High school football fans should find no shortage of reasons to head out on Friday nights this fall and check out the action unfolding around Lexington. There are plenty of tasty story lines surrounding city schools that bear watching.
With two top Division I prospects, including a Mr. Football favorite, can Lafayette return to the Class 6A finals and follow its runner-up finish in 2015 with a championship? With its quarterback situation stabilized and a new-found focus on run defense, can Lexington Catholic take the next step after falling in the 3A finals last year? How will Bryan Station respond after graduating one of the most talented classes in program history?
It will surely be a blast watching all of the gridiron drama unfold within the city limits, but Lexington schools aren’t the only ones worth your attention. Here’s a look at some other Central Kentucky programs that fans should keep an eye on this season.
Never miss a local story.
The Cardinals have been a powerhouse for more than a decade and haven’t lost more than two games in a season since 2010, including an undefeated championship run in 2013. They fell to Lafayette in the regional finals last year and could find themselves again on a postseason collision course with the Generals.
Scott County will have to replace the production of last year’s top two rushers, Noah Hughes and Keith Guy, who combined for nearly 3,000 yards on the ground. The Cards will be better equipped than most teams to absorb that loss because of an offensive line anchored by two 6-foot-4 maulers who will be playing on Saturdays soon.
Senior Colby McKee will start at center for the third year in a row, having earned First Team All-State honors as a junior. He has scholarship offers from Eastern Michigan, Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech and is drawing strong interest from Murray State and Western Kentucky.
Head coach Jim McKee, also Colby’s father, calls him “one of the best linemen to play here in my 20 years. He is a nasty dude who finishes blocks very well.”
Sophomore tackle Bryan Hudson already has a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky and is ranked in the top 100 of his class by multiple recruiting services. He started all 13 games for the Cardinals as a freshman and McKee said Hudson’s strength is one-on-one blocking and that he “can and does dominate opponents.”
With that sort of muscle on the front line the Cardinals should again be dangerous on the ground. They’ll turn to senior tailback Kendrick Hamilton, who rushed for nearly 800 yards last year, and junior Brice Fryman, whom McKee said is “ready for a breakout year.”
Scott County’s huddle will be led by junior quarterback Josh Davis, who started all 13 games behind center as a sophomore.
“He is a true dual-threat guy,” Jim McKee said. “He can throw the ball and he can also run it very effectively, he’s fast and elusive.”
The Cardinals appear poised again to be a major threat to bring home the 6A title.
“We have won at least 10 games for eight straight years and we feel like we set the bar for football in the Central Kentucky area,” McKee said.
The Wolverines won just three games last year but were one of the youngest teams in Class 3A, having graduated just 10 seniors in May. Several head coaches mentioned Western Hills when asked which 3A teams would be most athletic this year, and Wolverines head coach Don Miller expects this will be a fun squad to watch.
“We should be very athletic with the skill positions as well as (having) some pretty athletic linemen, three of them over 300 pounds,” he said. “So we should be able to run outside with lead blocking from the big guys as well as be able to power inside.”
Miller said many young players got valuable playing time last year and their growth was evident down the stretch. With that growth in mind, Miller said the team’s goal this year is to “host a home playoff game, which means finishing top two in the district.”
To reach that goal, the Wolverines will lean on senior left guard Logan Floyd, as well as senior defensive lineman Andrew Hannan, both of whom have started since their freshman years. Miller said both players have taken over clear leadership roles with their respective units.
Both the offense and defense will also be bolstered by the presence of Anderson County transfer Bryce Edmonson, who will see time at linebacker and fullback as a junior.
“We expect a lot from him,” Miller said. “He is a real physical player that leads by playing hard.”
The Indians have made steady progress in head coach Mark Scenters’ first two years at the program’s helm. After taking over a team that won two games the year before his arrival, Scenters led Madison Central to three wins in 2014 and then a 6-5 record in 2015, when the Indians fell to Henry Clay in the opening round of the 6A playoffs.
“Getting our expectations established and showing the kids how we want to run the program has helped,” Scenters said. “We’ve had guys really improve and last year they did a good job on the field … we feel good about the progress and having a winning team last year was one of the goals.”
Madison Central is set up to continue that upward trend with the return of fourth-year starting quarterback Zach Hardin.
“Zach has been around the block a time or two and it’s not often in 6A football that you get a kid that’s started that many games,” Scenters said. “We’re expecting a big year out of Zach. He’s worked very hard in the offseason and done a great job in taking command of the offense.”
Despite the loss of top rushers Johan Williams and Korrion Crier the Indians will likely remain a run-first offense.
“Sometimes ole Coach Scenters gets a little bit of a rap for being a guy that just wants to run the ball all the time, and I make no mistake about it,” Scenters said. “But in a perfect world we’ll be very balanced … and hopefully we’ll be a more diverse offense this year.”
Scenters said as long as they keep embracing the culture his staff has been instilling, the Indians will continue to reap the rewards in the win column.
“We want to hang our hat on hard work and just push the fact that character shows up in tough situations, on the football field as well as it does in life,” he said. “That’s how we keep this thing moving in the right direction.”
2016 High school football preview