the tackle position. Denver Miller (6-0, 215, Sr.) had four sacks at the other tackle slot.

 

Stephens is hopeful that Cain Rodriguez (6-3, 315, Sr.) and Jordan Wright (5-10, 300, Soph.) can help in the middle of the defensive line.

 

Omar Gonzalez (5-11, 185, Sr.), Joe Evans (6-0, 180, Sr.), and Cody Roy (5-10, 180, Soph.) combined for 130 tackles at the linebacker position. All are slated to return.

 

Zack Richardson (5-9, 150, Sr.) picked off seven passes last year in the secondary.

 

On offense, the Rebels must replace most of their skill players but have some viable replacements.

 

Richardson (14 rec., 286 yds., 3 TDs) and Omar Gonzalez are back at receiver, with Evans and newcomer Cory Roy expected to see time in the backfield.

 

Stephens is also excited about a large freshman class that could contribute at some positions on the field.

 

 

Central (10-5)

Head coach: Ty Scroggins

2007: Beat Belfry 27-17 in the Class 3A state championship game

 

If anyone had looked at Central’s record heading into the postseason last year, they would have thought the 5-5 Yellow jackets were an also-ran.

When, in fact, the Yellow jackets were the class of 3A last fall.

 

Coach Ty Scroggins put his team through a brutal schedule, playing larger powers, and then rolled to the school’s first ever state championship on the gridiron.

 

With a load of athletes each year, Central should be in the thick of things in the Class 3A race for a number of seasons.

 

And this year is no exception.

 

Central allowed only about 200 yards a game to opponents last season and returns eight full-time starters from that squad. Linebackers Ridge Wilson and Tim Patterson and defensive tackle Mister Cobble are among the state’s finest players. Jordan Tennyson is another senior who will be a defensive stalwart.

 

Cobble has committed to the University of Kentucky, while Wilson has a number of offers. Patterson might be the top prospect statewide in the Class of 2010.

 

The offense could struggle early in the season, having to replace all of the skill players including standout quarterback Leland Banks. But Diaz Bolden is an exceptional athlete and kicker Rizik Lado booted the game-winner in the semifinals last season. Stephon Robinson is a senior weapon at wide receiver.

 

 

East Carter (5-6)

Head coach: Aaron Baldwin

2007: Lost to Russell 35-15 in the first round of the playoffs

 

East Carter has put together consecutive 5-6 seasons that have ended with first round playoffs losses to Russell. Head coach Aaron Baldwin knows one of those things (losing to Russell in the first round) won’t happen in 2008 because of the playoff restructuring.

 

He’s also hoping the return of several experienced players will result in a winning record.

 

The Raiders’ strength will be in the trenches where several starters are back.

 

Center Corey Ferguson (5-10, 215, Sr.), tackles Dylan Stephens (6-3, 230, Sr.) and Johnnie Stafford (5-10, 240, Sr.) and guard Ryan Kitchen (5-9, 170, Sr.) comprise a nice unit for the Raiders.

 

Who they will block for is one of the questions Baldwin would like to see answered.

 

“One of our weaknesses will be our youth and inexperience at several skill positions on both sides of the football,” he said.

 

Baldwin has a pair of quarterbacks to choose from, with both seeing time under center last year.

 

Trei Tackett (6-0, 160, Sr.) will likely start in the backfield, with Eddie Elkins (5-10, 160, Jr.) the likely starter at quarterback. Elkins completed 22-of-34 passes for 151 yards last year.

 

Joining Tackett in the backfield will be Kyle Huffine (5-10, 220, Sr.), who rushed for 434 yards and four touchdowns last year.

 

Dylan McDavid (6-3, 170, Jr.) should also see some carries.

 

Defensively, Ferguson and Stephens return on the ends, and Huffine, Doug Claxson (5-10, 190, Sr.), and Tyler Back (6-1, 190, Jr.) are back at linebackers.

 

Kyle Smith (5-8, 160, Soph.) picked off three passes last year in the secondary and will be joined by Tackett and Breck Hogan (5-11, 160, Soph.).

 

“Our program is slowly taking steps to get on the right track. Our administration has made a firm commitment to success for our football program, and our student-athletes are making strides towards a more solidified offseason commitment,” Baldwin said.

 

Among the improvements fans can expect to see are an improved playing surface and new press box at Raider Stadium.

 

 

East Ridge (0-10)

Head coach: Brad Allen

2007: Missed the playoffs

 

Since the program’s inception, the East Ridge Warriors have yet to find success on the gridiron. The defining trend which has limited the Warriors’ success can be directly attributed to the revolving door at the head coaching position that has seen numerous faces come and go in what is typically one of the more competitive districts in the state.

 

Once again, East Ridge finds itself in the position of seeing a new head coach take the reigns as former Breathitt County and Pikeville College standout Brad Allen becomes the new head coach on Lick Creek.

 

Allen hopes to instill a spread offense, but the transition will not be easy.

Versatile Caleb Epling graduated and with him took the majority of the East Ridge offensive production.

 

Tommy Bingham (5-9, 170, Sr.) will be asked to mimic Epling and be a versatile threat.

 

Wesley Ray (6-2, 320, Jr.) will anchor the line.

 

The focus of East Ridge this season will be to lay the groundwork for the future in Allen’s system. The feeder systems have begun producing kids with football experience, and if the Warriors can sustain large numbers, they may be able to push for the fourth and final playoff spot.

 

 

Edmonson County (6-6)

Head coach: Kyle Pierce

2007: Lost to Russellville 33-14 in the second round of the playoffs

 

The bump to Class 3A saw Edmonson County break even during the regular season and win a playoff game for the first time since 1998.

Kyle Pierce’s Wildcats have eight starters back on offensive but must break in a new offensive line behind his multitude of weapons.

 

Brent Smith (5-9, 175, Sr.) is a three-year starter at quarterback and threw for 1,398 yards and 14 touchdowns. However, he will need to improve his accuracy, having competed just 43-percent of his passes and eight interceptions.

 

His main targets will be T. J. Massey (6-3, 185, Sr.), who caught 19 passes for 267 yards, and Thomas Johnson (6-0, 160, Sr.).

 

In the backfield, Zach Vincent (5-9, 155, Sr.) returns after rushing for 874 yards and right touchdowns. He also caught four TD passes.

 

Josh Bunnell (5-8, 165, Jr.) and Colton Tennison (6-1, 180, Jr.) are a pair of newcomers that could find themselves in the starting lineup.

