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2010 Kentucky High School Football Preview - Class 5A


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Anderson County (9-2)

Head coach: Mark Peach

2009: Lost to Doss 40-37 in the first round of the playoffs

 

By Josh Claywell

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

The Anderson County Bearcats have gone 34-21 in five years under coach Mark Peach. The only thing missing is a deep playoff run, something Peach thinks his team is capable of this season.

 

“We have been fortunate enough to have won 33 games the last four years,” Peach said. “That ties the greatest four-year stretch in school history. Our goal is to advance in the postseason. We feel like that is the next step for our program.”

 

Anderson County hasn’t been past the second round of the playoffs since at least 1998, the last year scores are listed on the KHSAA scoreboard online.

 

Competing with the likes of region foes Oldham County and John Hardin, last year’s 5-A state runner-up, hasn’t made things any easier.

 

“Our goal is to compete for a district and regional title,” Peach said. “Our district is getting very competitive. Oldham County may have the best team returning that they have had in a long time. Jeffersontown is getting better every year. John Hardin has been the class of our region, so it is a very challenging district and region.”

 

Makings things even tougher is the departure of four-year starting quarterback Jake Russell, who threw for 2,249 yards and 20 touchdowns last season.

 

Peach said Seth Carmichael, who had one TD pass last season, and Logan Woodside have been competing for the starting job.

 

“Seth Carmichael and Logan Woodside are two capable replacements who will battle for the starting job this summer,” Peach said.

 

Other offensive returners include center Todd Dewoody, tackles Jake Gribbins and Scotty Watts, guard Steve Sims and wide receivers Neal Wells and Matt Sprague.

 

The Bearcats return six players on defense: Dewoody and Sims at tackle, Gribbins and Watts at end, Wells at corner and Carmichael at safety.

 

With 12 starters back, Peach hopes Anderson County can build on last year, when the Bearcats went 9-2. Peach praised defensive coordinator Duane Hammons and special teams/defensive line coach Kevin Ray for helping turn the program around the last five years.

 

“There is no question that their contributions as well as staff continuity have helped in making Anderson County competitive again,” Peach said.

 

 

Ashland Blazer (9-2)

Head coach: Leon Hart

2009: Lost to Dixie Heights 41-14 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Head coach Leon Hart returns for his eighth year at the helm of the Tomcats for the 2010 season. He says offensively the Tomcats will again be a multiple spread-I formation football team with some three-back sets and a 4-4 team on defense.

 

Regarding strengths and weaknesses, Hart said, “Our overall team speed is as good as or better than last year and needs to be in order to make up for our lack of size. We have a lot of returning starters at offensive and defensive line, wide receiver, quarterback, tailback and secondary. We need to replace our outside and inside linebackers. Experience at the linebacker position is the biggest concern, not athletic ability.”

 

Hart expects returning starters to include Trent Hardy (6’3”, 230, Sr), C.J. Suttles (6’2”, 230, Sr), Slater Swift (5’10”, 175, So), and Kyle Wessel (6’0”, 215, Sr) on the line.

 

Sam Hunter (982 yards) should get the nod at quarterback, and Trey Rogers (682 yards), Ryan Whetsel, and Cody Withrow return in the backfield.

 

On defense, the Tomcats have six starters back. Trent Hardy, Shannon Justice, and David Krueger return on the line, and Whetsel, Matt McLeod, and Chris Prichard are back in the secondary. Prichard led the team with four picks last year.

 

Hart said Cody Watts, Corey Gregg, and R.J. Johnson could challenge for starting jobs on either side of the football for Ashland Blazer.

 

“We have made progress but need to take another step in order to be district champions,” Hart said. “Our numbers have steadily increased as has our overall speed. We have finished runner-up in the district the past two seasons after a bad year in 2007. We again think that we can contend for the district championship, but the defending 5-A state champions are still in our region.”

 

 

Barren County (3-8)

Head coach: Jason Esters

2009: Lost to Christian County 31-14 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Jason Esters, a former assistant coach at Warren Central who briefly held the Glasgow job prior to last season, takes over at Barren County.

 

Despite the loss of quarterback Colton Phelps, the Trojans have many of their skill people returning in 2010.

 

Tyler Hughes ran for nearly 200 yards and had 18 catches last year. Juniors Tyler Furlong and Shelby Bailey expect to have bigger roles in the Barren County offense.

 

Junior Luke Matthews and sophomore Andy Morrison are expected to battle for the starting quarterback job.

 

Hughes returns in the secondary after picking off four passes last year, while Furlong is back at linebacker.

 

 

Bowling Green (11-3)

Head coach: Kevin Wallace

2009: Lost to John Hardin 28-21 in the state semifinals

 

The 2009 football season at Bowling Green saw the Purples capture their seventh consecutive district title, win the region for the fourth time in five seasons, and win ten games for the seventh time in eight years.

 

BGHS made their eighth appearance in the state semifinal round, losing to John Hardin, 28-21, in their quest to appear in the state finals for the sixth time. For the fifth straight year, BGHS had a player sign with a Division I school as Tyreon Clark inked a scholarship with FCS level school, Austin Peay.

 

Alfred Gilbert, Jr. signed with Kentucky State, Josh Blaine signed with Evangel College, and Sam Howard will walk-on at Kentucky.

 

The 2010 football season will bring the same district and region schools before reclassification mixes things in 2011. The area 5A district (District 2) will include Warren Central, Grayson County, and Barren County.

 

Here is a position personnel sketch of the Purples leading into 2010:

 

Quarterback

Returning starter: Scooter Hollis/Chandler Sears

Players graduated: none

 

Hollis split time with Sears for most the season in 2009. Hollis took over as the starter for the final three games of the playoffs and responded by playing his best football of the season. Sears is still rehabbing a baseball injury that required surgery in May. If one of the QB’s wins the job in 2010, the other will likely see significant time at WR.

 

Running Back

Returning starters: Tevin Anderson

Players graduated: Lavance Anderson

 

Lavance Anderson leaves after a stellar career and three years as a starter at BGHS. His brother, Tevin, spent 2009 in the backfield with Lavance and is expected to return as a starter in 2010. Hunter Neveras, a transfer from Greenwood, has been impressive in summer workouts and will certainly be a part of the Purples success this season. Two juniors, Brandon Green and Montel Carpenter missed much of 2009 with injury issues but are expected to play significant roles this season. Freshman Danny Dewalt is highly touted and could see some time on special teams.

 

Wide Receiver

Returning starters: none

Players graduated: Sam Howard, Wes Cole, Zach Williams

 

Quality play at this position is going to be a key to the BGHS offense. In 2009, BGHS WR’s were talented and experienced. This season will bring new faces that will be forced to learn quickly to bring big play potential to the Purples. Devon Daniel is a corner that will spend some time at WR this season. Will Kilgore missed the ’09 season with a back injury and should compete for playing time with fellow junior Daniel Beasley. Sophomore Spencer Renfro and freshman Blue Tisdale could also see action in 2010.

 

Tight End

Returning starter: Will Porter / Tyler Gibbs

Players graduated: Josh Blaine

 

Porter and Gibbs have outstanding experience and should give the Purples quality play at this position. Josh Kublin is a newcomer to the BGHS program that could provide quality depth.

