Coach: Sam Simpson (24th year)
Last season: 7-5 (lost to Lafayette in second round of Class 6A playoffs)
Outlook: After going nearly a month without a win in the middle of 2015, Henry Clay hit its stride by taking four straight games before succumbing to Lafayette in a second-round thriller. The Blue Devils lost 23 seniors and 17 starters from that unit, including three all-state selections in Joquise Buford, Jordan Forsythe and Davonte Robinson. Fortunately, many of the guys who will fill the void have seen varsity action before. While Henry Clay will be younger offensively than it has been in recent seasons (and led by junior quarterback Greg Couch, nephew of Tim), Simpson said the Blue Devils’ defensive maturity was further ahead during this preseason than years before.
Other expected contributors: Zac Berezowitz (jr. WR/DB), Noah Gann (jr. TE), Amir Gatewood (sr. RB/LB), Langston Jackson (so. RB), Ramond Jackson (so. DB), Ray-Karl Irving (jr. DL/RB), Elijah Miller (sr. RB), Will Preston (sr. LB), Damarcus Tyler (sr. WR), Evans Works (sr. K)
Will Preston moves to middle linebacker from the outside spot this season. He was the team’s second-leading tackler last year (Robinson being first on that list). He also wrestles in the offseason, which helps with his positioning on the turf.
“It’s leverage,” Preston said. “You have to stay low ’cause you’re not as big as some lineman. You just have to get lower. Lowest man wins.”
Fun fact: Preston is the fifth “Will Preston” in his family, a name dating to the 1800s.
Simpson: “I’ve told ’em, there will be people out there saying that (this will be a rebuilding year). ... People are already making excuses for us not to be successful. I said, ‘I don’t want to hear that. That’s not what we expect, and that’s not what I expect from you.’ We’ve still got a lot of team speed. Heck, we’ve got the fastest kid in the state of Kentucky.” (Langston Jackson, who as a freshman helped Henry Clay to its second straight Class 3A track and field championship and finished third behind two seniors in the 100-meter dash.)
Senior Damarcus Tyler: “We’re capable of doing a lot of things this year. We can’t rush everything. Just take it game by game, take it slow.”
(All times p.m.; home games in capital letters)
Aug. 26: x-Ryle, 6
Sept. 2: at Clark Co., 7:30
Sept. 9: at Tates Creek, 7:30
Sept. 16: KNOX CENT., 7:30
Sept. 23: at Lafayette, 7:30
Sept. 30: PULASKI CO., 7:30
Oct. 7: at Scott Co., 7:30
Oct. 14: PAUL DUNBAR, 7:30
Oct. 21: B. STATION, 7:30
Oct. 28: CAMPBELL CO., 7:30
x-Bluegrass Bowl at Lexington Catholic
2016 High school football preview