 

On the line, Edmonson County will hitch their wagon to tackles Andy Vincent (6-2, 285, Sr.) and Cody Hatler (6-1, 260, Sr.) and guard Erick Espinoza (5-9, 195, Jr.). Vincent missed last year with an ACL injury.

 

Only five starters return on defense. They are Zach Vincent at safety, Smith at cornerback, Casey Sowders (6-2, 180, Jr.) at linebacker, and Tony McPeak (5-5, 165, Jr.) and Steven Caudill (6-2, 250, Jr.) at the tackles.

 

Edmonson County also returns kicker Leo Gonzalez (5-8, 145, Sr.), who kicked a 37-yard game-winning field goal against Butler County.

 

“Our strength will rely on how well we run the football. We lost three good offensive linemen,” Pierce said.

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Elizabethtown (7-5)

Head coach: Brad Todd

2007: Lost to Central 28-14 in the second round of the playoffs

 

By JOSH CLAYWELL

The (Elizabethtown) News-Enterprise

 

The Elizabethtown Panthers begin the 2008 season with an unproven quarterback under center.

 

Senior Micheal Thomas takes over for three-year starter J.D. Tanner, who combined to throw for 5,603 yards and 60 touchdowns in his career at Elizabethtown.

 

But second-year coach Brad Todd is confident Thomas, who completed one pass for nine yards last season, is capable of filling the void left behind by Tanner.

 

“Micheal Thomas is very smart,” Todd said. “He has a very good arm and he’s a good leader.”

 

Luckily for Thomas, the Panthers return their top receivers in seniors Chris Gohman and Trevor Deneen.

 

Before being injured in a game against Louisville Moore, Gohman caught 63 passes for 946 yards and 12 touchdowns. Deneen caught 69 catches for 933 yards.

 

“Both will be seniors and both have very good hands,” Todd said. “They are both good route runners and do a great job of getting yards after the catch.”

 

Along with Deneen and Gohman, Elizabethtown also returns senior running back Cody Withers, senior offensive guard Justin Butler and senior offensive tackle Thomas Jacobs.

 

On defense, Withers, Thomas and sophomore Jonathan Pike return at linebacker, while Butler and Jacobs are back at defensive tackle. Gohman returns at free safety and Deneen and junior Titus Sublett will alternate time at center.

 

With the departure of Chance Boone, Withers is Elizabethtown’s leading returning rusher. He rushed for 409 yards on 69 attempts last season.

 

“I’m very excited about the potential of this team,” Todd said. “Who knows? If we stay healthy and have a little luck along the way, we should have a solid team this year.”

 

The Panthers went 7-5 last year and made the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Todd would like to guide his team back to the state championship game, somewhere the Panthers haven’t been since falling to Belfry in the Class 2-A finals at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

 

But he knows all roads go through Louisville Central, the defending Class 3-A state champions.

 

Central won both meetings between the teams last year, 59-21 at Elizabethtown and 28-14 at Central in the second round of the playoffs.

 

“Louisville Central has to be the heavy favorite because what they were able to do last year in winning the 3-A state championship,” Todd said. “There will be quite a few teams out there with the talent to get to the finals, but most likely Belfry and Central have to be the favorites right now.

 

“We must get stronger physically in our strength and conditioning program and find a way for our main kids to stay healthy and try and create some depth on both sides of the ball,” Todd added. “Our goals are to continually improve throughout the season and to win the district championship and to compete for a state championship.”

 

 

Estill County (9-3)

Head coach: Mike Jones

2007: Lost to Breathitt County 55-16 in the second round of the playoffs

 

Not too many 3A teams in Kentucky were more improved last year than the Engineers, who finished 9-3 in 2007 after posting a 3-7 mark the year before. Estill made it to the District 6 finals before suffering its second loss of the year to Breathitt County.

 

With nine starters back both ways and a roster dominated by seniors, this

could be the year that Estill makes a deep run into the postseason.

 

The Engineers feature a prolific ground game led by senior halfbacks Ben Benedict (5-10, 205, Sr.), Kenton Roberts (6-1, 170, Soph.), and Justin Covey (6-0, 200, Sr.), and senior fullback Clay Baber (5-11, 235, Sr.).

 

With that trio back, the Engineers should equal their 343 rushing yards per game average from last year out of the double wing offense.

 

The trio also leads the defense as the linebackers.

 

Trey Wiseman (6-4, 225) is a standout tight end and defensive end.

 

Senior center Jacob Puckett (6-3, 260), Travis Carson (5-7, 200, Sr.), Will McIntosh (6-0, 240, Sr.), and senior tackle Andrew Witt (6-0, 240) are the top linemen.

 

The Engineers are excited about their talented and experienced senior class and hope a promising sophomore class can follow in their footsteps.

 

The switch back to the old playoff format could mean a long postseason run for the Engineers and a possible meeting with Breathitt County for the region title.

 

 

Fleming County (4-7)

Head coach: Gene Peterson

2007: Lost to Breathitt County 52-0 in the first round of the playoffs

 

A fall to fourth in District Six was a surprise last season as Fleming County struggled to stop anyone, giving up over 35 points a game and fell to 4-7 after posting an 8-4 mark in 2006.

 

Veteran coach Gene Peterson will have experience at quarterback as 6-1, 225-pound junior Tyler Newsome returns.

 

Junior Ryan Jackson (6-1, 245) is back at offensive guard and is also one of the region’s best punters.

 

Caleb Cannon (6-0, 180, Sr.) returns at fullback after rushing for 651 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

 

Senior Daniel Harmon (5-10, 170) is back at wide receiver, and senior Nick Mouser (6-1, 195) returns at tight end.

 

Senior middle linebacker Jason Story (5-10, 180) is back to lead the Fleming defense. Cannon at linebacker, Harmon at cornerback, Mouser at end and junior tackle Steven Mitchell (6-2, 300) are the other defensive leaders.

 

 

Garrard County (5-7)

Head coach: Mark Scenters

2007: Lost to Somerset 54-0 in the second round of the playoffs

 

Former Madison Central assistant coach Mark Scenters takes over a Garrard County program that returns 12 starters from last year’s team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

 

Senior Jansen Penman (6-0, 210) rushed for 524 yards and six touchdowns and will be joined in the backfield by Jamarious Merritt (5-10, 180, Sr.) and Fred Hayes (6-0, 180, Jr.), who led the Golden Lions in scoring last year.

 

Scenters has the luxury of playing Tyler Ray (5-10,1 60, Jr.) in the backfield or at receiver where he caught 16 passes for 233 yards.

 

Chris Hendrix (6-0, 190, Sr.) is the lone starter returning on the offensive line. Houston Clark (5-11, 195, Soph.) should compete for a starting spot on the line.