 

 

Offensive Line

Returning starters: Adam Hoffman, Joe Manley

Players graduated: Elliott Quick, Will West, Cameron Adams, Lance Goodrum

 

Spring practice saw significant changes made in the offensive line personnel. Defensive players Jake Hodges and Joseph Hoffman both responded well and will be the starters at tackle for the Purples. Joe Manley has established himself as one of Kentucky’s top recruits for 2012 and will start at guard along with Ryan Willoughby. Adam Hoffman returns at center, but was injured in an off-the-field accident in June and his return by August is questionable. Willie Teal, Josh Minton, Tyler Hollis, Stone Begley, and Mitchell Adamic will all battle for playing time.

 

Defensive Line

Returning starters: Jerrett Ingram, Franco Irvin, Jake Hodges, Caleb Brent

Players graduated: Matt Beeler, Terrance Barksdale

 

BGHS likes to play several players to keep fresh bodies along the defensive line. Four players with a great deal of experience return for BGHS. Ingram, Irvin, and Brent all played a great deal in 2009, while Hodges missed much of the season with a knee injury. Hodges will return and will see playing time on both sides of the ball. Depth in the defensive line will be provided by Randy Johnson, Mahlon Robinson, and Daqwan Irvin.

 

Inside Linebackers

Returning starter: KJ Cofer, Chase Proctor, Houston Natcher

Players graduated: Jay Beard

 

BGHS suffered the loss of Jay Beard to an injury early in the ’09 season and made the decision to play with three sophomore inside linebackers through the season. Cofer, Proctor, and Natcher all proved to be good players and should give the Purples a great defensive foundation in 2010. One of these players could be moved to outside linebacker before the season begins in an attempt to get the best players on the field. Junior Jordan Guillen and freshman Lincoln Quick could also see playing time here.

 

Outside Linebackers

Returning starter: none

Players graduated: Josh Blaine, Alfred Gilbert, Jr.

 

While both of the starters from 2009 will be playing college football, BGHS is left with big question marks here. Much like the WR position on offense, the quality of play at outside linebacker will be a key to the defense in 2010. Junior Armando Music is a talented player who should secure on the outside spots. The other position was likely to be manned by Stephon Randolph, but his family moved to Virginia in July and now the Purples will look to Luke Stahl or one of the inside linebackers to man this position.

 

Defensive Backs

Returning starter: Michael Bailey, Devon Daniel

Players graduated: Tyreon Clark, Sam Howard

 

Bailey and Daniel were full-time starters in 2009 while Jack Miller and Jackson Sowell both saw significant playing time in 2009. Those four should be the favorites to start in 2010 but Montel Carpenter has been impressive during spring and summer workouts and could emerge as a starter in the secondary. Junior Herbert Scruggs and sophomore Alan Gonsalves will provide quality depth at this position.

 

Specialists

 

BGHS soccer players Peter May and Sam Williams should be able to handle both the kicking and punting jobs.

 

Coaching Staff

 

Kevin Wallace enters his 17th season at BGHS (15th as the head coach). Wallace passed Dan Haley in career wins at Bowling Green High School early in the 2007 season. Wallace also has the highest winning percentage and the most playoff wins of any coach in Purple history. Wallace is 151-32 (.825) at BGHS and 196-93 (.678) in his 24 years as a head coach. If the Purples can win four games in the 2010 season, Wallace will become only the 25th football coach in Kentucky history to win 200 career games. If BGHS starts 4-0, Wallace will win his 200th game in September at Warren East, where he played and started his head coaching career in 1984.

 

 

Bullitt Central (8-3)

Head coach: Dan Leasor

2009: Lost to Jeffersontown 63-14 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Veteran coach Dan Leasor said this group of Cougars lacks experience but there are some talented new faces to replace 15 starters.

 

Quarterback Damion Wibbles returns for his fourth year under center and 6-2, 275-pound lineman Gus Thompson will also be starting on the line for a fourth consecutive season.

 

Offensive guard Cory Anderson also returns.

 

On defense, nose guard Jeremy Bennett is 6-foot-3, 295-pounds and has a shot to be the team’s best player. Cornerback Nathan Jackson also returns.

 

Leasor is also high on kicker Wade Curtsinger.

 

 

Christian County (8-5)

Head coach: Steve Lovelace

2009: Lost to Bowling Green 28-14 in the region championship game

 

Injuries kept Christian County from making it back to the state title game but could have enough weapons returning to make another strong run in a tough region.

 

The Colonels lost 1,000-yard rusher VaShun Banks but return Alex Davie, who saw time at both quarterback and in the backfield. The quick Davie combined for over 1,000 rushing and passing yards and 12 touchdowns.

 

Anthony Buckner could see more carries in the backfield as well.

 

The Colonels got a boost when Anthony Hickey, a Mr. Basketball candidate for the hoops team, decided to come back and play his senior season on the gridiron. Hickey can play either running back or receiver and is expected to help the Colonels on both sides of the football. Hickey scored five touchdowns out of the backfield his sophomore year.

 

Sophomore Ryan Knight and junior Chuck Hughes are expected to battle for the quarterback job.

 

Senior Marcoreyon Tandy is getting several college looks after catching 23 passes for 255 yards. The 6-4 Tandy became a big weapon for Colonels late last year.

 

Max Davis and Alan Martin return on an offensive line that head coach Steve Lovelace admits will be his preseason focal point.

 

Christian County lost all-state linebacker Malcolm McDuffen to the University of Kentucky.

 

The speed of Davie, Hickey, Tandy, and Antonio Hollowell on defense will make the Colonels tough to prepare for.

 

Christian County again has that explosive ability to erase deficits in a hurry. Coach Lovelace’s main priorities are to develop line play and keep his best players on the field for every game.

 

 

 

Clay County (4-6)

Head coach: Shannon Arnett

2009: Missed the playoffs

 

With a senior-dominated squad returning, including nine starters back on offense and seven on defense, the Tigers are expected to be the most improved team in District Eight.

 

Senior running backs Noah Reid, with 1,059 yards rushing last year, and C.J. Miller, with 588, are back, along with senior tight end Tanner Gilbert and senior quarterback John Wilson. John Vernon Hooker, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, is expected to move from quarterback to receiver.

 

Gilbert, a linebacker, and Wilson, a strong safety, are expected to lead the defense.

 

 

Covington Catholic (6-6)

Head coach: Dave Wirth

2009: Lost to Johnson Central 51-32 in the second round of the playoffs

 

Is this the year Covington Catholic returns to some of their past glory?

 

Some feel the Colonels are a year away but don’t be surprised to see them post their first winning record in four years this season.

 

Head coach Dave Wirth has 17 starters back, and the Colonels are excited about the prospects of again becoming a playoff factor in Class 5A.

 

The Colonels return most of the skill people on offense, including running backs Leo Schaefer (680 yards), Gabe Gray (525 yards), and Alex Slabaugh (350 yards).

 

Also back are receivers Alex Connelly (576 receiving yards), Michael Best, and Clint Massie.

 

Sophomore Blake Bir appears set to take over the quarterbacking duties for the Colonels, following the successful run of Brayden Erpenpeck.

 

While head coach Dave Wirth admits that Bir does not have the experience of past quarterbacks, he does not lack the tools.

 

Bir will benefit from the return of three starters on the offensive line. Bradley Way makes the move from guard to tackle, and guard Evan Kuderer and center Cary Thaxton also return.

 

However, the return of eight starters on defense is where the Colonels will benefit the most after giving up over 30 points a game last year, including 30 or more six times.

 

The anchor of the line is end Troy Timmerman, who has at least seven offers from D-1 schools. He’ll be joined on the line by tackle Mark Jones.

 

Wirth said senior Joe Sizemore could challenge for a starting job at the other defensive end spot.

