H.S. football preview: Tates Creek hoping to maximize its talent

mfields@herald-leader.comAugust 15, 2012 

  • Coach: Mike Harmon (Fifth year, 65-55 career)

    Last year: 3-8 (Lost to Campbell County in first round of Class 6A playoffs)

    Top players: Dennis Oxendine (RB/DB), Cal Stewart (WR/LB), R.J. Taylor (WR/RB/DB), Marcus Wilkerson (WR/DB), Eamon Nasr (RB/LB), Carlos Saunders (OL/DL), Casey Grimes (WR/DB), Martavius Carter (WR/DB), Taiwan Hart (WR/DB), Tim York (WR/DB), Tony Compton (LB), Ryan Betlach (LB), Jovan Blackburn (OL/DL), ,Tavon Dunn (WR/DB), Graham Gordon (QB), Jake Ryan (WB).

  • Commodores' schedule

    Aug. 17x-At West Jessamine (8:30 p.m.)

    Aug. 25y-Harlan County (3 p.m.)

    Aug. 31CORBIN

    Sept. 7HENRY CLAY

    Sept. 14SCOTT COUNTY

    Sept. 21At Bryan Station

    Sept. 28At Paul Dunbar

    Oct. 5At Madison Central

    Oct. 12CLARK COUNTY

    Oct. 19 z-At Lafayette

    Note: All games 7:30 p.m. unless noted. Home games in capital letters.

    x-Visit.Nich Bowl; y-iHigh Fayette County Football Frenzy at Bryan Station; z-Roy Walton Bowl.

  • This is the last in a series of stories looking at high school football in Lexington and around Kentucky leading up to the opening of the season on Friday. To read earlier installments, go to Kentucky.com

When Tates Creek football coach Mike Harmon names the offensive playmakers on his roster, it's a long roll call of Commodores.

He can single out lots of guys who can make good things happen if they get their mitts on the ball in the right spot and right situation. But with a mostly inexperienced line, that's not a given.

So what's it going to take for Tates Creek's playmakers to do their thing this season?

"If our linemen get where they need to be, and then get run over slowly, we'll be OK," Harmon said wryly.

The Commodores would like to be better than just OK, of course. They're coming off a 3-8 season, their fourth losing record in five years.

Harmon thought they might turn things around last fall, but their youth (10 sophomore starters) translated into too many mistakes. They lost four games by seven points or less.

The good news is, those talented sophomores are now experienced juniors.

Tates Creek has plenty of speed and strength at running back, led by Dennis Oxendine. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior star rushed for 1,154 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

"We're going to use him in a lot of different ways this year," Harmon said, "He'll be at running back, receiver, slot, even some at quarterback."

Sharing the load in the backfield will be Casey Grimes (346 yards last year), Martavius Carter, Eamon Nasr and Marcus Wilkerson. The latter two rely more on power than quickness or finesse.

The quarterback job will be filled by sophomore Graham Gordon and/or Jake Ryan, both of whom are capable passers and runners. Gordon has edged ahead while Ryan has been slowed by a sore rotator cuff, but Harmon figures both will be taking snaps this season.

"I'm not afraid of using two quarterbacks," he said. "We did it at Lafayette one year and we went 9-3.

"Heck, we may even use three quarterbacks if you count (Oxendine)."

Harmon expects the Commodores to be much improved at receiver.

R.J. Taylor, TaVon Dunn, Tim York and Taiwan Hart will be among the wideouts. Oxendine, Grimes, Wilkerson and Taylor will share time in the slot. Cal Stewart and Marshall Gant will play tight end.

The offensive line will be manned by Carlos Saunders (the lone senior), Jovan Blackburn, Deion Webb, Tyler Sturgill and Tanner Gill.

Most of those guys will be up front on defense, too.

Stewart, Nasr, Ryan Betlach and Tony Compton are experienced linebackers.

The secondary rotation will include Oxendine, Wilkerson, Grimes, Carter, Taylor, Zach Hinds, Malik Jackson, Wanya Brown, Austin Yates and Austin Melville.

"We've got plenty of talent; we just need to put it to good use," said Melville.

"We saw great improvement in 7-on-7 this summer, and now we need to keep that going into the season."

Wilkerson said it's a matter of "staying focused, having a positive attitude and a will to win. We can't slack, and we've gotta be united."

Harmon expects that from this group whom he calls "discipline-wise and attitude-wise, the best we've had here the last few years.

"It's been a fun summer working with them."

It'll be a fun autumn, too, if a few more victories come the Commodores' way.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com

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