A closer look at each of the teams coaches predict will be the top dogs in each class this season:
Class A: Beechwood
Key players: Kyle Fieger (Sr. QB), Justin Overstreet (Sr. OL/DL), Brett Slusher (Sr. WR/OLB), Ethan Stringer (Sr. RB), Braden Hermes (Sr. OL/DL), Cameron Way (Sr. WR/DB), Joey Sherron (Sr. OL/DE), Mario German (Sr. K), Lucas Benson (Jr. TE/DE), Trevor Soward (Jr. FB/LB), Riley Burns (Jr. FB/LB).
You oughta know: Beechwood has won 11 titles, tied with Mayfield for fourth most. ... Speaking of Mayfield, the Tigers should be happy to see Mayfield move up to 2A: the school ended its season five of the past six years. ... Games at Somerset (Sept. 4) and at home against Covington Catholic (Sept. 18) and Newport Central Catholic (Oct. 30) highlight their schedule.
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Coach Noel Rash says: "We must be patient and focus on the development of young players to help surround this small but talented senior class. None of that will matter if we don't have the mental toughness needed to carry us through each week. We must develop a tough and nasty approach to each practice and every Friday night. This team has to master the grind, especially in the trenches."
Class 2A: Mayfield
Key players: Brentley Adams (Sr. OL/DL), Landon Arnett (Jr. QB), Trajon Bright (Jr. RB), Johnny Hernandez (Sr. OL/LB), Charles Jackson (Sr. OL/DL) Lane Kennemore (Sr. WR/DB), Jaime Tapia (Jr. S), Nick Workman (Jr. LB)
You oughta know: The Cardinals won the previous three Class A state championships and own 11 overall. ... Mayfield must replace its entire offensive line from a year ago. ... No one in Class A rushed for more total yards than Trajon Bright last season (1,885). ... Back-to-back games at home against McCracken County (Sept. 11) and Graves County (Sept. 18) should be good indicators of where this year's edition of the Cards is.
Coach Joe Morris says: "People ask me, 'Is that gonna be a problem for you?' (moving to 2A). We're not treating it as a problem, we're treating it as a challenge. It's a new challenge for us. and we know it's not gonna be easy. But we won three state championships in a row in Class A, and they hadn't been easy either. Beechwood ain't no slouch. Williamsburg, they ain't no slouch. ... I think our kids know what it's gonna take."
Class 3A: Belfry
Key players: Cole Bentley (Jr. TE/DL), Cameron Catron (Jr. RB/DB), Noah Corbett (Jr. QB), Austin Dotson (Jr. OL), TJ Dotson (Sr. SE/DE), Austin Gibbs (Sr. OL), Rayquan Horton (Jr. DE), Jordan Scott (Jr. OL), Xondre Willis (Sr. RB)
You oughta know: Belfry Coach Philip Haywood is the state's all-time wins leader at 389. The earliest possible date Haywood could reach win No. 400 would be Nov. 6 in the first round of the playoffs. ... If the Pirates win a title this season, they would be the first team from the mountains to claim three in a row since Pikeville did it from 1987 through 1989. ... Belfry has appeared in five straight championship games.
Coach Philip Haywood says: "I haven't really thought about it (reaching 400 wins). You just kinda go out and go through your season, and what happens will happen. With our schedule, you better not be thinking about things like that. ... It's never really been about me. I've just been fortunate to be around a lot of good players, good coaches and good programs."
Class 4A: John Hardin
Key players: Jerome Dingle (Sr. OG/LB), Stephen Kaiser (Sr. OT/DT), Thomas Lloyd (Sr. S), Thomas Rogers (Jr. TE/DE), Robert Shorter (Jr. RB), Shay Stone (Sr. QB), Warren Tucker (Sr. OG/LB), Trevon Wright (Jr. TE/ILB)
You oughta know: While the Bulldogs have never broken through and claimed a trophy, they have made the state semifinals seven straight seasons. ... They reached the Class 5A title game in 2009, falling 35-7 to Highlands ... They have reached at least the second round every year since 2005. John Hardin first fielded a team in 2001. ... ACL injuries to three players contributed to the Bulldogs' 1-5 start last season.
Coach Chad Lewis says: "We have a very tough opening schedule and we may come out of that stint 3-3. At the same time, we may be one of the best 4A teams in the state of Kentucky, but our record could be .500 because of the level of competition that we'll be playing. ... There's definitely going to be a bull's-eye on our back, and our guys understand that."