 

Linebackers Christian Clark, Tanner Coyne-Chailand, and Grant Guess all return at linebacker in the Colonels’ multiple formation defense.

 

Sophomore D.J. Powell will also see time at linebacker.

 

Paul Ritter, Travis Connor, and Alex Cosby are back in the secondary along with senior Dan Gregory.

 

Wirth calls the linebacking corps and secondary the strength of his defense, which will have to see marked improvement this year if Covington Catholic is to return to the form of old.

 

 

Dixie Heights (5-7)

Head coach: Tom Spritzky

2009: Lost to Highlands 49-0 in the second round of the playoffs

 

A lot of the fuss surrounding Dixie Heights this year is about junior quarterback Zeke Pike, who saw more action last year as receiver than under center.

 

However, Pike, whose dad Mark played at Georgia Tech, has already gotten scholarship offers from several SEC schools as well as Kentucky and Louisville.

 

Pike will have several key receivers back from last year’s team, including senior Bobby Leonard who caught 48 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Seth Bruns and Alex Furman are also expected to crack the starting lineup.

 

The blocking for Pike and the other skill players could be a question with the loss of several starters up front.

 

Leonard and Billy Menkhaus both return in the secondary along with Tyler Cohorn, and Ryan Zumdick is back at linebacker.

 

Head coach Tom Spritzky is hoping a large junior class can help provide the depth his team needs to compete in the district and region.

 

 

Doss (5-7)

Head Coach: LaKunta Farmer

2009: Lost to John Hardin 37-7 in the second round of the playoffs

 

One year after winning a district title, the Dragons were disappointed with just five wins last fall.

 

Coach LaKunta Farmer has some key players back and has talked in the offseason about a renewed attitude.

 

Senior running back/defensive back Tyrone Mack returns, along with quarterback Deontae Yarnell, lineman Josh Stinnette and athlete Ralph Shrewsberry.

 

 

Grant County (3-7)

Head coach: Mike Davis

2009: Missed the playoffs

 

By Josh Claywell

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

Sophomore Nathan Davis returns at quarterback after leading Grant County to a 3-7 record in what coach Mike Davis said was a “growing” year for his young QB.

 

“Nathan Davis did a lot of growing up as a freshman QB on the varsity last year,” Davis said. “He will bring his experience and knowledge of the game to the fore front this year and try to lead the offense to a much more productive year than we had last year.”

 

Other offensive returners include wide receiver Shelby Caudill, linemen Josh Brewer, Ethan Magee, Josh Mason and Brian Mullins, and tight end Adam Keller.

 

Defensive returners are linemen Cody Miskell, Michael Eldridge and Magee, linebackers Adam Keller, Justin Loomis and Lucas Button, defensive backs Nick Cox and Caudill, and kicker/punter Preston Cahill.

 

“We have some experience at the running back spot and our linebackers should have the experience to do well in our defensive scheme,” Davis said. “Our weakness will still be our youth, although there are several returners coming back several are just sophomores and the majority will still need another year.

 

“Having a three-year starter as our kicker in Preston Cahill will be huge. He has the ability to win games and to help the defense with his long kickoffs,” he added. “Shelby Caudill was a two-way starter as a freshman and will be relied on to make some plays this year.”

 

Grayson County (9-2)

Head coach: Ed Smart

2009: Lost to Owensboro 49-21 in the first round of the playoffs

 

In some ways, 2009 was a breakthrough season for Grayson County, who won nine of their ten regular season games and upset district rival Warren Central.

 

However, things came to a crashing halt in the first round of the playoffs with a blowout loss to Owensboro.

 

The return of several starters on both sides of the football has the Cougar faithful that they can pull off their third straight winning season – a program first.

 

Senior quarterback Hunter Gary accounted for over 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns last year in Grayson County’s veer offense.

 

Gary also starts at strong safety for the Cougars and has picked off 14 passes the past two years.

 

Senior fullback Cody Bertram ran for 292 yards last year, and Dustin Peak added 300 yards and seven scores.

 

Coty Yeager and Mark Williams return on the line for Grayson County, who open their season August 20 at home with Hancock County.

 

 

Harlan County (8-4)

Head coach: Tom Larkey

2009: Lost to Letcher County Central 14-13 in the second round of the playoffs

 

After advancing to the second round of the playoffs in each of their first two seasons, the stronger and deeper Black Bears expect to take the next step in 2010 and challenge for a regional title.

 

Speedy senior receiver/halfback Dylon Smith could be one of eastern Kentucky’s most dynamic players if he’s recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him through most of the 2009 season.

 

Junior running backs Marcus McMillian and Cody Taylor ran for 917 and 864 yards, respectively, last year and both should top the 1,000-yard mark this year as they split time in the HCHS backfield.

 

Quarterback is the big question mark for the Harlan County offense, and junior Jordy Brewer is the early favorite to take over for T.J. Green.

 

The Bears’ offensive line will feature senior Alex Haywood and junior Michael Smith at the tackles, senior Jesse Hensley at center and senior Travis Fields at guard. Candidates for the other guard slot include junior Chase Calton, sophomore Coty Miracle and junior D.J. Brock.

 

Defense was a strength for Harlan County last year and the unit should be better in 2010 with senior end Jordan Calton, sophomore linebacker Tucker Lewis and senior linemen Brian Owens and Jeremiah Eldridge returning, along with Taylor and Austin Maggard at the corners and McMillian at safety.

 

 

Highlands (15-0)

Head coach: Dale Mueller

2009: Beat John Hardin 35-7 to win the Class 5A state championship

 

What to do for an encore?

 

Highlands rolled to a perfect 15-0 record, capped off with the school’s 19th state title, tying them with Trinity for the most in Kentucky history.

 

And while most teams would be considered to be rebuilding returning just eight starters, the Bluebirds appear to be reloading in their bid to become just the fourth team in Kentucky to win four straight state titles (Trinity, Boyle County, and Beechwood).

 

Five of the starters return on defense.

 

Ty Seidl and Austin Abner return in the secondary. Devin Bruns led the Bluebirds with four interceptions and will likely be moved to the line, while Seidl added three picks.

 

Brendan Sullivan and Billy Huddleston are back at linebacker and could be joined by Josh Quillen, Corey Compton, and Ben Lofland.

 

Junior Chad Bowden, and seniors Troy Cecil and Cam Robinson are the likely starters on the defensive line.

 

On offense, junior Patrick Towles stepped into the starter’s role and threw for 1,138 yards and 10 touchdowns. Towles, the grandson of baseball hall of famer Jim Bunning, added five scores on the ground.

 

He will have a different cast surrounding him this year with the loss of several key playmakers.

 

Gone are the athletic Will Bardo, reliable Nick Buten and Tyler Fennell, and All-State back Austin Collinsworth.

 

Jordan Streeter and Jake True figure to get the bulk of the carries in the backfield in 2010. Streeter ran for 559 yards and four scores, while True ran for 209 yards. Corey Compton will also team with them to form a solid backfield cast.

 

Daniel Gold is one of the returning receivers for the Bluebirds, and Robby Nienaber can play several positions on offense. Brian Gall also figures to nab a starting receiver spot.

 

Ryan Hahn is the lone starter back on the offensive line after Cherokee Meyer opted not to play this year. Nieanber will be moved to guard from tight end, and Keenan Wiegand, and Aaron Robinson are also expected to challenge for a starting job.

 

Austin Trapp and Robert Sanders could also see time on the O-line.

