High School Football

Henry Clay’s football hopes boosted by last year’s strong finish

Henry Clay's Barnett dishes on the Blue Devils

Henry Clay Assistant Coach Oliver Barnett discusses the Blue Devils' prospects for the upcoming season.
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Henry Clay Assistant Coach Oliver Barnett discusses the Blue Devils' prospects for the upcoming season.

This is the third in a series of stories previewing high school football teams in Lexington before the start of the 2017 season on Aug. 18:

Synopsis

Coach: Sam Simpson (25th year)

Last season: 3-7-1 (Lost to Ryle in first round of Class 6A playoffs)

Outlook: The Blue Devils struggled last season as they were forced to replace 23 seniors and 17 starters from the previous year’s 7-5 squad. They went more than a month without a win as they lost five of six games. Their best outcome during that tough stretch was a 7-7 tie against visiting Knox Central. But Henry Clay’s young roster began to round into shape down the stretch and the Blue Devils finished the regular season with back-to-back wins over Bryan Station and Campbell County. Several key playmakers who logged valuable minutes last year return on both sides of the ball, including starting quarterback Greg Couch (nephew of former University of Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch) and top receiving threat Zac Berezowitz. On defense, the Blue Devils return junior defensive back Ramond Jackson who had 45 tackles, second best on the team behind departed senior Will Preston’s 53. Also returning to the secondary is senior defensive back Michael McMullen, who had a team-best two interceptions and 27 tackles. The Blue Devils turned some heads this summer when they made it to the finals of the 24-team seven-on-seven tournament hosted by UK.

Other expected contributors: Noah Gann (sr. TE), Langston Jackson (jr. RB), Ray-Karl Irving (sr. DL/RB), Jordan Gross (sr. OL/DL), Spencer Sidebottom (sr. OL/DL), Avery Benton (sr. RB/LB), Tyree Clarke (sr. WR/DB), Dorien Hardin (jr. RB/LB)

Senior spotlight

Zac Berezowitz had 407 yards receiving and team highs with 25 receptions and five touchdowns last season. The Blue Devils will look to him for even more production this year as they seek to replace the production of Damarcus Tyler, who led the team with 441 receiving yards.

couch
Quarterback Greg Couch is among the returning starters for Henry Clay this season. Mark Cornelison mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Coach’s corner

Assistant coach Oliver Barnett said the Blue Devils are “miles ahead of where we were last year” at this time. He said the adversity through which the team struggled together last season helped it forge bonds that will hopefully pay off and help the Blue Devils get back on the right side of the win-loss column.

“We have pretty high expectations. We want to compete for the city championship and also for the state championship,” Barnett said. “We have the closeness as a team where we’re doing things together, we’re jelling well on the field and off the field ... We don’t have any negativity in the locker room that would be cancerous for our team right now. Everybody has a positive attitude and we’re working together.”

Fightin’ words

Senior Spencer Sidebottom: “We’re gonna have a good team this year. We have a shot at the city championship, that’s our goal. And if not the city, then we’ll get the state (championship).”

Josh Sullivan: 859-231-3225, @sullyjosh

Blue Devils schedule

(All times p.m.; home games in capital letters)

Aug. 18: x-Tates Creek, 6

Aug. 25: y-Ryle, 6:15

Sept. 1: JOHNSON CENTRAL, 7:30

Sept. 8: At Southwestern, 7:30

Sept. 22: LAFAYETTE, 7:30

Sept. 29: SCOTT CO., 7:30

Oct. 5: PAUL DUNBAR, 7:30

Oct. 13: At Bryan Station, 7:30

Oct. 20: At Frederick Douglass, 7:30

Oct. 27: COOPER, 7:30

x-Fayette County Bowl at Tates Creek; y-Bluegrass Bowl at Lexington Catholic

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