Class 5A: Highlands
Key players: Austin Beal (Sr. DB), Mitchell Cain (Sr. WR), Bo Hebel (Sr. OL), Nick Kendall (Sr. RB), Evan Richardson (Sr. OL/DL), Austin Hergott (Sr. QB), Luke Lindeman (Sr. LB), Grant Murray (Sr. RB), Jared Pulsfort (Jr. RB)
You oughta know: The Bluebirds return to Class 5A this season. They won the first four 5A titles before dropping to 4A. ... Hergott, a two-star pro-style quarterback, is committed to Central Michigan. ... Highlands will debut a new-look stadium in its home opener against Campbell County on Aug. 28.
Coach Brian Weinrich says: "If we were going from single A to 6A we'd be really worried because of numbers. but we have 98 on our roster right now. So we are in good shape to be able to compete with teams that two-platoon 'cause that's what we did six years ago. I don't see it as being a major issue."
Class 6A: Trinity
Key players: Rodjay Burns (Sr. DB), Bryan Colvin (Sr. C), Connor Carrico (Sr. WR), Damon Lowe (Sr. LB), Michael Hiestand (Sr. OT), Dalton Jones (Sr. WR), Max Martin (Sr. OT/OG), Jalen Reed (Sr. RB), Will O'Rourke (Sr. OG), Jacob Woosley (Sr. QB).
You oughta know: The Shamrocks own 23 state championships, tied with Highlands for most in state history. ... Since the new class system began in 2007, the only season Trinity did not reach the 6A title game was 2013. That year they were knocked out in the regional championship by Male. ... The "super district" featuring Trinity, St. X and Male is no more. Trinity is in District 3
Coach Bob Beatty says: "You can see the togetherness in this group," he told The Courier-Journal. "They're not a complainer group. They just get after you."
|PRESEASON COACHES' RATINGS|
|(Last year's record in parentheses)|
|1. Trinity (10-5)||The Shamrocks have donned all but two 6A crowns: 2009 (St. X), 2013 (Scott County).|
|2. Male (11-1)||Keion Wakefield (WR) and rest of the Bulldogs look to dethrone the king.|
|3. St. Xavier (8-5)||Tigers' opening slate is daunting: Henry Clay, Bowling Green, Central, Highlands.|
|4. Scott County (10-2)||Cardinals won't play a home game from Sept. 11 to Oct. 16.|
|5. Manual (8-4)||U of L commit Derek Dorsey will be huge at DT for the Crimsons.|
|6. Lafayette (8-4)||Dual-threat Walker Wood and a robust OL could make for a big run.|
|7. Central Hardin (12-1)||Defense that allowed just under 16 points a game returns seven starters.|
|8. Simon Kenton (11-2)||Coach Jeff Marksberry thinks defensive line will be Pioneers' calling card.|
|9. McCracken County (9-2)||Can Zy'aire Hughes lead school past the second round in its third year of existence?|
|10. Ballard (10-4)||Senior David Daniels will be a four-year starter for the Bruins.|
|1. Highlands (13-2)||No team in any class received more first-place votes than the Bluebirds.|
|2. Bowling Green (11-2)||OL Jordan Meredith (WKU commit) anchors an ever-exciting offense.|
|3. Pulaski County (13-2)||Junior Jake Johnson needs 110 receptions to break state career record.|
|4. Covington Catholic (8-5)||New head coach Eddie Eviston says sophomore QB AJ Mayer has Division I potential.|
|5. Owensboro (12-3)||Trae Crowe (DL) has uncommon blend of speed, power.|
|6. Dixie Heights (13-2)||Colonels drop from 6A, where Trinity bludgeoned them in last title game.|
|7. Southwestern (10-3)||DL Austin Daulton (6'4, 315) will be a handful for Warriors' foes.|
|8. Graves County (11-4)||Eagles have to fill void left by Cody Crider, now an SIU Saluki.|
|9. Anderson County (9-4)||The Bearcats seek their fifth regional appearance in six years.|
|10. South Oldham (8-3)||Dragons find themselves in a district with completely new faces.|
|1. John Hardin (7-7)||Five of Bulldogs' seven losses were by combined 27 points.|
|2. Johnson Central (11-1)||Monstrous regular season ended with a second-round whimper.|
|3. South Warren (13-1)||Can Spartans continue to compete with a step up in class?|
|4. North Oldham (10-3)||Mustangs must replace top passer, rusher and receiver.|