 

In addition to their expected lofty preseason ranking in 5A, the Bluebirds are expected to again get national recognition with another tough schedule that includes games with DuPont Manual and Eastern as well as northern Kentucky rivals Ryle (twice), Beechwood, Boone County, and Covington Catholic.

 

 

Hopkinsville (3-8)

Head coach: Dixie Jones

2009: Lost to Bowling Green 38-6 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Hopkinsville is hoping that 2009 was an aberration.

 

The Tigers won just three games and failed to score more than one touchdown in eight of their 11 games.

 

Hoptown has several starters back on offense to try and put more points on the scoreboard.

 

Senior Perry Allen ran for 438 yards and five touchdowns last year to lead the Tigers. Jeremy Coleman added another 420 yards.

 

Nate Stewart and Wes Gilkey are two more players that should factor in somewhere in the Tiger offense.

 

Josh Denton takes over at quarterback full-time after completing 18-of-32 passes last year.

 

Michael McKeague, Travis Thomas, and Blane Carter should see time on the line.

 

Hutton White and Tevarius Davis return in the secondary for the Tigers, who have one of the tougher schedules outside the Golden Triangle.

 

The Tigers play Kentucky state champions Fort Campbell (2A) and Paducah Tilghman (3A) as well as 5A top five and district rival Owensboro. Hoptown also plays perennial Tennessee Class 3A power Franklin, coached by former Tiger skipper Craig Clayton.

 

 

Iroquois (0-10)

Head coach: Anthony Waters

2009: Missed the playoffs

 

The Raiders didn’t win a game last season but the numbers were up a bit and there’s a shot to break into the winning column this fall.

 

The Raiders return several key skills players, including quarterback Markus King and wide receiver Cody Clements.

 

 

Jeffersontown (7-5)

Head coach: Gary Weiter

2009: Lost to Oldham County 24-21 in the second round of the playoffs

 

J’town has one of the state’s better junior prospects in Daniel Ross, who recently picked up an offer from the University of Kentucky.

 

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Ross will play linebacker, defensive end and some fullback for the Chargers.

 

Quarterback Joey Pierce threw for almost 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, while athlete DeMichael Jackson had over 1,000 all-purpose yards as a junior.

 

 

John Hardin (14-1)

Head coach: Mark Brown

2009: Lost to Highlands 35-7 in the Class 5A state championship game

By JOSH CLAYWELL

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

In nine years, Mark Brown has helped transform John Hardin from a newborn to a state finals appearance.

 

Brown and the Bulldogs have experienced just about every growing pain that comes with a young program, from going 3-7 in the team’s first year in 2001 to last year’s run to the state championship game.

 

John Hardin fell to perennial power Fort Thomas Highlands last season, and Brown hopes his team can use the loss as motivation to get back to Bowling Green this year.

 

“We were extremely happy with the 2009 season,” said Brown, who also won a state title at Nelson County in 1996. “Anytime you get to play in the state championship game you know it has been a wonderful season. The only disappointment is the fact that we lost the championship game.”

 

Helping John Hardin achieve that goal is a strong corps of returning players.

 

Top offensive returners are halfbacks Landon Savoy and Jeremy Harness, guards Jeff Richard, Matt Linton and Pat Crowe, and tackles Akeem Hatchell and Nick Williams.

 

The Bulldogs don’t return as much on defense, but do have Linton back at defensive end, Richard back at defensive tackle, Damien Biggs at linebacker and Anthony Wright returning at cornerback.

 

“Our goals are always the same: to play 15 games,” Brown said. “If we can do that we know we have had a great season. We know it will be extremely hard to match the past three seasons win record. We could have a good team and still not win 12 or 14 games.”

 

While the Bulldogs have a strong nucleus returning, they almost replace 23 seniors. Notable graduates are quarterback Alex Dingle, LB Sammy Smith, wide receiver Austin Oldham, tight end Matt Simmons and three defensive linemen in Stanley Johnson, William Burford and Justin Taylor.

 

“Losing 23 seniors makes us look at this season in a realistic manner,” Brown said. “We may not be a good as we were last year, but our goals won’t change.”

 

Dingle threw for 2,100 yards and 28 TDs last season and had 79 TDs as a three-year starter. Junior Eli Mitchell is expected to take over for Dingle.

 

Brown hopes having Savoy and Harness in the backfield should help make Mitchell’s transition to a starter a smooth one.

 

The addition of junior tailback Quensie Brown, who moved from Fort Knox, should also help.

 

“Landon will be a big part of our offense,” Brown said. “We are hoping by moving Jeremy to the HB position we can have a threat in each direction.

Jeremy was our leading receiver last year. Eli is bigger and stronger, and we hope he can have a good year at QB.”

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Johnson Central (8-5)

Head coach: Jim Matney

2009: Lost to Highlands 42-21 in the region championship game

 

Johnson County could very well prove to be the question mark in Class 5A this year.

 

There is no question the Golden Eagles will be a good team in 2010. But with the loss of just seven seniors from last year, how good they can be remains to be seen.

 

Senior J.K. Hall will predominately line up at quarterback but can move all around the field in different formations.

 

Junior J.J. Jude and senior Tanner Bratton give the Golden Eagles a tough backfield combination that can give opponents fits when it comes to stopping them.

 

Tight end Cody Parker is another weapon Johnson Central can utilize in different formations to show off his athletic prowess.

Bratton and Ousley are back at linebacker, and Jude, Hall, and Zach Salyers return in the secondary.

 

Parker is back on the defensive line.

 

The main question for head coach Jim Matney will be the line on both sides of the football. Several players were forced into the fire last year and gained valuable experience that should pay off this year.

 

The Johnson Central schedule features home games with defending state champion Boyle County in the opener as well as Breathitt County and Belfry. The Golden Eagles will also play road games at Bell County and Sheldon Clark as well as a bowl game with Knox Central.

 

Letcher County Central (10-3)

Head coach: Mike Whitaker

2009: Lost to Pulaski County 31-14 in the region championship game

 

With six starters back on offense and five on defense from last year’s regional runner-up team, the Letcher Central Cougars are the early favorite to win District 8 of 5A under first-year coach Mike Whitaker.

 

Junior quarterback Logan Johnson is back to lead the offense after passing for 1,707 yards and 18 touchdowns and running for 1,010 yards and 16 touchdowns last year.

 

The Letcher backfield also includes senior Jessie Rose and junior Drew Bentley.

 

The offensive front features senior guard Justin Garrett (5-11, 300) and senior tackles Dakota Cornett (6-5, 250) and Matt Langdeau (6-3, 300).

 

The defense is led by junior Koree Stewart (6-6, 235) at end and Cornett and Langdeau at the tackles.

 

 

Lincoln County (2-8)

Head coach: Mike Settles

2009: Missed the playoffs

 

By Josh Claywell

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

Lincoln County struggled to a 2-8 finish last season, but returns its top running back and quarterback.

 

RB Matt Carrier, who rushed for 520 yards and seven touchdowns, returns to lead the Patriots out of their Pro I formation. QB Austin Hinds threw for 330 yards and four scores, but was picked off 15 times. Coach Mike Settles expects Hinds, a senior, to show improvement over last season.

 

“We will have some consistency in our offense for the first time, which is so important,” Settles said.

 

Fullback Brandon Graham, who rushed for 137 yards last season, also returns along with tackles Jerico Ware and Jonathan Wilson, center Trevor Stickler, guard Jacob Cooper and wide receiver Ryne Otto.

 

Four players return on defense: Ware at end, Carrier and Brandon Graham at linebacker and Otto at defensive back.

