FRIDAY'S CITY GAMES
Kickoffs at 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Clark Co. at Bryan Station
Last year's records: Clark Co. 6-5; Bryan Station 6-5
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Is Mr. Mo still around? Bryan Station ended 2008 impressively, winning its last three regular-season games and almost upsetting Highlands in the first round of the playoffs. The Defenders say their newfound confidence is here to stay.
Rivalry renewed: Clark County beat the Defenders handily four years in a row starting in 2003, but the series stopped when Bryan Station dropped in class. As close as these schools are geographically, they're natural rivals in all sports.
Fleet feet: Less than a week after cousin Tyson Gay set an American record (9.71) in the 100-meter dash, Bryan Station's Chaz Mitchell laces up his cleats for the season opener. "He can fly, too," Coach Oliver Lucas said of Mitchell, who had 22 catches for 341 yards last year.
Key to victory: Both teams should be strong up front. Bryan Station has the edge in experienced skill people. Clark County's defense needs to keep them in check.
Lafayette at Tates Creek
Last year's records: Lafayette 7-4; Tates Creek 2-9.
Buddy rivals: A coaching matchup of pals Mike Harmon and Rob Sayre, former all-city players and former assistants at Tates Creek. When Harmon was head coach at Lafayette, Sayre was his assistant. When Harmon returned to Tates Creek, Sayre succeeded him as Lafayette's coach. Sayre won the first head-to-head showdown when the Generals beat the Commodores 12-7 last year.
No rest stops: Lafayette senior Eric Shaw had 1,287 all-purpose yards and 12 TDs last year. He also starred on defense, leading the team in tackles, and special teams. Does he ever get tired? "Yes, but I don't show the other team I'm tired," said Shaw, who had strep throat and missed last week's scrimmage against Shelby County.
QB questions: Matt Britt and Brett Durbin are battling for the starting quarterback job at Lafayette. Dee Christopher has a slight edge over Martrell Berry as the starter at Tates Creek.
Key to victory: Tates Creek needs to keep Shaw reined in if it wants to beat the Generals for the first time since 2004.
Whitley Co. at Lexington Catholic
Last year's records: Whitley Co. 12-2; Lexington Catholic 8-5
Early tests: Three of Whitley County's first four games are against Lexington Catholic, Bell County and Belfry. The Knights' first three foes are Whitley County, Covington Catholic and St. Xavier. They also play Boyle County, Lexington Christian, Madison Central and Trinity. Coach Bill Letton said it's probably the toughest schedule in school history. No argument here.
Colonels' outlook: Whitley County returns a solid nucleus from last year's 5A state semifinalists, including QB Jamie Lebanion, who triggers the option offense, and LB Cody Bramlett, who had more than 150 tackles last year. Coach Jim Black said his team also returns a top-notch offensive line. Have the Colonels carried over confidence from last fall? "We've got a little bit of swagger, and we're going to need it because Lexington Catholic is a great football team," Black said.
Nic at (Friday) nite: Nic Ward begins his third year as LexCath's starting QB, having thrown for 4,324 yards and 47 TDs. He needs to pass for 2,390 yards this season to rise to third on the school's all-time list, behind Justin Burke and Jacob Doss.
Key to victory: Letton wants his Knights to show more quick-strike, big plays this year. Whitley County needs to prevent that.
Paul Dunbar vs. Bullitt East
At Joe Jaggers Classic at North Hardin, 6 p.m.
Last year's records: Paul Dunbar 1-10; Bullitt East 9-6
Bulldogs and their bite: If Dunbar could open the season with a win over a team that was a state runner-up last year, it would be a huge boost. After finishing last season with six lopsided losses in a row, they're desperate for something to snarl about.
Bowles game: Bullitt East, which lost to Bell County 15-13 in last year's 4A finals, graduated most of its starters but returns quarterback Matt Bowles. He threw for 1,259 yards and 12 TDs last season. "Matt's a great athlete, and he's also the best leader I've ever coached," Coach Doug Preston said. Bowles is also a star pitcher in baseball. He helped the Chargers reach the state semifinals at Applebee's Park last spring.
Looking for offense: Dunbar has struggled to score the last two years. It had one TD or less in 12 of its last 20 games. QB Trent Martin, who got on-the-job training as a sophomore, could be key to a more potent offense this season.
Key to victory: If Dunbar has some early success against Bullitt East, maybe it will gain enough confidence to play solid football for four quarters, something it hasn't done in a long time.
Top state game
Johnson Central at Boyle County: Last season 5A Johnson Central won its first nine games, and 4A Boyle County won its first 13.
Paul Dunbar vs. Bullitt East in Joe Jaggers Classic at North Hardin, 6 p.m.: Dunbar debuts against last year's Class 4A runner-up.
Bowling Green has replaced Louisville as the dream destination for high school football teams in Kentucky.
The state championship games, which have been played at the old Fairgrounds Stadium or Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville since 1979, are moving to Bowling Green for 2009 and 2010.
This year's finals will be Dec. 4-5 at Western Kentucky University's Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. Game times for this year's title games will be finalized Monday by the KHSAA.
The only other time the football championships were held in Bowling Green was in 1975.
Closing in on 300
Mike Glaser of St. Xavier and Sam Harp of Danville should earn their 300th career coaching victories this season. Glaser begins the season with 296 wins, including six state championships. Harp has 294 wins, including seven state crowns.
Four active coaches are already in the 300 club: Newport Central Catholic's Bob Schneider (338), Bell County's Dudley Hilton (320), Belfry's Philip Haywood (319) and Male's Bob Redman (307).