|5. Ashland Blazer (6-5)||Tomcats sport two Division I commits in Quinton Baker (Marshall), Drew O'Bryan (WKU).|
|6. Franklin County (8-3)||Barrett Sanderson and Demarcus Kennedy should keep the Flyers airborne.|
|7. Franklin-Simpson (9-2)||The Wildcats will battle with South Warren for District 2 supremacy.|
|8. Bourbon County (9-4)||Tough nondistrict foes dot the Colonels' slate in their 4A return.|
|9. Madisonville (10-3)||The Maroons return only five starters from a big run in 2014.|
|10. Collins (4-7)||Titans had a championship hangover last year. Will it subside?|
|1. Belfry (13-2)||Can Pirates give Eastern Kentucky its first three-peat since Pikeville's run from 1987-89?|
|2. Boyle County (11-2)||Second Chuck Smith era started strong. Can he bring "Title Town" more hardware?|
|3. Central (10-5)||Losing two trophies to Belfry, realignment naysayers should motivate Yellowjackets.|
|4. Lexington Catholic (10-4)||Mark Perry's Air Raid shuffles down a class - without Reese Ryan.|
|5. Corbin (11-2)||Only Belfry and South Warren played Central closer than the Redhounds last year.|
|6. Paducah Tilghman (7-6)||Jessie Dunnigan (QB) and Sayveon McEwen (WR) a lethal combination.|
|7. Bell County (9-3)||Bobcats have to enjoy no longer being in same region as Central.|
|8. Russell (11-3)||Red Devils have to dislike being placed in same region as Belfry.|
|9. Lawrence County (9-4)||Timmy Dalton (Jr. WR) could have a breakout season in Louisa.|
|10. Garrard County (9-3)||Golden Lions are the third District 4 team (Boyle, LexCath) in these rankings.|
|1. Mayfield (14-1)||Cards won five of their 11 titles in the former Class 2A.|
|2. DeSales (14-1)||Back-to-back champs in progress of building first home stadium.|
|3. Newport Catholic (8-6)||Runners-up return backfield duo of Jacob Smith and John Harris.|
|4. Lou. Christian (10-2)||Receivers Clay Davis and Cal Lewellyn should highlight Centurions.|
|5. Murray (9-5)||QB Desjahvonni Miles will be a headache for opponents and writers alike.|
|6. Owensboro Catholic (10-2)||Ray Zuberer threw eight TDs in three games last season.|
|7. Danville (8-4)||Team's seniors were in kindergarten when Ads won their last title.|
|8. Shelby Valley (11-3)||Wildcats shocked a lot of folks last year. They'll be on radars in 2015.|
|9. Glasgow (8-4)||Key for Scotties will be replacing Marquezz Trigg's 1,615 yards.|
|10. Somerset (0-10)||"0-10 Never Again" is the Briar Jumpers' motto this year. Coaches buy it.|
|1. Beechwood (11-3)||Mayfield ended the 11-time champs' season five of past six seasons.|
|2. Williamsburg (14-1)||Jackets' first two title-game showings were upended by Mayfield.|
|3. Raceland (11-3)||1,000-yard rusher Kane Snyder will bear brunt of offense for Rams.|
|4. Pikeville (11-1)||Panthers beat cross-county rival Belfry last year for first time since 2000.|
|5. Paintsville (10-3)||Tigers had double-digit wins for first time since 2005.|
|6. Frankfort (10-3)||WKU commit Anthony Robinson does a bit of everything.|
|7. Russellville (9-4)||Last year the team celebrated 75 years at Rhea Stadium.|
|8. Hazard (10-3)||Senior QB Cole Ratliff, a baseball star, mans youthful Bulldogs.|
|9. Campbellsville (7-5)||Kendon Young was top Class A rusher at 151 yards a game in 2014.|
|10. Lou. Holy Cross (8-4)||This marks the third straight season under center for Alec Greenwell.|
2015 High School Football Preview
- Star-studded senior class might be Kentucky's finest
- 50 of Kentucky's top players
- Coaches: Please call in or email your results
- New alignment shakes up football landscape
- Top teams in each class
- Bryan Station moves forward without three standout receivers
- Henry Clay looks to build on undefeated year against city foes
- Big-time talent sets Lafayette up for big year
- Lexington Catholic aims to contend in new class
- Lexington Christian needs young blood to rise to occasion
- Experienced youth meets senior leadership at Dunbar
- Tates Creek spreading things in coach's second year
- Best matchups around Kentucky week by week
- Statewide high school football schedules