 

Defensively, the Golden Lions appear ahead of the offense with seven starters back.

 

Hendrix and Penman return on the line, while Michael Riley (6-2, 210, Sr.), Zach Hounshell (6-2, 190, Jr.), and Merritt form a solid nucleus at linebacker. Chris Pearce (6-1, 185, Soph.) could also fit into the defensive scheme up front.

 

Hayes and Ray are back in the secondary.

 

Scenters has the skill players to compete in the district, but will need the line play on both sides of the ball to develop quickly if they are to advance in the playoffs.

 

 

Harlan County (n/a)

Head coach: Tom Larkey

2007: First season of varsity football

 

High expectations will greet the first-year Harlan County program following the consolidation of James A. Cawood, Cumberland, and Evarts high schools.

 

The Black Bears landed one of the state’s top coaches in Tom Larkey, the former Cawood assistant who turned Rockcastle County into a state powerhouse over the past 23 years.

 

“I guess I felt like I had been in one spot long enough. Things were going good but seemed to be getting somewhat stale in a few areas,” Larkey said. “I was not as motivated as I should have been. No particular problems (at Rockcastle County), except the need for a new change in my life.”

 

Larkey will have numerous options in the backfield, including former Cumberland stars Nathaniel Gilliam and Lance Simmons, both seniors, and former Cawood standout T.J. Green, a junior.

 

Gilliam rushed for 1,303 yards and 23 touchdowns, while Simmons added 1,108 yards and 18 scores.

 

Junior Shequille Clark and senior Shadow Westfelt could also play important roles in the backfield.

 

Senior Zach Blanton is the leading candidate at quarterback with sophomore Dylon Smith and seniors Blake Polson and R.J. Fields expected to see action at receiver.

 

Senior linebacker Glenn Roberts, who will also play fullback, is a defensive standout, along with Polson and Phillip Maggard at linebacker and seniors Cody Ison and George Shoemaker and junior James Ball on the line. Clark, Gilliam, Green, Tyler Stewart, Dwight Burgan, Jamille Stewart, Timmy Engle, Jordan Calton, Alex Haywood and Brian Owens will also see action.

 

Potential starters on the offensive line include Austin Short, Clifton Robbins, Royal Bargo, Jordan Marshall, Ison and Ball.

 

The new coach was pleased with the turnout during the spring and early summer workouts.

 

“I had about 60 regular upperclassmen showing up for June practices. There are some good athletes among the group, and I am trying my best to work with all of them and give them all a fair shot at earning a position,” he said.

 

Larkey has assembled a coaching staff of former coaches at the three schools that consolidated as well as some who had been with him at Rockcastle County.

 

The Black Bears will play games that originally appeared on Cawood’s schedule and compete in Class 3A this year before bumping to Class 5A in 2009.

 

 

Hart County (5-6)

Head coach: Tim Nichols

2007: Lost to Russellville 34-12 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Hart County did what a young team normally does. They beat the teams they were supposed to and lost big to everyone else.

 

The Raiders return some workable parts that should get them back into the postseason.

 

Austin Green (6-1, 175, Jr.) saw some time at quarterback last year, throwing for 470 yards and four touchdowns.

 

If Green can settle into the starting role, he should put up some big numbers with the return of Hart County’s top three receivers from a year ago.

 

Nick Walters (6-3, 155, Sr.), Jordan Smith (5-10, 170, Sr.), and Tyler Jones (5-10, 160, Sr.) combined to catch 142 passes for 1,449 yards and 11 touchdowns.

 

Walters and Jones also return in the defensive secondary and combined with linebacker Jeremiah Staples (5-10, 160, Sr.) to lead the team in interceptions.

 

 

Henry County (9-4)

Head coach: Chris Engstrand

2007: Lost to Paducah Tilghman 36-13 in the region championship game

 

What to do for an encore.

 

Henry County had not trouble making the move to Class 3A, winning nine games and advancing to the region title game.

 

And many of those players are coming back in 2008. The offense returns ten starters, and the defense returns eight starters from 2007.

 

The Wildcats welcome back running back Cody Miracle (6-0, 170, Sr.), who rushed for 956 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

 

Quarterback Hayden Yancey (6-0, 170, Sr.) had a monster season, throwing for 2,558 yards and 23 touchdowns while completing 52-percent of his passes.

 

Luke Magness (6-1, 175, Soph.) may also see some snaps under center.

However, Henry County’s two top receivers from last year – Cari Dunaway and Travis McClanahan – have both graduated.

 

Matt Long (5-10, 160, Sr.) returns to a receiving corps that will get a boost from a pair of brothers who have moved in from Alabama. Spud and Pete Baldwin are newcomers to the Henry County program, with Spud competing for a spot at receiver. Pete Baldwin could join Miracle in the backfield.

 

Lance Timberlake (5-11, 165, Jr.) and tight end Trevor Raisor (5-11, 160, Jr.) should also see plenty of passes coming their way.

 

The Wildcats possess one of the best returning lines in Class 3A football, averaging about 255 pounds across.

 

Chris Price (6-1, 250, Jr.), Matt Butts (6-0, 260, Sr.), Clint Nutter (6-0, 255, Jr.), Darien Ingram (5-10, 280, Soph.), Kevin Quire (6-0, 255, Sr.), Brett Downey (6-2, 230, Sr.), and Steven May (5-9, 250, Sr.) all started games on the offensive line last year.

 

On defense, linebacker Erick Butler (6-2, 210, Jr.) anchors a defense that must improve on last year’s average of 19.7 points allowed and 258 yards allowed.

Butler registered 125 tackles, including 12 for loss and 10 sacks last year.

Long, Miracle, and Timberlake also return at linebacker.

 

Zach Rahm (5-7, 190, Jr.) led the Wildcats with four fumble recoveries and returns to the D-Line along with Downey, May, and Dylan Doll (6-0, 250, Soph.).

 

“Defensively, we should be as good as we have ever been,” said head coach Chris Engstrand, who noted the Wildcats will have a tougher playoff path with the return of Elizabethtown and defending state champion Central in their region.

 

“We will have a target on our backs in district play this year, and we won’t sneak up on anyone. If we don’t outwork everyone, we could be a good team that doesn’t live up to the expectations,” he said.

 

Giving the Henry County football program a boost is the recent completion of a $1 million football facility that includes an indoor practice area, weight room, coaches’ office, locker room, and video room.

 

“Our wonderful administration has made a real investment into athletics in Henry County. God has been good to us, and we are truly blessed in Henry County,” Engstrand said.