 

Sophomore Carl Lewis returns at kicker, while Otto also handles the punting duties.

 

“We feel that our strength up front on both lines will be our strength,” Settles said. “We have to play more consistently then we have in the past for this to be our strength. We have thought that this group in the recent past was our strength as well, but unfortunately injuries have caused this group to give us problems.”

 

Settles feels a few newcomers could have an impact: lineman Zach Brown, RB/DB Deon Shannon, WR/DB Casey Smith, DT Daniel Swinney, tight end Tyler Brock and RB/LB Zach Byrd.

 

The Patriots are rebuilding after winning just three games the past two seasons, but Settles feels his team is on target to reach its goals in the next few seasons.

 

“We are in the third year of a major restructuring plan,” he said. “There has been so much work done to coordinate our youth football programs, middle school programs and high school programs. A lot of things are starting to be put into place. We have got support from our administration and community and look for things to improve steadily. Our football staff understands commitment and knows what it takes to win.

“Winning three games the last two seasons makes us unsure of how many games we will win in 2010, but we know that our fans will see an improved team,” Settles added.

 

 

Madisonville-North Hopkins (5-6)

Head coach: Will Weaver

2009: Lost to Warren Central 39-14 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Junior Tray Carr became the playmaker for a Madisonville team that dropped from 6A to 5A last year.

 

Carr led the Maroons in rushing yards with over 500 and threw for over 1,100 yards despite battling injuries in the second half of the season.

 

He will have help in the backfield in seniors Rashad Combs and Denzel Johnson, who combined to rush for over 750 yards and four touchdowns.

 

Daniel Goodman and Cameron Tandy also figure to factor into the Maroon offense for head coach Will Weaver.

 

On defense, Jeremy Clark, Combs, and Johnson return in the secondary.

 

Travin Hardy is starting to become a force on the defensive line. He should be joined by Marckus McLain and Caleb Joseph.

 

 

Mercer County (1-10)

Head coach: Bill Mason

2009: Lost to Letcher County Central 53-9 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Mercer County still figures to be at least a year away from being a contender in the region under second-year head coach Bill Mason.

 

Junior Alex Gauy returns at quarterback, and he’ll have to mostly rely on a large but talented junior class.

 

The Titans figure to be slightly better than 2009, but they are still a year or two away from returning to region glory.

 

 

Montgomery County (3-8)

Head coach: Dan Gooch

2009: Lost to Highlands 60-13 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Senior Seth Dotson is back at quarterback for the Indians after a junior campaign that saw him rush for over 450 yards and throw for over 1,000 yards.

 

Doston will have to find some help in the backfield but does have Lance Lockridge and Justin Covey back at receiver.

 

Sophomore linebacker Blake Preston burst onto the scene and was among the team leaders in tackles for the Indians. Senior Tyler Cox also returns on the defensive line.

 

Montgomery County will be showing off their new field turf surface this year.

 

 

North Laurel (5-5)

Head coach: Chris Larkey

2009: Missed the playoffs

 

With only two starters back on defense and five on offense, the Jaguars could have a hard time moving up the ladder in District 8 of 5A.

 

The Jaguars were one of the most improved teams in eastern Kentucky last year under first-year coach Chris Larkey after winning only two games in 2008. North Laurel narrowly missed a trip to the playoffs due to a pair of heartbreaking six-point losses to Perry Central and Harlan County.

 

Junior tackle Brandon Ball (6-4, 305) is a Division I talent on an offensive line that also includes senior tackle Jaylin Baker and senior center Cameron Costello.

 

Senior quarterback Johnny Fugate and senior wide receiver Ronnie Rotundi are back to lead the offense. Fugate completed 48 of 81 passes a year ago for 811 yards and nine touchdowns. Rotundi had 20 catches for 288 yards and four touchdowns.

 

 

Ohio County (0-10)

Head coach: Todd Houston

2009: Missed the playoffs

 

By Josh Claywell

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

Ohio County has lost 20 straight games dating to the 2008 season opener, but coach Todd Houston is excited about what the Eagles have coming back this season.

 

Key returnees include junior running back Cody Murphy, who rushed for 1,048 yards and eight touchdowns, and senior wide receiver Zac Noffsinger, who caught nine passes for 166 yards.

 

Also back on offense are senior quarterback Derrick Griffin, junior RB Seth Green, senior tackle Thad Robinson, junior tackle Chevy Minton and junior guards Justin Autry and Sanders Burden.

 

Ohio County returns nine starters on defense: Noffsinger and Green at cornerback, Murphy at free safety, Robinson, senior Joel Skipworth, junior Jacob Roberts and sophomores Caleb Albin and Jon Kinison at linebacker, Burden at nose tackle and Autry at defensive tackle.

 

“We were very young last year starting five sophomores on the offensive side of the ball and four sophomores and one freshman rotating with another on the defensive side,” Houston said. “We expect since playing such youth last season to allow us to have plenty of game experience. Last year we only had three players with varsity experience playing on the offensive side of the ball and two with varsity experience playing on the defensive side of the ball.

 

“We must improve our passing game to become more balanced,” he added. “Defensively we will be stronger and faster as well as more mature we have to cut down on mistakes and play better assignment football.”

 

 

Oldham County (8-5)

Head coach: Matt Brown

2009: Lost to John Hardin 36-14 in the region championship game

 

By: Mike Montgomery

Pegasus Sports Network

 

It’s been a great two years for Oldham County coach Matt Brown, who took over as the head coach at his alma mater in 2008. In two seasons, the Colonels have prospered under Brown, going 9-3 and 8-5 for an overall record of 17-8 (.680) and winning two district championships while going 9-0 against district competition. Last season, the Colonels made it all the way to the regional finals, only to see John Hardin pull away late for a 36-14 victory.

 

For Oldham County, the regional final has been a stumbling block; the Colonels have played – and lost – in the regional final game five times in the past twelve seasons. Brown thinks that this year’s squad may have the ability to finally break through, but the Colonels will have to plug some holes in order to make it happen.

 

The biggest hole is at quarterback, where the Colonels have enjoyed veteran leadership the past few seasons. This year, three different players head into July with the chance to start: Senior Austin Johnson, Junior Stephen Farrow, and sophomore Brett Strand. All three bring decidedly different attributes; Johnson, the senior, knows the system the best. He’s experienced, but needs to show more consistency to claim the spot. Farrow has the natural leadership skills and “…just gets it done…” according to Brown. Strnad may be the most athletically gifted of the three, with size and a cannon for an arm. As a sophomore, however, he has the most to learn about the offense.

 

Whoever gets the nod will get his first start against 6A Conner in the Oldham County Kickoff Classic on August 21st, but will have the pleasure of operating behind a deep, strong, and veteran offensive line that features both size and quickness. Senior guard Dean Showalter (6-3”, 240), and senior tackles Zach Littlefield (6’2”, 255) and Esmeit Garcia (5’11”, 210) return to anchor the line after helping the Colonels rush for 207 yards per game in 2009.

 

Joining them will be senior Brett Wisecarver (6’1”, 240 pounds) at center, a part-time starter last year. Rounding out what may be Oldham County’s deepest and most talented offensive line unit since Brown came onboard is Isaac Bowling, a 6’2” 220 pound senior offensive guard who moved to Oldham County from Ohio in the off-season, and will likely start.

 

Brown likes to have 8-9 offensive linemen on hand to keep everyone fresh, and it appears that he will have plenty of reserves in 2010 that can produce on the line, including 6’0”, 210 pound junior Brennan Dale and 6’0” 200 pound junior guard Mitchell Clary.

