This is the eighth in a series of stories previewing high school football teams in Lexington before the start of the 2017 season on Aug. 18:
Coach: Antoine Sims (fourth year)
Last season: 6-6 (lost to Lafayette in second round of Class 6A playoffs)
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Outlook: Tates Creek’s current seniors are the first group to have played their entire high school careers for Coach Antoine Sims. The 18 young men have always been a talented group. But this year, they’re stronger.
Sims opted not to play spring ball, instead encouraging his players to live in the weight room since January.
“I think for the first time in four or five years, we’ve got a couple 300-pound bench presses now. We’ve got a couple 500-pound squatters,” Sims said, particularly noting senior center Clayton Cruise.
The seniors also believe they are a more cohesive unit than last season.
“Last year, we all didn’t get along as well in a complete group. This year, as a team, we’re all just getting along really well,” quarterback Cam Workman said.
Workman threw for 2,211 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in his first year starting as a junior. The Commodores also return their entire offensive line and running back Laron Warner, who tallied 988 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior.
Last season the Commodores won their first playoff game since 2004, but they expect more this year.
“All I can say is, we’ve got a lot of surprises for people. A lot of surprises,” senior Darryl Bell said.
Other expected contributors: D’Mari Byrd (sr. DL); Cam Stewart (sr. LB); Jaden Baird (sr. WR); Obie Taylor (sr. DL); Teonte White (sr. RB); J.D. Hawkins (jr. DB); Logan Reihing (sr. OL)
Bell has been a vital player all over the field since his sophomore year. This year, he will be a primary receiving target, starting safety and kick returner.
“He received his first college offer and I think the light bulb came on,” Sims said. “Not that it hadn’t been already, but he sees it now, that’s what he’s looking for. He wants to up his stock.”
As impactful as he was over the last two seasons, Bell has high standards for himself and hopes to create more big plays.
Many of the seniors like Bell, Workman and Warner have been playing on the same offense since middle school. That’s part of the reason why Bell believes this team is a uniquely close and “enthusiastic” group.
“It’s like we have a special connection,” Bell said. “It’s a bond nobody can break. We know each other like the back of our hands.”
Sims: “I’m excited for our seniors to get the opportunity to put together four years of hard work. It’s their turn to leave their legacy on our program. I can’t wait to get them out there and see them operate. They’ve been working hard.”
Senior running back Laron Warner: “There’s only one way to go and that’s to the end zone, so whatever it takes to get to the end zone, that’s the way I’m gonna go … It’s my last season, so I’m just looking on going out with a blast.”
(All times p.m.; home games in capital letters)
Aug. 18: HENRY CLAY, 6
Aug. 25: At Frederick Douglass, 7:30
Sept. 1: At Harlan Co., 7:30
Sept. 8: PAUL DUNBAR, 7:30
Sept. 15: BRYAN STATION, 7:30
Oct. 6: MADISON CENTRAL, 7:30
Oct. 13: At Clark Co., 7:30
Oct. 20: LAFAYETTE, 7:30
Oct. 27: At Franklin Co., 7:30