 

 

Jackson County (3-7)

Head coach: Clay Dalton

2007: Missed the playoffs

 

Clay Dalton takes over a Jackson County program that won three games last year and is scheduled to move into a new facility this year.

 

The Generals will have to replace 12 graduated seniors but welcome back quarterback Joseph Campos (6-0, 140, Soph.) and running backs Blake House (5-11, 200, Jr.) and Brandon McQueen (5-10, 175, Jr.).

 

One area Dalton should have depth at is on the line where only three seniors graduated from a year ago.

 

 

Lewis County (1-9)

Head coach: Josh Hughes

2007: Missed the playoffs

 

Brandon Combs left Lewis County in the spring for the coaching job at Fort Knox, and the school promoted assistant Josh Hughes to the top post.

 

The Lions put up big numbers on offense using the Tony Franklin system, but they could have used a successful system on defense where they gave up 52 points a game.

 

Senior quarterback Andy Downing threw for 2,111 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, but Hughes has indicated a need to run the football more in 2008.

 

Another priority is the numbers game as Downing looks to recruit the hallways of his alma mater to put more kids on the sidelines and in the games.

 

 

Magoffin County (5-6)

Head coach: Chester McCoy

2007: Lost to Belfry 42-14 in the first round of the playoffs

 

When Chester McCoy took over as the head coach of the Magoffin County Hornets in 2006, it was pretty apparent that he would be building the program from the ground up. The Hornets were fresh off a 1-9 season (their lone win coming against winless Betsy Layne), had not made the playoffs in a decade, and found themselves right in the middle of a district featuring two of the top overall teams in their class.

 

McCoy started slow by increasing their win total and finishing 3-7 in 2006. Last year, the program took a massive leap forward as they finished 5-6 and made the playoffs.

 

The excitement level in Salyersville has not been this high since Michael Caba was chucking the football 50 times a game in the 90’s. Magoffin is slowly earning their way to respectability, but in order to sustain this momentum it is imperative for the Hornets to make the playoffs once again.

 

Life won’t be easy for Magoffin though. They have to find a way to replace do-it-all Jordan Howard, who graduated, as well as quarterback Shane Allen.

 

Expect senior lineman Seth Howard to push for All-District honors and anchor the Hornets up front.

 

Colby Howard and Brandon Mullins will look to provide the offense running the ball.

 

All things considered, it will be an October 14 match up with East Ridge that will ultimately determine the fate of the Hornets’ season. Another playoff birth, despite the talent lost from last season, would certainly validate McCoy’s progress and build Magoffin to only improve more in the future.

 

 

Mason County (8-4)

Head coach: David Buchanan

2007: Lost to Russell 26-21 in the second round of the playoffs

 

Dustin Grutza was one of 12 kids at Mason County’s summer football camp in 1996. Not only has the former Mason County standout flourished at the college level, but also the summer camp has seen a dramatic increase in numbers. Over 100 kids attended this year, meaning the Mason County feeder program continues to shuttle players to the upper levels.

 

And the feeder numbers are paying off at the varsity level where the Royals have been above .500 for 10 of the last 12 years and won two region titles.

 

Head coach David Buchanan has an abundance of starters back from last year’s 8-4 team that suffered a pair of close losses to district champ Russell, including a 26-21 loss in the playoffs.

 

The Royals return their top two rushers from last year in seniors Jeremy Thompson (881 yds., 9 TDs) and Cameron Pollitt (708 yds., 9 TDs).

 

Sophomore Neal Pawsat (6-2, 185) takes over for Richie Cox at quarterback.

 

“We run well as a team. We plan on using that to make up for a lack of size and experience up front,” Buchanan said.

 

Center Sam O’Mara (6-0, 210, Sr.) is the lone starter back on the offensive line.

 

On defense, Mason County returns a strong linebacking corps led by Thompson, Pollitt, Adam Cooper (6-0, 205, Sr.), and Ryan Owens (6-1, 200, Sr.). Cooper and Owens can also line up at defensive end.

 

Terrence Breckenridge (5-11, 170, Sr.) and Westin Stahl (6-0, 170, Sr.) return in the Royal secondary.

 

Mason County may also be the only team to employ two female kickers on its team.

 

Senior twins Jessi and Rebecca Batey return for their second season of splitting duty between the Mason County soccer and football teams.

 

Jessi, who set the Mason County single-season soccer scoring mark as a freshman, handles the extra points and field goals, while Rebecca handles the kickoffs.

 

“We have a lot to prove. It’s been five years since we won a district or region title, although we have been one of the top teams for four of those five years,” Buchanan said. “We expect to have a quality football team that can compete for those titles.”

 

 

McLean County (5-6)

Head coach: Marshall Enoch

2007: Lost to Union County 30-28 in the first round of the playoffs

 

by Mark Mathis

Owensboro Messenger Inquirer

 

The Cougars took Union County to double overtime before losing in the Class 3A playoffs. That finished a 5-6 season.

 

They should be in good shape after just losing five starters.

 

“If we play well, we could finish two (in the district) and if we don’t we could go down to four,” said Marshall Enoch, McLean County’s coach.

 

Miles Puckett comes back for his third year at quarterback. He threw for over 900 yards and ran for another 500.

 

Tailback Spencer Phillips, a 5-8, 205-pound junior, ran for over 1,200 yards last season. Troy Woodburn added 500 yards in McLean County’s I formation.

 

Michael Burden and McKinley Heflin will be leaders on the defensive line. Troy Woodburn returns at linebacker.

 

McLean County is also looking for big things from Derrick Hardin, a 6-1, 185-pound linebacker with good speed and range.

 

“He should be an impact player for us,” Enoch said.

 

 

Moore (3-8)

Head coach: Robert Johnson

2007: Lost to Elizabethtown 35-0 in the first round of the playoffs

 

The Mustangs have struggled for a number of years and this could be one of the tougher years after losing 17 seniors off last year’s three-win squad.

 

Moore didn’t get a bunch of wins last season but had a potent backfield, including Brandon Gordon, and it will be hard to fill those gaps.

 

Jimmy Wade (6-2, 180, Sr.) is back at the quarterback slot and will have to lead the way. The defense must improve from last year after allowing 33 points a game.

 

 

Muhlenberg South (2-8)

Head coach: Josh Staples

2007: Missed the playoffs

 

Josh Staples took over at Muhlenberg South after working as an assistant for the last 13 seasons.

 

Staples thinks this could be one of the more talented teams South has had since he has been there.

 

The Suns have 11 seniors returning. That group is led by tailback Derek Taylor.