 

The Colonels will likely employ a tight end more this season in their offense, and they have two talented “bookend” tight ends they can use in seniors Jared Combs and Dylan Sims. Both players are about 6’2” and 210 pounds; are quick off the line, block well, and have soft hands. The tight ends may have to pick up some of the receiving load, especially early, as the wideouts are green.

 

All of last season’s starting wide receivers are gone via graduation, two of whom – Brandon Cook (Cumberlands) and Chase Hamby (Elmhurst College) are now plying their trade at the collegiate level. In their place is a lot of speed, and players who saw action last season, but none of whom caught a pass.

 

Casey Sheehan (6’0”, 165 pound senior), Eric Mudd (6’0”, 165 pound junior), and Cody Oldham (5’10” 155 pound junior) are the three fastest players on the team, all running about a 4.6 forty, and are the most likely starters. Sheehan is just a “freak athlete”, according to Brown. Brown has moved Will Funk, a 6’0” 170 pound junior, from tight end to wideout, and he and sophomore Jacob Taylor (5’11”, 155) will provide depth at the position. Despite the lack of experience, Brown says he’s impressed by how motivated this unit is.

 

As has been the case since Brown took over, expect the Colonels to be primarily a running team; last year’s squad ran the ball 78% of the time.

 

Jared Combs, who was injured in 2009’s opener versus Conner and missed the rest of the year, returns to punt for the Colonels. Combs is a solid punter who averages nearly 4.2 seconds of hang time and 40+ yards on his punts. Jake Weigel returns for his senior year as the Colonels’ placekicker. Weigel is in his third year kicking for the Colonels, and is a solid field goal threat from 35 yards in, and can hit 40+ yarders.

 

The Colonels gave up just 16.8 points per game in 2009, which ranked them in the top 10 in scoring defense, but they think they can improve on that mark in 2010 with several veterans returning. Oldham County will remain in its base 3-3 look, with some shifting into a 4-3 set. Expect the team to use multiple defensive sets, though, depending upon the opponent’s offense.

 

In the base look, expect Esmeit Garcia to man the nose tackle position. On the line, the good news is that the Colonels have some talented, experienced players. The bad news is that Dean Showalter, Garcia, Zach Littlefield, and Brett Wisecarver – all seniors - are also expected to play on the offensive line. Look for Brown to try to move more of his younger players into more time on the defensive line as the season progresses to give his starters some rest.

 

As good as the defensive line is, the linebacker corps may be the strength of this year’s defense. 6’2”, 220 pound senior Jared Combs was having an incredible game against Conner in last season’s opener when he was knocked out for the season; he returns at one of the inside linebacker spots. A fast, mobile linebacker with good instincts, Combs is difficult to block on running plays, and is a solid pass defender.

 

Joining him on the inside is Dylan Simms, a 6’2” 220 pound senior who is one of the hardest hitters on the Oldham squad. Adding to the mix is senior Isaac Bowling, the transfer from Ohio, who checks in at 6’2”, 220. Bowling is the “real deal” according to Brown and the Oldham County defensive coaches expect him to contribute immediately.

 

6’0”, 190 pound senior Tyler Oldham, one of the most versatile players on the team, 6’0” 180 pound senior Brett Leary, and 5’8”, 155 pound junior Corbin Axtell will likely man the outside linebacker spots.

 

The front seven will frequently feature all seniors – or six seniors and one veteran junior – and could be the best front seven in the district this year. Barring injuries, the starters will all be fast, hard-hitting, experienced veterans who will be playing their third season in Matt Brown’s defensive scheme.

 

The defense is looking for growth in its secondary, after nearly the entire starting secondary from 2009 graduated. Brown thinks that this may be one of the smartest secondaries he’s coached, but he doesn’t look for as many spectacular plays as he got from last year’s group, which included players such as Antonio Brown-Campbell, who returned two interceptions for scores. Brown-Campbell, Chase Hamby, Brandon Cook, and Kylie Obradovich – all starters – have all graduated and some new faces will take their turn.

 

Cody Oldham, 5’10” 155 pound junior Garrett Wilder, and 5’10”, 170 pound junior Kane Reyes will likely battle for the two starting cornerback spots. Casey Sheehan, one of the few players who played significant minutes in the backfield in 2009, moves from corner to safety. Sheehan is the team’s best cover man and one of its hardest hitters. He’ll likely be joined at safety by Dearil Taylor, a 5’11”, 155 pound senior who was a backup safety in 2009.

 

If either Austin Johnson or Brett Strnad fails to earn the starting quarterback role, look for them to see time in the defensive backfield.

 

The schedule, as usual, is challenging. Due to a quirk in scheduling, the Colonels will be on the road in 7 of 10 games this year, including trips to three 6A opponents Eastern, Scott County, and Shelby County. Oldham opens the season against 6A Conner, and the Colonels also go on the road against 4A power Fairdale. Fairdale is the only team on the schedule from a class smaller than the Colonels. Oldham County has used the aggressive scheduling to their benefit and in each of the past two years the team has shown dramatic improvement at mid-season.

 

After winning the district two years straight as an underdog to Anderson County, the Colonels find themselves entering the 2010 season as a slight favorite in a district where many of the top programs suffered large graduation losses from last year. If the veteran offensive line can help the new quarterback by buying him time, and if the defense takes another step up, a third straight district title is very possible.

 

 

Owensboro (9-2)

Head coach: Joe Prince

2009: Lost to Bowling Green 25-21 in the second round of the playoffs

 

Owensboro has put themselves in position to be a region contender year in and year out after a brief hiccup in the early part of the decade.

 

The Red Devils have won 41 of their last 49 games and look to have another strong season in 2010.

 

Head coach Joe Prince runs the offense through his son Kal, a three-year starter at quarterback who ran for 730 yards and 10 touchdowns and threw for 1,095 yards and 10 more scores.

 

While the Red Devils lost their top rusher Aquado Johnson to graduation, they expect junior Kendall Tinsley to step into a starting role in the backfield.

 

Ryan Bowling and Zac Brown are slated to return at receiver for the Red Devils. The duo combined to catch 31 passes, two for scores.

 

Brown and Michael Dudgeon play linebacker in the Owensboro 5-2 defense that also has senior Dakota Blanton and Jacob Goodwin at end and senior Tony Davis at nose guard.

 

The key again for the Red Devils will be the line play in front of Prince and Tinsley and how well the defense can stop the run.

 

 

Perry County Central (7-4)

Head coach: Justin Haddix

2009: Lost to Pulaski County 35-21 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Even with star quarterback Jordan Amis graduating, the Commodores have enough young talent on hand to remain dangerous, led by sophomore receiver Darryl Beatty, junior tailback Bryan Rankin and junior receiver Jay White. Rankin rushed for 863 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, while Beatty had 38 catches for 673 yards and 10 touchdowns and White added 22 receptions for 577 yards and nine touchdowns.

 

Seniors Axl Sizemore (6-4, 235) and Dillon Cornett (6-7, 330) give Perry Central an impressive tandem of tackles, and junior Matthew Robinson is one of eastern Kentucky’s best linebackers with 80 solo tackles to his credit last season.

 

 

Pulaski County (10-4)

Head coach: John Hines

2009: Lost to Highlands 52-12 in the state semifinals

 

By Josh Claywell

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

All-State quarterback Zach Eastham, the Class 5-A State Player of the Year, returns to lead a Pulaski County team looking to continue building on the success it had last season.

