The 2018 Kentucky high school football season kicks off on Aug. 17, which means “ranking season” is officially in full swing.
Here are the preseason top 10 teams in Class 6A — the largest football-playing classification under the Kentucky High School Athletic Association — as voted on by coaches in the division.
Head coach: Bob Beatty (19th season)
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Last year: 15-0, won the Class 6A championship
Quick look: The Shamrocks bring a 30-game win streak into 2018, a season in which they’ll look to do something they’ve done three times before — three-peat. Trinity’s defense — headlined by Stephen Herron, a 6-foot-3, four-star defensive end who recently flipped his commitment to Stanford from Michigan, and Jacob Dingle, a safety headed to Cincinnati — shut out six Kentucky opponents last season and shouldn’t slip, in that regard.
If Trinity is to win a third straight title, it’ll do so with a third straight unique quarterback — Spencer Blackburn led the Shamrocks in 2016 while Nick Bohn followed him as a senior in 2017. Jake McKean, a senior and last year’s backup, or Seth Jutz, a 6-1 junior, will get the call. He who is chosen will have a stretch of national opponents to work against before playing Male, Trinity’s first game against an in-state foe, on Sept. 7.
2. St. Xavier
Head coach: Kevin Wallace (first season)
Last year: 12-3, lost in Class 6A championship
Quick look: Wallace comes over from Bowling Green, a program he led for more than 20 years, and aspires to put St. X in the winner’s circle for the first time since 2009. That means pulling St. X within better reach of Trinity, a Louisville co-habitant that’s defeated the Tigers in 14 of the last 15 meetings between the pair. Anthony Moretti will get to build on a junior campaign in which he rushed for 937 yards and 13 TDs. Keegan Sullivan, a 6-2 senior, will take over at quarterback for Jack Albers, who ended up at Dayton. Senior twins Alex Bascom (6-5, 255 pounds) and Richard Bascom (6-5, 265 pounds) shore up the ends of the defensive front while Sam Boarman and Desmond Andrews-Ogbogu will make things hectic for opposing receivers.
3. Scott County
Head coach: Jim McKee (22nd season)
Last year: 12-3, lost in Class 6A semifinals
Quick look: The Cardinals before this season had only two four-year starters in McKee’s tenure, and now two — Glenn Covington and Bryan Hudson — will be on this year’s squad. Covington, a 6-1 wide receiver and defensive back, plays with an edge that exceeds his speed and strength, neither of which he lacks. Hudson, a 6-4, 305-pound lineman who’s committed to play football and throw discus for Virginia Tech, is the latest big man able to make a compelling Mr. Football argument. Austin Barnett (1,310 yards, 22 TDs) and Payton Brown (552 yards, eight TDs) should lead the always-productive rushing attack while Cade McKee takes over quarterback duties as a junior. Seniors Matt Fannin, Wynston Riebel and Berk Watts all started last year and comprise the linebacking corps.
Head coach: Chris Wolfe (ninth season)
Last year: 9-3, lost in Class 6A second round
Quick look: Garrett Dennis was a running back for most of the season last year but started three games at quarterback due to injury. Now he’ll take on a full-time role for Male, the only non-public school other than Scott County (2013) to win a title in the state’s largest classification this century (the Bulldogs did it in 2015). Henry Vestal, a 1,000-yard rusher who scored 15 TDs, returns as a senior. Izyah Cummings, whose scholarship offers include UK, Louisville, Duke, Purdue and WKU, should see a lot more action as a junior. Jack Lucas picked off a team-high four passes and is a senior now. Joe Kuerzi was the team’s second-leading tackler with 99 as a sophomore.
5. Simon Kenton
Head coach: Jeff Marksberry (19th season)
Last year: 11-2, lost in Class 6A quarterfinals
Quick look: The Pioneers opened 2017 on a nine-game win streak but saw its campaign come to an end at Trinity. Austin Hammack, who rushed for 10 TDs and a team-high 806 yards, is a junior now, and senior Jon Sergent should carry a strong load as well. Seniors Bryson Pernell, JJ Courtney and Clay Cogswell were heavy contributors to last year’s defense.