 

“He didn’t touch the ball as much as he should have,” Staples said. “He averaged seven yards a carry, and he’s our most talented back.”

 

South (2-8) has never been a big passing ball club, but it may try to get the ball down the field more with junior quarterback Aaron Johnson coming back.

 

“We’re still going to be heavy with the run, but we will probably open up the offense a little more,” Staples said.

 

Johnson will have wide receiver Brett Jernigan, who caught passes for nearly 500 yards last year. Chris Hawkins is another senior returning at receiver.

 

The Suns played with all juniors and sophomores defensively last year.

 

Defensive tackle Colton Bowling is a 6-foot, 290-pound anchor on the line.

John House is a good pass rusher at linebacker. Thad Cartwright was an outside linebacker who will drop down to defensive end, where he should be more effective.

 

“On defense and offense, we’re going to try and play as fast as we can,” Staples said.

 

 

North Oldham (8-4)

Head coach: Billy Martin

2007: Lost to Henry County 15-7 in the second round of the playoffs

 

North Oldham set a school-record for wins and had its best record ever last season but was hit hard by graduation. Coach Billy Martin still has some talent in the program that is only six years old.

 

The Mustangs offense averaged 27 points a game last season and returns four-year starting halfback Andrew Tuller (5-10, 170, Sr.), who had 737 yards rushing and 528 yards receiving while amassing 10 touchdowns as a junior.

 

The quarterback was solid last year with senior Dylan Grandon, but 400-meter track champion Chase Maddox is ready to step in. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Maddox could be pushed a bit by promising sophomore Austin Peterson (5-11, 150, Soph.).

 

Transfer Matt Alward (5-9, 185, Sr.) and Wyatt Butler (5-9, 225, Sr.) will compete for the fullback spot.

 

Tyler Geers (6-3, 200, Sr.) will be the top receiver, while the line is anchored by center and two-year starter Spencer Gooch (5-10, 240, Sr.) and tackle Sandy Strapp (5-10, 265, Sr.).

 

The defense also took a hit to graduation, but nose guard Micah Watson (6-2, 305, Jr.) is a two-year starter and defensive end Zach Fisher (6-0, 230, Sr.) had 44 tackles as a junior. Geers is a solid linebacker, while Maddox will play bandit and Tuller will be at corner.

 

Paul Althoff (5-10, 150, Sr.) is a standout kicker.

 

There is an aura of excitement at North Oldham, who will try and live up to their expectations at their new football complex that is near completion.

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Paducah Tilghman (9-5)

Head coach: Randy Wyatt

2007: Lost to Central 17-14 in the state semifinals

 

Paducah Tilghman found itself one play, and a few seconds away, from a trip to the state championship game after shaking off a slow start. New coach Randy Wyatt hopes some changes, some subtle and some not, will pay off in a trip to the state finals.

 

“A lot of it is mental toughness,” said Wyatt, a former assistant who’s been away from coaching football for three years but has led the Tornado’s track and field program to eight consecutive state titles. “We’ve got to become the kind of team that can go on the road, to somebody’s house, and knock them off to get to the finals.”

 

There’s little doubt that statement is made with defending state champion Louisville Central in mind. Central beat the Tornado 17-14 on the road in last year’s semifinals, winning on a last-second field goal. This year, a potential return encounter would be in Louisville.

 

On the field, there will be some obvious changes. Former coach Perry Thomas, who left to become the head coach at Campbellsville University, went to a wishbone attack in the middle of last season.

 

Wyatt, a former track star and a wide receiver at both Louisville and Kentucky, intends to run a spread offense that he terms as “part (Tony) Franklin and part Rich Rodriguez” with an inexperienced quarterback in senior Taylor Stubblefield, who was the backup last season.

 

“He’s hardnosed and tough,” Wyatt said of Stubblefield. “He’s probably our biggest leader, and that’s what you want from your quarterback.

 

“He throws a good deep ball, but we’re going to spread it out and try to get the ball to our guys in open spaces, where they can take advantage of their speed.”

 

Juniors Deray Edmonds (5-9, 200) and Jim Hank (5-10, 175) bring strength and toughness to the running back spot, with senior Kristian Prather (5-7, 155) and sophomore Rashad Brown (5-5, 150) more the scat back type.

 

The primary receivers will be junior Randy Burbage (5-9, 140), junior Denzel Powell (6-1, 165) and senior Harry Mayes (6-0, 155). The latter two will line up at tight end on occasion but can also play on the outside as well.

 

“Denzel and Harry can go over the middle,” Wyatt said, “and they can block, too.”

 

Three starters return on the offensive line, including junior Kirk Sanderson (6-3, 270) and seniors Kalmece Wilson (6-0, 225) and Sam McDowell (5-9, 230).

 

“It’s a pretty big offensive line for us,” Wyatt said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of size the last few years, and we have some coming up in the younger classes. We should be able to move some people around.”

 

Tilghman always puts a lot of speed on the field, and that is especially true on the defensive side of the ball. New defensive coordinator Brad Lawson comes over from Mayfield and brings the 3-5 alignment that the Cardinals utilized the last two years.

 

“It really fits our personnel and talent,” Wyatt said. “We’re going to be awfully fast.”

 

Linebackers Hank and McDowell are proven run-stoppers and Tilghman often prefers to go with smaller, quicker defensive tackles. This year’s crew includes senior Trae Rouse (5-11, 180) and Prather has seen time there, too. The Tornado can also go bigger with Wilson and senior Coleman Conner (6-0, 170).

 

The secondary is Tilghman’s area of least experience. Powell and junior Darian Stubblefield (6-1, 170) have seen some varsity time, but neither were starters.

 

Tilghman could also get some help from a couple of transfers. Junior Blaze Copeland (6-0, 165) was a quarterback and running back at Reidland, but figures to see some time at receiver and either linebacker or defensive back for the Tornado. Chauncey Wilson could work into some time at receiver and in the secondary.

 

The Tornado rolled through its district schedule last year and figures to do so again, but it will be tested early by a rough non-district slate that includes Class 2A state champion, perennial Class A power Mayfield and Class 6A toughie Christian County.

 

 

Pike County Central (4-7)

Head coach: Chris McNamee

2007: Lost to Sheldon Clark 41-6 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Chris McNamee’s Pike Central Hawks started the 2007 season off on the right foot. After a mild upset over a solid 4A Boyd County squad, the Hawks were sitting at 4-1 and had already locked up a playoff spot in 3A District 8.

 

Then the wheels fell off.

 

A brutal stretch featuring losses to four opponents all ranked at the time and a last second loss to Paintsville left the Hawks backing into the playoffs with a losing record.