 

With Eastham and top running back Alex Abner leading the way, Pulaski County advanced to the state semifinals where it met up with eventual champion Fort Thomas Highlands. The Bluebirds handed the Maroons their most lopsided loss season en route to the title.

 

“We are continuing a long, long climb toward the state title,” coach John Hines said. “We have come from the worst team in the state in 1994, to the top four last season, losing to the state champions. We have made a lot of progress here in the last decade, but we want to go to the top.”

 

The Maroons have the pieces in place to make another run at a state title.

 

Eastham threw for 2,194 yards and 24 touchdowns, while Abner racked up 1,023 yards and 17 TDs. Pulaski County also returns its second-leading receiver in Steven McQueen, who caught 26 passes for 452 yards and four TDs.

 

Other returners include linebacker Mason Flynn, defensive end Dillon Beshears, RB Sean Haste, offensive tackles Tanner Burnett and Tyler Abney, nose tackle Justin Cornett, free safety Brannen Wheeldon and kicker Drew Patton.

 

“We have a shot to win the district title again,” Hines said. “I think we can compete for the region crown as well. We must have a lot of luck though. It is a tough region.”

 

 

Scott (2-9)

Head coach: Dave Campbell

2009: Lost to Johnson Central 62-41 in the first round of the playoffs

 

A large senior class in 2009 didn’t pay the dividends head coach Dave Campbell was expecting from his Scott squad.

 

The first chore will be to replace quarterback Zach Sowder, who accounted for over 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns last year.

 

Junior Ryan Sowder could fill the void of the elder Sowder, having seen time at both running back and quarterback last year.

 

Scott was hit hard by graduation on the line, making that another priority for Campbell in the preseason.

 

 

South Laurel (4-7)

Head coach: Larry Welch

2009: Lost to Whitley County 54-14 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Senior Tyler Vaughn makes the switch to quarterback after rushing for 1,419 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Look for South Laurel to feature Vaughn with more option looks in 2010.

 

Chase McWhorter should also see more carries for the Cardinals after Nick Miller moved in the offseason.

 

Josh Brown is the leading returning receiver back for South Laurel.

 

 

South Oldham (3-8)

Head coach: Jamie Reed

2009: Lost to John Hardin 42-8 in the first round of the playoffs

 

 

By: Mike Montgomery

Pegasus Sports Network

 

There’s a lot of “new” in Crestwood these days, and Dragon fans are hoping that a new chapter in the South Oldham Dragons’ fortunes is about to be written. After experiencing 10 pretty successful years from 1990-99, when the Dragons forged seven winning seasons and five seasons with seven or more wins – including a 10-4 mark in 1992, when they lost to Billy Jack Haskins and Paducah Tilghman in the state semi-finals – South saw it’s football fortunes go south from 2000-2009.

 

During the last ten years, the Dragons went just 41-64 (39%), with only three winning seasons and zero playoff victories. During that time, the team never exceeded six wins, and it went through four coaches.

 

Enter Jamie Reed, in his 11th year coaching and his first as a head coach, after serving as an assistant coach at Tusculum College (NCAA division 2 school in Tennessee), Morehouse College (NCAA Division 2 school in Atlanta, GA), and various high schools in Georgia. Reed is a self-described “offensive-minded guy”, and he brings a wealth of experience running a myriad of offenses to the school, from the run & shoot to Franklin system to the flexbone to old-fashioned “Joe Gibbs” power football. He’ll try to rebuild an offense that managed just 11.9 points per game in 2009, and scored eight points or less six times.

 

Reed says he’s “excited” by the group of kids he has. Although concerned a bit by the numbers coming out early – the Dragons had just 48-50 kids at June workouts – Reed has reason to be excited. Seven or eight starters return on both sides of the ball, and the Dragons are maturing after starting a lot of freshmen and sophomores on varsity the past two seasons.

 

The schedule features seven home games, and an eighth game is at district rival Oldham County – just five miles down highway 146. The schedule isn’t easy, but it’s definitely manageable. And with the district expected to be a little bit down this year, Reed may have come to the school at precisely the right point in time.

 

Whatever offensive system Reed chooses to employ with the Dragons may well depend upon his choice of starting quarterback. 2009 starter Christian Wallace struggled last year, but he took his experience with him when he transferred to Louisville Ballard. He’ll likely be replaced by either sophomore Jack Sherry or junior Cody Kollenberg. Sherry appeared in three games last year as Wallace’s backup, completing 3 of 11 passes for 49 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Sherry’s a tall, pocket passer with a powerful arm; Kollenberg’s a shifty runner who primarily played wide receiver last season, catching 15 passes for 262 yards. Both bring different skill sets to the position, and although Reed hasn’t ruled out playing both some throughout the season, one or the other is likely to get 90% of the snaps this season.

 

Senior tackles Adam Brown (6’4” 240) and Brandon Bramer (6-1” 255), along with senior center Trafton Holder (5’10” 240) return to anchor what should be a solid offensive line, which may be the strength of the team. Brown, Bramer, and Holder all have size, strength, and considerable experience from the past couple of seasons.

 

Seniors Jon Derringer (5’10” 210), Jeremy Muse (6’0” 185), and Landon Reynolds (6’0”) 185 all saw action at guard the last couple of years, so the entire offensive front five is a well-seasoned group. This should give the Dragon running back corps some holes to run through, and Reed has three versatile runners that give him speed and toughness.

 

Last season’s top three backs all return for South, including leading rusher Michael Gray, a junior, who rushed for 488 yards on 109 carries with two scores in 2009. Gray is the fastest player on the South squad, and is a threat to go the distance on any play.

 

Senior Jake Nichter rushed for 417 yards and a team-high five rushing scores in 2009, and – although he’s just 5’7” 160 pounds – Nichter may well be one of the toughest players on the team. Reed was especially impressed with Nichter’s off-season work. Nichter is a versatile back; he caught 15 passes last season, tied for second-best on the team.

 

Steward Williams, a 6’0” 175 pound junior, is a north-south runner who rushed for 371 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry last season. A raw talent last season, he may be poised for a breakout season as his knowledge of the offense catches up with his athletic ability.

 

If the running game can carry the offensive load early, it will buy time for the quarterbacks and receivers to catch up as they gain experience. Like the quarterback spot, the role of wide receiver is wide open, with several possible candidates vying for the starting spots vacated by R.J. Graziul, last year’s leading receiver, and Cody Kollenberg, who is moving to quarterback.

 

Junior Justin Merrill appears to be the front-running for one starting spot; Merrill caught just three passes last year, but averaged 18 yards per catch. At just 5’8”, 130 pounds, Merrill is a small target, but runs quick, precise routes and is extremely elusive. Juniors Michael Thompson (5’7”, 135) and Dillon Banks (6’2” 205) look to contend for time at wideout along with several others.

 

Reed noted that many of his skill players are a bit behind the off-season training curve as several play baseball or run track.

 

The Dragons new head coach emphasizes that his team will run a “system” offense, with the goal of being able to run the same offense regardless of the type of defense the opponent presents, a philosophy that emphasizes discipline and precision execution. Expect South to run fewer plays – but to gain on the field because of the resulting ability to run each play more times in practice.

 

Efficiency on offense must get better if South is to improve on last year’s three-win season; in 2009, the offense couldn’t sustain drives, which often put the defense in poor field position and left them on the field too long.

