What happened on the first Friday night of high school football season? Here are five observations from this week.
1.) Class 3A could be special at the top
Belfry, Corbin, Lexington Catholic and Boyle County — the top four teams in preseason Class 3A polling — did not play on Friday (Belfry starts next week against Huntington, W.Va., and the other three started their seasons on Saturday). Teams No. 5 and 6 did more than hold their own against higher-class competition on opening night, though.
Elizabethtown, ranked fifth, went to Franklin-Simpson — which played for a state title in Class 4A last year and was ranked second in that preseason poll — and left with an eye-popping 55-23 victory. The Panthers held a 21-16 halftime lead and blew the game open after capitalizing on second-half turnovers by the Wildcats.
“By the end of the first half they were wearing on us pretty good, they were wearing us out there” E-town Coach Mark Brown said. “ ... When we came out in the second half we were able to score pretty early and as the game went on, they got tired instead of us and it worked in our favor.”
Central, ranked sixth, is a perennial finals contender but entered the year with a brand new head coach. Marvin Dantzler, who most recently was a head coach in Louisiana, went up against fellow Louisville program Manual (No. 8 in Class 6A, the state’s largest) and got his first win, 7-0.
Dantzler enjoyed his first taste of Kentucky football.
“I was impressed. I thought Manual played a great game,” Dantzler said. “They’re gonna be a pretty good football team. We played well but you could tell it’s early in the year and we didn’t finish offensive drives.”
2.) First-year coaches fared well
Dantzler inherited a program with big expectations built up by former head coach Ty Scroggins; the early returns came back very much in his favor. He wasn’t the only new head coach to take the field on Friday and leave with a win in their pocket, though.
Franklin County defeated rival Western Hills, 24-20, in the debut of coach Eddie James, a Franklin County graduate who’s been an assistant in the region for the past few seasons.
Dudley Hilton’s no stranger to Bell County, having served as the Bobcats’ head coach in two seperate stints previously, but he returned to the saddle with a 42-21 victory over Middlesboro.
DaMarcus Ganaway, who played at Kentucky Wesleyan and spent time with the New York Jets, wasn’t named head coach at Ohio County until the last week of June. The Eagles defeated McLean County, 40-38.
Shawn Hager, the former Sheldon Clark head coach who most recently had been an assistant at Prestonsburg, led Floyd Central — a first-year school — to a 28-12 win at Harlan.
3.) Private ownership
Ten private schools took the field on Friday night and eight came away with wins (Covington Holy Cross lost, 51-14, at Pikeville and Paris defeated Bethlehem, 26-7, on the road). Most of the wins came against teams who play in a higher classification.
For the second time in three seasons, DeSales — a Class 2A Catholic school in Louisville — toppled Class 6A Ballard, 37-22.
Christian Academy of Louisville — which won the Class 2A title last year — controlled South Oldham (a preseason top 10 team in Class 5A), 28-14.
Covington Catholic cruised in a 49-17 win over Ryle. Trinity demolished Carmel, a reigning state champ in Indiana, 31-3. St. Xavier held off Cathedral, also from Indiana, 35-28.
Owensboro Catholic, a Class 2A contender, defeated Class 6A Daviess County, 33-31. Kentucky Country Day, a Class A program, handled Class 5A Atherton, 49-21. Newport Central Catholic (Class 2A) went to Scott (Class 4A) and left with a 17-7 win.
4.) Sweet Sixty
Seven teams across the commonwealth reached the 60-point plateau in victories on Friday night.
Mason County led the way, routing North Adams (Ohio), 68-7. That was two points better than Shelby Valley’s 66 points in a shutout of Jenkins.
The other 60-point savants: Perry County Central (64-58 at McCreary Central in triple overtime); Crittenden County (62-27 at Stewart County, Tenn.); Greenup County (62-10 vs. Lewis County); Hopkins County Central (61-6 vs. Webster County); Williamsburg (60-8 vs. Jellico, Tenn.)
5.) Tough night in Nicholasville
Friday was the first time since 2013 that both East Jessamine and West Jessamine lost their season-openers as part of the VisitNich.com Bowl.
This year’s edition, the seventh straight, was held at East Jessamine and pitted both Class 4A programs against 2A schools. East Jessamine fell, 43-20, to Walton-Verona, while West Jessamine dropped a 34-14 decision to Lloyd Memorial.