 

The 2008 Hawks return a large dose of skill players from last season’s squad, most notably quarterback Aaron McGuire (5-11, 175, Sr.).

 

The normally ground-oriented Hawks used the elusive field general to pass for over 1,700 yards. The Hawks lost versatile athlete Quirvhon Merchant, but return a committee of halfbacks who all saw action in their spread offense lead by Cody Meade.

 

The key to the Hawks’ success lies directly with their ability to stop district foes Belfry and Sheldon Clark from scoring. Pike Central allowed an average of 46 points to the Pirates and Cardinals in three games.

 

Lineman Hadley Maynard (5-10, 240, Sr.) will be asked to lead the defense. With Sheldon Clark being hit hard by graduation, it is entirely possible for the Hawks to host their first ever home playoff game, but in order to do so they will have to improve vastly on defense and running the football.

 

 

Powell County (3-7)

Head coach: Mike Whitaker

2007: Missed the playoffs

The Pirates made progress in Mike Whitaker’s first season at the helm, improving from 1-9 to 3-7, and return eight starters on offense and seven on defense.

 

Powell could have moved up in the district standings with another season of improvement but reportedly gave up a chance to compete in the playoffs after deciding against playing Harlan County. There is still some question over whether Powell County will play the first-year Black Bears and compete in district play.

 

Sophomore tailback Jesse Rose will be counted on to provide big plays for the Powell offense after rushing for just under 1,000 yards last year.

 

Senior Billy Rice is back at quarterback, and seniors David Crowe and Jared Barron return as the receivers.

 

Senior center Dylan Sexton (6-3, 265) and junior tackle Quinton VanCleave (5-10, 250) lead the offensive line.

 

The defense will feature senior tackle Scotty Newsome (5-10, 250), along with Crowe and Barron at the cornerbacks and Rose at linebacker.

 

 

Russell (11-2)

Head coach: Ivan McGlone

2007: Lost to Breathitt County 20-17 in the region championship game

 

The 2008 Russell High School football squad is looking to reload again in anticipation for another long run into the playoffs.

 

Offensively, the entire receiving and running back corps of David Bailey and Drew Abrams is back. However, the unfortunate injury to fullback Adam Bates, who suffered an offseason motorcycle accident, has caused the coaching staff to look at other potential candidates.

 

Junior Travis Jones has seen action at the fullback position during this season's passing league. Also look for sophomore Travis Edwards to possibly get some time there as well.

 

Senior A.J. Cordle has stepped into the role of quarterback, replacing two-year starter Tyler Jones and has done a very good job so far this summer.

The big question mark offensively will be the offensive line where senior Drew Miller is the lone returning starter.

 

Senior Nick Blevins has been working as the center this summer, and junior Kameron Smith has been working out at one of the guard spots, which is so vital to McGlone’s Wing-T offense.

 

As for the other spots on the line, there have been several candidates working very hard this spring and summer with both running and lifting as they vie for one of those remaining spots on the line.

 

Senior Mike Dillon returns to man the tight end position for the Devils, giving Cordle a big target to find down the field in passing situations.

 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Red Devils’ entire linebacking and defensive backfield (Smith, Rice, Bailey, Abrams, Cordle, Rogers) returns more seasoned and ready to improve on last year’s pass coverage performance.

 

Look for players like Travis Jones and Travis Edwards to see time there also

 

Again, the question mark on the defensive side of the ball will be replacing the defensive line. Mikey Dillon is the lone returning starter. Gone across the line are Bender, Brown and Cornwell.

 

These positions are shaping up to be hotly contested among several candidates too numerous to mention for fear of leaving someone out.

 

The kicking game looks to be in good shape as well, with strong-legged and accurate senior Jason Dolley handling the kickoffs, PAT's and FG's and Bailey handling the punting.

 

The special teams will also have to look for someone to step up and become the new long snapper.

 

Although this Russell team has positions across both lines to replace, I believe that McGlone and his talented coaching staff will not have to look very far down the list of returning players to fill these positions left by last year's seniors who left with a four-year winning mark of 51-6, along with four district titles, three regional titles, two semi-state appearances, a runner-up finish, and one state championship.

 

 

Russellville (10-3)

Head coach: John Myers

2007: Lost to Central 48-28 in the region championship

 

After winning 10 games for the first time in 13 years, Russellville finds itself in a rebuilding mode in a district that is improved from top to bottom.

 

The Panthers must replace three players that accounted for over 3,500 yards of all-purpose offense last year.

 

Junior Zach Smith (5-10, 175, Sr.) could have the inside track at quarterback this fall, while Donovan Harris (5-8, 170, Sr.) and D.J. Quarles (5-9, 175, Soph.) may see time in the Panther backfield.

 

Andrew Clayton (5-10, 220, Sr.) and Alex Harden (5-11, 230, Jr.) return on the line.

 

Head coach John Myers has some decent numbers to work with, and the veteran coach should have no trouble rearranging the puzzle pieces to create a finished product.

 

 

Shawnee (3-8)

Head coach: Ravon Patterson

2007: Lost to Central 49-12 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Shawnee has been trying to build a foundation for the program but losing five football coaches in the past four years hasn’t helped matters.

 

So, enter Ravon Patterson.

 

A former Waggener High School player, Patterson takes over for Jason Gruner who was 2-6 after being names interim coach last season. He replaced LaVelle Boyd, who was fired after three games by the school’s administration.

 

Patterson has a huge rebuilding task.

 

Shawnee hasn’t had a winning record since finishing 6-4 in 1970 and the Golden Eagles have won just 13 games since the 2000 season.

 

The 28-year-old Patterson played at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham (Va.) his senior season and later played at Georgetown College. Shawnee is his first head coaching job after stints as an assistant at Male and Seneca.

 

 

Sheldon Clark (9-3)

Head coach: Shawn Hager

2007: Lost to Belfry 42-6 in the region championship game

 

Sheldon Clark has struggled to get over the proverbial hump in recent years, but Cardinal fans are excited about their chances in 2008.

 

14 starters are back from a squad that won nine games but lost to Belfry in the region title game.

 

It’s not often a team loses their leading rusher and starting quarterback and feels good about their chances.

 

Sophomore Austin Stepp (5-10, 175) appears to be the heir apparent to Damen Hensley in Shawn Hager’s option offense.

 

Ryan Kelly (6-0, 200, Sr.), Steven Marcum (5-9, 165, Sr.), Matt Slone (5-7, 150, Jr.), and Avery Ray (5-6, 150, Soph.) should get the bulk of the carries in the backfield.

