Frederick Douglass quickly building football family
This is the second in a series of stories previewing high school football teams in Lexington before the start of the 2017 season on Aug. 18:
Coach: Brian Landis (first year)
Last season: School’s first year
Outlook: The first high school to open in Lexington since 1990 doesn’t yet have a mascot, but it does have a football team that’s capable of surprising some people in its first season.
Depth could be a concern for Douglass, which will have about 80 kids in its inaugural season, but the program has some proven playmakers in key roles. Montaveon Bean, who played six games as a sophomore for Henry Clay last year, has the honor of manning the offense. He threw five touchdown passes and five interceptions with the Blue Devils and completed nearly 50 percent of his throws. Linebacker Romel Croley and cornerback Theo “Z” Overton combined for more than 100 tackles a year ago to rank among the leaders for Bryan Station.
The program also already boasts its first Division I recruit in Dayton LeBlanc, a three-star defensive lineman who’s committed to North Texas. LeBlanc, the son of University of Kentucky defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc, will play both sides of the ball as a senior and gives Douglass an immediate lift in the trenches.
“We’re gonna play physical football,” Dayton LeBlanc said. “We’re not gonna try to do anything tricky, we’re just gonna pound the ball and play tough-nosed defense. Hopefully we can light up the scoreboard on our side and keep the other side to a minimum.”
Other major contributors: Haiden Hunt (jr. WR), Jake O’Buck (so. OL/DL), Nate Gay (sr. RB), Micah Lowe (sr. WR), Obie Taylor (sr. DT), Maliq Trigg (sr. WR)
Jefferson Harkless rushed for nearly 1,300 yards as a sophomore at Paul Laurence Dunbar, establishing himself as one of the city’s best young running backs. He then tore his ACL, causing him to forgo his junior year after transferring to Henry Clay. Now a senior at Douglass, Harkless has an opportunity to be a pivotal player and remind football fans of his ability.
“It was a long journey, rehab and everything, trying to get back to myself,” Harkless said. “But now I’m back and I’m ready to go.”
Being able to help a new program get off the ground multiplies his excitement about returning to the field, he said. Harkless was among the first players to show up for Douglass’ first semi-organized workout soon after Landis was announced as the head coach in January.
“He was one of my original 13, and now he’s one of 80,” Landis said. “To see him take this bull by the horns, wrestle it up and say, ‘This is gonna be my team, my year,’ it couldn’t happen to a better kid, number one. And number two, he’s gonna be a guy we lean on heavily for that leadership.”
Landis: “There’s one team in particular up north. The team in red. Thats where our program has got to be, because Coach (Jim) McKee (at Scott County) does a great job. He’s built that program from just an old country school to a dominant program. They do it the right way. Their kids have bought in, they work hard, they show up. They work extremely hard at their craft and they enjoy the process.
“The most important thing with your team is discipline, and you see that when those guys play. And so we’re trying to get our guys to that level. If we can get up to The Team Up North’s level and be able to compete on a consistent basis, then we’ll have a definite shot to be OK. But until that happens, we got no shot.”
Overton: “People think that we shouldn’t have been put in (class) 6A and they think that we aren’t gonna be good. We know that we’ve got to do better and fight.”
(All times p.m.; home games in capital letters)
Aug. 19: x-At Danville, 8:15
Aug. 25: TATES CREEK, 7:30
Sept. 8: At Lafayette, 7:30
Sept. 15: MADISON CENTRAL, 7:30
Sept. 22: At Paul Dunbar, 7:30
Sept. 29: BRYAN STATION, 7:30
Oct. 6: At Scott Co., 7:30
Oct. 13: y-HANCOCK CO., 7:30
Oct. 20: HENRY CLAY, 7:30
Oct. 27: CONNER, 7:30
x-Bob Allen Pigskin Classic; 4-Mingua Beef Jerky Bowl.