 

Reed himself will serve as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, and he’s brought in former Meade County / Indiana University quarterback Blake Powers to coach the wide receivers. Jay Torsch will coach the running backs. Carey Figg, who played at the University of Louisville under Howard Schnellenberger in the late 80s and early 90s, will also be a part of the new coaching staff.

 

Special teams are an area full of question marks with newcomers at placekicker and punter. Jack Sherry punted and kicked on the freshman squad last year, and handled occasional kicking chores for the varsity. He comes into the 2010 season as perhaps the early favorite to take over those roles full-time this year.

 

Defensively, South again will present a veteran squad. Reed’s approach is an attack defense that looks to stop the run first and foremost. Look for the Dragons to use multiple base defenses as Reed – knowing team speed will not be the Dragons’ claim to fame – emphasizes a “blue collar” approach to defense.

 

Broderick Wright will be the Dragons’ defensive coordinator, and Reed insists that Wright will have free rein to make the defensive calls, capitalizing on his 26 years of experience. David Watkins returns from last year’s coaching staff to coach the defensive linemen.

 

Bramer, Brown, and Holder all may be asked to go both ways on the line, and all three are solid defensive linemen. Jon Derringer was the Dragons’ leading tackler last year (41 tackles) and may return on the defensive line. Jeremy Muse (39 tackles in 2009), senior Jerrod Good (5’11”, 205, 40 tackles), and Banks (35 tackles) provide experienced talent at the linebacker spot.

 

The defensive backfield will likely see just one returning starter, 5’7” 150 pound senior Cam Ball (40 tackles), but Reed likes the depth and talent in the defensive backfield. Nichter, Ray Grijalba (5’11”, 175 pound senior), Merrill, and Marc Stephens (6’1”, 180 pound junior) all look to see considerable playing time.

 

Overall, the Dragons return their top five tacklers from 2009.

 

With so many juniors and seniors returning with two and three years worth of varsity experience, the new coach has every reason to be optimistic. But Reed understands the reality: South has won just six games in the past three seasons. Did all those juniors and seniors gain valuable experience and grow over the past two years – or just get beaten down? The team certainly has to learn how to “win” again. But the stars just may be aligning the right way at the right time for South. To be sure, there remain an awful lot of “ifs” for this team to be a success this year. But if the team can figure out Reed’s system in time for the district opener at home versus Jeffersontown on 9/24/2010, the team could be on its way to something they’ve never experienced in the history of the school: the opportunity to host a playoff game (earned by finishing first or second in the district).

 

 

 

Southwestern (7-4)

Head coach: Dale Anderson

2009: Lost to Harlan County 20-7 in the first round of the playoffs

 

By Josh Claywell

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

Their top three running backs from last season are gone, but the Southwestern Warriors still have aspirations of reaching the Class 5-A state championship game at Western Kentucky University.

 

With nine starters back on defense and eight on offense, Southwestern looks to take steps in that direction this year under longtime coach Dale Anderson.

 

“We are still working to get to the state finals,” Anderson said. “We are still mostly a junior football team. We will need some young players to step up and we need to build depth at every position.”

 

On offense, the Warriors return quarterback Zack Turpin, wide receiver Cody Mote, fullback Zack Fowler, tight end Alan Williams, center Christian Childers, tackles Rob Lewis and Willie Dungan and guard Dalton Wilson.

 

Turpin threw for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns last season for the Warriors, who run the spread option.

 

Defensively, Fowler is back at defensive end, Lewis and Dungan return at tackle, Wilson and Macauley Kirk are back at inside linebacker, Mote and Williams are at outside LB, Dustin Powell returns at corner and Logan Starnes is back at strong safety.

 

Southwestern will switch from a Split-4 defensive formation to a Split-6. The Split-6 defense uses an eight-man front against the run, a strong outside option game, good stunt blitz defense and a three-deep secondary to prevent the deep ball.

 

Waggener (2-9)

Head coach: Robert Ross

2009: Lost to Oldham County 34-9 in the first round of the playoffs

 

Second-year coach Robert Ross doesn’t have a ton of numbers but does have six starters back on defense and four on offense in what could be a better season.

 

Senior quarterback Shazzon Mumphrey started four games a year ago and will be the starter this season. He’s 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and is a solid athlete.

 

Lineman Davonte Mitchell, fullback Gemayal Murphy and wide receiver Delgwan Jackson are other top returnees. Murphy is a beast in the weight room, where he can squat 585 pounds and runs a 4.6 forty.

 

On defense, Jackson and Antonio Jackson are top defensive backs, along with Mitchell a top lineman and Murphy and Ray Arocho returning linebackers.

 

 

Warren Central (8-4)

Head coach: Mike Rogers

2009: Lost to Christian County 13-7 in the second round of the playoffs

 

Warren Central improved from three wins to eight in Mike Rogers’ first season as Dragons’ head coach.

 

Sophomore Michael Bush appears to be the favorite to win the starting quarterback job from the graduated Troy Halcomb.

 

Bryan Stovall and Eric Brown are expected to compliment 700-yard rusher Cortez Barber on offense.

 

Demonte Smith expects to have another big season on defense, while Barber led the Dragons in interceptions last year.

 

Youphin Yeurn also returns for the Dragons on defense.

 

 

Whitley County (7-5)

Head coach: Jim Black

2009: Lost to Pulaski County 40-34 in the second round of the playoffs

 

After several years as a 5A heavyweight in eastern Kentucky, the Colonels will have to overcome heavy graduation losses to remain in the mix for the District 8 title. Only three starters are back on offense, while five starters return on defense.

 

Senior fullback/linebacker Cody Bramlett and senior halfback Cody Bowlin will carry the offense is the revamped offensive line can hold its own.

 

Senior receiver Justin Goins and sophomore fullback/tight end Boston Bryant also return and both are key players on defense with Goins at corner and Bryant at linebacker.

 

Junior Jordan Chute will see action at halfback, while senior Travis Inman has the difficult task of replacing Jamie Labanion at quarterback.

 

 

Woodford County (5-6)

Head coach: Steve Stonebraker

2009: Lost to Covington Catholic 48-27 in the first round of the playoffs

 

By Josh Claywell

The Elizabethtown News-Enterprise

 

A year after being depleted by graduation and going 5-6, the Woodford County Yellowjackets return nearly every key player and look for marked improvement under new coach Steve Stonebraker.

 

Stonebraker replaces former longtime coach Chris Tracy, who’s now coaching at Class 4-A Franklin County.

 

“This will be my first year in Woodford County and our kids have got to remain coachable and keep their work ethic up to reach our potential. They are definitely off to a good start,” Stonebraker said.

 

Woodford County returns a bevy of talent, led by quarterbacks Ryan Garrahan and Matt Couch.

 

Garrahan, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior, threw for 701 yards and five scores. Couch, a 6-1, 190-pound junior, passed for 801 yards and seven touchdowns. The duo could continue to split time in Woodford County’s new West Coast offense.

 

Other offensive returners are senior running back George Howard (5-10, 170), junior RB Brandon Campbell (6-0, 180), senior wide receiver Cody Broughton (5-11, 155) and senior left tackle Joe Korby (6-0, 200). Senior kicker/punter Taylor Ratcliff (6-0, 160) is also back.

 

Defensive returners include junior free safety Mike Rusher (6-0, 175), junior cornerbacks Sam Rusher (6-0, 180) and Derek Campbell (6-0, 185), senior linebacker Ian Smarr (6-1, 190) and Howard at defensive back.

 

“Our DB’s should be a strength for us as is depth at QB with two coming back who received plenty of snaps last year,” Stonebraker said.

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