 

There are several underclassmen that should step into starting roles on the offensive line and not miss a beat for the Cardinals, led by Brad Stafford (5-9, 195, Jr.), Chris Slone (6-2, 230, Soph.) and Kevin Sites (5-11, 290, Sr.).

 

On defense, the Cardinals return eight starters, including their entire secondary. Defensive backs returning are Slone, Marcum, Kelly, and Cody Slone (5-11, 150, Jr.).

 

Dustin Meade (5-8, 195, Sr.) returns at linebacker, and Stafford and Sites are back on the D-Line.

 

Hager is also excited about a talented freshman class coming in that could produce some contributors throughout the season.

 

 

Somerset (9-4)

Head coach: Jay Cobb

2007: Lost to Belfry 38-21 in the region championship game

 

Coach Jay Cobb is ready to reload his high-powered offense this year. With the loss of eight offensive starters, six defensive starters, the kicker and punter, there is a lot of reloading to do. However that makes way for a very talented bunch of young Jumpers who are ready for their shot.

 

The quarterback job looks to go to Scott Spears (6-3, 185, Sr.), who was the back-up last year.

 

Running back may be by committee this year, at least until someone steps up and takes the job. Look for Jordan Coleman (5-7, 165, Jr.), Derrick Jackson (5-10, 175, Soph.), Thomas Boyle (6-0, 190, Soph.), and Josh Troxtell (5-11, 180, Jr.) among others to take turns carrying the load.

 

At receiver, Hunter Nelson (6-0, 190, Jr.) returns with the most game experience, and look for sophomore J.P. Henderlight (6-0, 165) to move over and start on both sides of the ball this year at one receiver spot as well as one of the defensive back positions. Also look for Troxtell, Zach Bastin (6-0, 145, Soph.), and Jordy Jones to see some time at receiver.

 

The Somerset line will be anchored by Michael Phelps 6-1, 300, Sr.) at one tackle and guards Billy Roberts (6-2, 180, Jr.) and Andrew Salmons (5-11, 250, Jr.) who both started last year as sophomores.

 

Jake Williams (5-10, 155, Jr.) will in all likelihood start at center taking over for graduated Tyler Cobb.

 

For the first time in a few years, Somerset has a chance to have real depth on the line as they have several good young players on both sides of the ball fighting for playing time.

 

Cody Smith, Clayton Stringer, Travis VanHook, Taylor Davis, Tyler Brummett, Seth Lake, Justin Perdue and Joey Harris are all returning offensive linemen fighting it out for playing time.

 

The tight end will possibly be Rob Stevenson (6-0, 170, Soph.), Corey Jones (6-0, 165, Soph.), and Zach Bumgardner (5-8, 160, Sr.) fighting for playing time.

 

On the defensive side of the ball, look for the secondary to be one of the strengths as Henderlight, sophomore Eric Manning, and junior Odie Manning all return after starting or playing considerable time last year.

 

Returning defensive dynamo Jordan Coleman (5-7, 165, Jr.) returns and will fill in wherever needed from the nose all the way back to safety.

 

Corey Jones, Jake Anderson, along with the usual suspects mentioned as offensive linemen, will be fighting to nail down the jobs on the D-line.

 

Somerset also welcomes a good freshman class that had an outstanding year as eighth graders. Watch for Storm Wilson (WR/DB) and Trey Slaughter (FB/LB/DE) to get a chance to play quite a bit for the young Jumpers.

 

The Jumpers also say goodbye to two excellent coaches. J.J. Everage is now the head man at Paris, and Jeff Perkins has left to spend more time with his family. Both were quality men who were respected by everyone around the program and will be missed.

 

Somerset has made it to the regional finals each of the last three years (winning twice), and this group will not be aiming any lower with a ride to the carpet their ultimate goal.

 

Even though ultimate success may be a year away, this year’s team will be fun to watch as they will look to spread you out when they have the ball and play bend but do not break defense.

 

These Jumpers may be young, but don't count them out.

 

 

Spencer County (6-5)

Head coach: Matt Powenski

2007: Lost to North Oldham 42-21 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Back-to-back 6-5 seasons has Spencer County head coach Matt Powenski pleased with the recent success but not totally satisfied.

 

The Bear program has made some significant strides in on-field product and facilities in recent years and now Powenski is ready to elevate them to the next level with 15 starters back in 2008.

 

Four starting linemen return to a potent Spencer County lineup that averaged 27.5 points a game and failed to reach 20 points just twice in 11 games.

 

Replacing Chris Riggs and his 1,700 rushing yards will be tough, but the experienced line of Jeremiah Smith (6-2, 260, Jr.), Austin Cook (6-2, 270, Soph.), Jacob Snider (5-11, 190, Jr.), and David Cross (6-0, 190, Jr.) should make the task easier.

 

Chris Taylor (6-0, 195, Sr.), who rushed for 959 yards and 13 touchdowns, is back and should become the feature back in the Bear offense. He will be joined by fullback Eric Doty (6-1, 195, Sr.).

 

Quarterback Camron Smith (5-7, 150, Jr.) proved to be a dual threat last year, accounting for over 1,000 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns.

 

However, Spencer County must replace their starting receivers from last year. Taylor is the leading returning pass catcher with 11 catches for 140 yards and three scores.

 

The Bears are hoping the return of eight starters on defense will mean improvement to a unit that allowed 24 points a game and saw opponents top 25 points five times.

 

Rodney Chesser (5-11, 200, Jr.) and William Robertson (5-11, 235, Sr.) anchor the defensive line, while Doty, Mitchell Guzman (6-0, 210, Sr.), and Korey Hartman (6-2, 205, Sr.) are back at linebacker. Doty led the Bears with three fumble recoveries last year. Powenski is expecting Michael Wessels (5-8, 145, Soph.) to also contribute at linebacker.

 

Taylor and Bryant Fowler (6-1, 160, Sr.) each picked off three passes and return in the secondary along with Erico Smith (5-11, 185, Soph.).

 

Powenski has added former Adair County head coach Clark Teague as their new offensive coordinator in hopes of producing more offense in 2008.

 

 

Taylor County (5-6)

Head coach: Rodney Turpin

2007: Lost to Somerset 58-7 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Taylor County won two district games and made the postseason for the first time in three years. However, they still haven’t won a playoff game since 1999 thanks to a blowout loss to Somerset in the first round.

 

Ask head coach Rodney Turpin about his Cardinals and he’ll tell you he thinks his program is turning the corner.

 

Taylor County returns two players that accounted for over 3,500 yards last year.