6. Frederick Douglass
Head coach: Brian Landis (second season)
Last year: 10-3, lost in Class 6A quarterfinals
Quick look: Things couldn’t have gone too much better for Douglass in its inaugural season, and there’s reason to believe that campaign No. 2 could be just as fun. An influx of transfers, headlined by senior quarterback Cam Jones and junior Walker Parks, joins a solid returning core group that includes Dekel Crowdus, a sophomore receiver with offers from UK and Western Michigan. Jones, a 6-8 quarterback who’s committed to Cincinnati, threw for 27 TDs and nearly 2,700 yards at Knott County Central last season. UK, Notre Dame and Clemson are among the schools that have offered Parks, a 6-5 offensive tackle and defensive end.
Head coach: Scott Carmony (third season)
Last year: 3-8, lost in Class 6A first round
Quick look: Aidan Robbins, a 6-1 senior running back who’s committed to Louisville, rushed for 631 yards and six TDs last year. Those numbers aren’t otherworldly, but they accounted for much of Manual’s 2017 rushing attack (it managed only 1,157 yards and 16 TDs on the ground). Manual trotted out a formidable defense — it finished in the Class 6A top 10 in points allowed — but scored only 15 points a night; the Crimsons were blown out twice by St. X but Manual’s other six losses were by an average of 6.5 points. Five players saw time at quarterback last year but junior quarterback Zack Recktenwald, who played in 10 games, should be the main man.
Head coach: Adrian Morton (second season)
Last year: 6-6, lost in Class 6A second round
Quick look: Austin Carr, who quarterbacked Christian Academy of Louisville to a Class 2A championship in 2016, takes the reins as a senior in the Jefferson County Public School system. The Bruins don’t lack for talent; several players boast multiple high-level college offers. Linebacker Jared Casey, a three-star senior, has offers from Louisville, UK and Oregon, and after missing his junior season will bolster a defense featuring several returnees. UK has offered Markeice Warner, a junior running back, and Josh Minkins, a junior cornerback and wide receiver.
Head coach: Gary Wheeler (sixth season)
Last year: 8-5, lost in Class 6A quarterfinals
Quick look: In each of the last two seasons, Butler increased its win total from the year before. The Bears have not had a double-digit win season since 2013, when they went 11-3 and made the state semifinals. The team returns its top two rushers, seniors Eric Jackson (897 yards, 13 TDs) and Jalan Ward (485, six), as well as quarterback Chaz Burks, who as a sophomore threw for 22 TDs and was 25 yards shy of a 2,000-yard season. Demontae Crumes, a 6-1 receiver who’s committed to UK, led the Bears with 770 yards and 14 TDs as a junior.
Head coach: Mike Engler (fifth season)
Last year: 8-3, lost in Class 6A first round
Quick look: This’ll be the first season since 2015 that the Raiders will take the field without Jake Chisholm, the program’s all-time leading rusher. Ryle also graduated Parker Bisek, a lineman now at Toledo. Kyle England, the leading rusher after Chisholm, is a junior and figures to take on a bigger chunk of carries. Jake Gideon, a senior offensive lineman, has committed to Western Michigan. So much of Ryle’s offensive identity was built around Chisholm that it’s hard to assess its passing game, but returning quarterback Jake Smith has last year’s top three receivers (Stefan Clarkson, Max Imabnit and Brandon Soden) back in the mix.
Others receiving votes
(Listed with total points received)
Pleasure Ridge Park 18, Central Hardin 13, Henry Clay 11, Lafayette 5, Henderson County 2, Madison Central 2, McCracken County 2, Eastern 1, Tates Creek 1.
Survey method: Every Class 6A coach was given the opportunity to participate in Kentucky.com’s annual survey, which was emailed to their address listed on KHSAA.org. Multiple attempts were made to contact every coach.
Schools that returned surveys: Ballard, Bryan Station, Conner, Cooper, Eastern, Henry Clay, Madison Central, McCracken County, North Hardin, Pleasure Ridge Park, Scott County, St. Xavier.