In their season debuts, last year’s Class 2A finalists left little room for doubt that they should be the favorites to meet again come December.
Reigning champion Christian Academy of Louisville snuffed South Oldham, a Class 5A state semifinalist last season and preseason top-10 team, 28-14. Drew Zaubi, the Dragons’ quarterback who was ranked among the state’s top 50 players entering the season, was held without a completion until the beginning of the fourth quarter. CAL’s Milton Wright, a four-star junior with offers from the University of Kentucky and Louisville, threw for a TD and ran for another in the victory.
Danville extended a cold shoulder to Frederick Douglass, defeating the Class 6A newcomers 36-0 on Saturday. D’mauriae VanCleave scored three TDs for the Admirals, who wish to rectify their 24-6 loss to CAL in last year’s Class 2A championship. With talent-rich seniors such as VanCleave, running back Don Harris (nearly 1,300 yards as a junior) and two-way threat David Walker (16 TD receptions and four interceptions in 2016), that goal is well within reach.
Coach Clay Clevenger thinks VanCleave is even faster and stronger now than he was as a junior, when he grabbed nine interceptions and scored 20 touchdowns (five on kick returns).
“He’s put on a little weight and has gotten faster, and both you can tell it,” Clevenger said. “He’s explosive. He ran a 4-3 flat at a couple of combines this year. He ran a 4.39 on laser at UK.”
VanCleave’s stature — 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, according to his Hudl page — might keep him off the radar of higher-level FBS programs, but Clevenger thinks he’s going to play on Saturdays.
“Size is probably hurting him a little bit, but obviously the speed and explosiveness is there,” Clevenger said. “His attitude’s been great and hopefully that continues. As long as he keeps making plays, I think he’ll start getting some looks.”
The graduation of four-year starter Zach Dampier, who threw for 43 TDs and more than 3,500 yards before suiting up at Georgetown College this fall, was an anticipated point of concern coming into the season. Zach Thornton, a junior, didn’t air it out much in his debut — he went 11-for-20 for 110 yards and one TD with an interception — but looked comfortable under center after spending the last few seasons in the defensive backfield (he was second on the team with 104 tackles a year ago).
Thornton has the confidence needed to succeed in his new role, Clevenger said.
“He’s just gotta get better at the little things. That’s the one thing that made Zach Dampier really great, is that every day he came out and worked on his craft to be the best that he can be,” Clevenger said. “Mentally, right now, Zach Thornton’s not to that level, but he’s got the tools to be at that level once we got him coming out every day and working hard every rep.”
▪ Shoutout to Logan County, which defeated Butler County, 42-24, to win its season opener for the first time since 2005. Gary Hardy rushed for 272 yards and three TDs in the victory.
The Cougars won their last game of the season in 2016 (56-27 at Todd County Central) to snap a 42-game losing streak, then the state’s longest. If Logan County were to win against Muhlenberg County on Friday, it would be its first home victory since Sept. 9, 2011, and give the team consecutive wins in the same season for the first time since that year.
▪ Three Fayette County teams will enter Friday without having scored in the first week of the season: Bryan Station (lost 28-0 vs. Lafayette), Frederick Douglass (lost 36-0 at Danville) and Henry Clay (lost 48-0 at Tates Creek).
Bryan Station was shutout for the first time since 2006 in a 28-0 loss to Lafayette. Henry Clay lost 48-0 at Tates Creek, the second straight season the Blue Devils were shut out by the Commodores.
▪ Titus Ransom earned Performance of the Week recognition thanks to his offensive contributions in Bourbon County’s 36-29 win over Somerset, but another Colonel produced some gaudy numbers as well: Senior linebacker Dalton Williams recorded 20 tackles in the victory.
▪ Rob Reader was among the numerous first-year head coaches who won their debuts last week. Moore defeated Southern, 35-6. JJ Weaver, a Mustangs junior, is rated as a four-strar defensive end by 247Sports.
▪ Mason County senior Malcom Devine rushed for 157 yards and two TDs on only five carries for the Royals in a 68-7 victory over North Adams (Ohio).