 

Senior running back Chris Turner (5-10, 205) set school records for yards in a season (2,089), yards in a game (282), and touchdowns in a season (24).

 

Junior quarterback Lance Turpin (6-1, 210) threw for 1,465 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.

 

However, the big addition to the Cardinal offense is Leonard Macon (6-6, 230, Sr.), a transfer from Danville. Several summer rumors had Macon transferring again to Boyle County, but it appears that he will be suiting up for the Cards.

 

He’ll team up with Donald White (6-2, 175, Sr.) to give Taylor County offense the ability to stretch the defense.

 

“A stronger offensive line could lead to huge numbers this year. Once you take into account the presence of Macon and White at the wideout position, and you have a very diverse offense,” Turpin said.

 

Up front, Justin Hoosier (6-2, 270, Sr.), Lake Salsbury (5-10, 220, Soph.), and Andy Hunt (5-11, 220, Jr.) are three of the returning linemen Turpin is referring to.

 

While Taylor County could have one of the more explosive offenses in Class 3A, it will be their defense that will determine just how far they advance this season.

 

“Our defensive line last year killed us,” Turpin said. “We had fewer than three sacks recorded by our tackles which made it hard to stop the run.”

Hoosier and Salsbury will be asked to perform double duty on the line.

 

Dyllan Thompson (5-10, 170, Soph.) set a school record for sacks (15) as a sophomore and returns at outside linebacker. Hunt and Skyler Edelen (5-10, 180, Jr.) also return at linebacker.

 

Senior Zach Mings returns in the secondary after picking off five passes last year. Turpin says secondary will have to improve around him.

 

“We have made some strides in the right direction and will continue to do so,” he said. “I think we can honestly compete for a district title this season.”

 

Turpin is also excited about stadium upgrades that include new lights and a renewed effort in the weight room that should pay off this season.

 

 

Union County (4-8)

Head coach: Nick Eckert

2007: Lost to Paducah Tilghman 59-20 in the second round of the playoffs

 

Union County won a playoff game first the first time since 1989, and the Braves are looking for a similar encore in 2008 with a young, but experienced club for second-year head coach Nick Eckert.

 

The Braves return just about all of their skill players from last year’s offense that averaged 30 points a game in the second half of the season.

Devon Foster (5-9, 180, Soph.) continued Union County’s tradition of featuring a speedy back that has early success. He was near 1,000 yards rushing last year and led Union County in scoring.

 

Nathan Hedgepath (6-1, 210, Sr.) moved to the backfield and was the team’s second leading rusher last year.

 

Jarrell Mack (5-8, 175, Sr.) was the team’s leading receiver last year for quarterback Jordan Robison (6-2, 165, Jr.), who threw for over 1,600 yards last year.

 

Dax McBride (6-1, 205, Sr.), Levi Griggs (6-4, 230, Sr.), and Nathan Belt (6-1, 240, Soph.) return on the offensive line.

 

As is the case with any young team, Eckert will look for his 4-3 defense to get better in 2008 after giving up 40 or more points in five games last year.

 

Eckert is also expecting a large and talented sophomore class to make contributions on both sides of the football.

 

 

Wayne County (7-4)

Head coach: Shawn Thompson

2007: Lost to Garrard County 21-14 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Wayne County put together a solid regular season before they were upset by Garrard County in the first round of the playoffs.

 

D.J. Hall (5-10, 170, Jr.) rushed for 1,034 yards and 13 touchdowns last year as a sophomore.

 

The Cardinals will have to find a replacement at quarterback for the graduated Jordan Steele. Zach Stephenson (5-11, 160, Jr.) appears to have the lead in that battle.

 

Eric Rhule (5-7, 165, Jr.) and Dustin Denney (6-0, 160, Sr.) are two other offensive options for the Cardinals. Denney caught 14 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown last year.

 

Alan Dobbs (5-11, 230, Sr.) returns on the line.

 

 

Webster County (5-6)

Head coach: Andy Corbin

2007: Lost to Paducah Tilghman 42-16 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Webster County ended their Class 2A run with a record of 5-6 and began their Class 3A run with the same 5-6 record.

 

Head coach Andy Corbin has some skill people and a talented junior class returning, although they will have to replace their leading rusher and quarterback.

 

Adam McClure (6-0, 180, Jr.) took over the bulk of the carries last year for the injured DeAdrian Rollins in the backfield.

 

Matthew Vance (5-9, 180, Sr.) is the frontrunner for the quarterbacking slot.

 

Trevor Warren (5-8, 170, Sr.) and Kyle Meadows (6-1, 205, Sr.) are two other options Corbin can use either in the backfield or at receiver.

 

Patrick Barron (6-0, 220, Sr.) and Adam Kennada (6-0, 235, Jr.) are among the starters back on the line.

 

The new playoff format is a welcome sight to Webster and others in the same district as Paducah Tilghman, meaning those teams would get an additional round against the other district before a possible playoff meeting with the Tornado.

 

 

West Carter (4-7)

Head coach: Kevin Brown

2007: Lost to Mason County 57-6 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Losing nearly half of last year’s roster to graduation, the 2008 version of the West Carter Comets will be a little young, a little inexperienced, and very hungry.

 

Though many players will have to step into new roles, the Comets expect to competitive in district and conference (EKC) play.

 

One familiar face returning for veteran coach Kevin Brown is senior quarterback Ace Puckett, who will play an important role in the leadership of such a young team, and doubles at middle linebacker.

 

Other returning starters are Andrew Owens at wide receiver, James Minor at safety, and Jessie Webb-Greenhill at tackle.

 

Others expected to contribute heavily this year include Billy McGlone, Josh Cundiff, and Chris Burton.

 

 

Western Hills (1-10)

Head coach: Don Miller

2007: Lost to Henry County 20-7 in the first round of the playoffs

Western Hills expects to improve upon their 1-10 record from a year ago with the return of several important skill people from last year.

 

Quarterback Dylan Curry (6-6, 195, Jr.) threw for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Wolverines in 2007.

 

His returning targets include Darius Reed (5-10, 165, Sr.), who caught 41 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns, and Josh Preston (5-10, 175, Jr.). Tight end Josh Bell (6-0,1 70, Sr.) should factor into the Western Hills offense as well.

 

In the backfield, Preston and Justin Wright (6-0, 175, Jr.) were the primary ball carriers last year.

 

Brandon Hilborn (6-0, 220, Jr.) and William Riddle (6-2, 265, Jr.) will anchor a line that will prove to be the key to the Wolverines’ season if they can provide Curry with adequate protection in the pocket.

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