High school football season is upon us, and while the state has plenty of great action to offer, fans need not step foot outside of Lexington to see some terrific matchups during the regular season.
Here’s a week-by-week guide to help you choose a game to watch each week in Lexington, if you’re so inclined (hint: you should be!).
Fayette County Kickoff Classic (doubleheader)
When: Friday, Aug. 17 (Week 1)
Why you should watch: The second annual edition of this bowl series, presented this year by Bumblebee Sports and Mingua Beef Jerky and hosted by Henry Clay High School, features the same matchups it did last season: Henry Clay vs. Tates Creek (6 p.m.) and Bryan Station vs. Lafayette (8:30 p.m.). This is your best chance to see half of what the city has to offer in a single evening.
Other city games: Waggener at Lexington Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Bluegrass Bowl (doubleheader)
When: Friday, Aug. 24 (Week 2)
Why you should watch: Covington Catholic, the defending Class 5A champion, takes on Henry Clay in the 6 p.m. opener with a bout between Lexington Catholic, a preseason top-10 team in Class 3A, and Ryle, a 6A program whom Mike Engler (a former LexCath offensive coordinator) has led to three straight winning seasons, to follow at 8:45 p.m. It’s a chance for both city schools to re-establish themselves as contenders early in the season after rocky 2017 campaigns.
Other city games: Frederick Douglass at Tates Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Paintsville at Frederick Douglass
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1 (Week 3)
Why you should watch: On paper, this is a lopsided affair — Class A vs. Class 6A, mountain school versus city school — but Paintsville has proven itself to be one of the small-school division’s finest teams in recent seasons and won’t back down from a fight against Douglass, which started its inaugural campaign with a mercy-clock loss to a Class 2A program (eventual champ Danville) in 2017.
Other city games: Vincennes (Ind.) Lincoln at Lexington Christian Academy, 7 p.m.; Harlan County at Tates Creek, 7:30 p.m.; Lexington Catholic at Lafayette, 7:30 p.m.
Tates Creek at Paul Laurence Dunbar
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7 (Week 4)
Why you should watch: This’ll be Dunbar’s home debut under first-year head coach Wes Johnson, who left West Jessamine in 2005 as the program’s all-time wins leader. A victory over Tates Creek — or any city opponent, for that matter — would be beneficial for Johnson’s long-term future with the Bulldogs, who’ve had nine coaches since 2000 and have only two wins over city teams (Tates Creek in 2014 and Henry Clay in 2016) over the past four seasons.
Other city games: Lafayette at Frederick Douglass, 7:30 p.m.; Lexington Christian Academy at Lexington Catholic, 7:30 p.m.; Southwestern at Henry Clay, 7:30 p.m.
Highlands at Lexington Catholic
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14 (Week 5)
Why you should watch: Highlands in recent seasons hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations it has set for itself, but the Bluebirds are ranked in the Class 5A preseason top 10 and remain the state’s all-time winningest program (though Male and Mayfield are in hot pursuit). Catholic at this point will have four (big) games under its belt and have a sense of whether last year’s roller-coaster tendencies have been put to rest.
Other city games: McCreary Central at Paul Laurence Dunbar, 7:30 p.m.; Tates Creek at Bryan Station, 7:30 p.m.
Henry Clay at Lafayette
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21 (Week 6)
Why you should watch: It’s the city’s oldest rivalry, and last year produced one of the tightest contests played in Lexington as Henry Clay snapped a three-game slide against the Generals with a 21-17 decision. Lafayette leads the all-time series, entering its 71st season, 39-33-2.
Other city games: Kentucky Country Day at Lexington Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.; Paul Laurence Dunbar at Frederick Douglass, 7:30 p.m.; Scott County at Bryan Station, 7:30 p.m.
Danville at Tates Creek
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 (Week 7)
Why you should watch: Danville — last year’s 2A champ — at this point in the season should have worked out most of the kinks it has encountered after graduating most of its major contributors from last season’s undefeated unit. The same can be said for the Commodores, who last season felt like they received the wrong end of the whistle too often in a 27-24 defeat at Danville.
Other city games: Frederick Douglass at Bryan Station, 7:30 p.m.; Lafayette at Paul Laurence Dunbar, 7:30 p.m.; Middlesboro at Lexington Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Scott County at Frederick Douglass
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5 (Week 8)
Why you should watch: Douglass in its first season couldn’t hang with “The Team Up North,” dropping away games in the regular season (55-21) and postseason (45-13). The Broncos have had a whole off-season to bring themselves closer to the Cardinals’ level but will still enter this pivotal district contest as underdogs. Still, Scott County’s first visit to “The Farm” shouldn’t be missed.
Other city games: Henry Clay at Paul Laurence Dunbar, 7:30 p.m. (Thursday. Oct. 4); Male at Bryan Station, 7:30 p.m.
Boyle County at Lexington Catholic
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 (Week 9)
Why you should watch: It’s one of the best rivalries in the region. Boyle County won the 2017 Class 3A title and boasts several Division I athletes who will wreak havoc on Central Kentucky for a couple more seasons. Catholic’s roster isn’t bare — junior quarterback Beau Allen has offers from UK and Michigan — but it didn’t stack up against the Rebels in two meetings last year. An upset at home would be a big feather in the cap for first-year Knights Coach Nigel Smith.
Other city games: Bryan Station at Henry Clay, 7:30 p.m.; Clark County at Tates Creek, 7:30 p.m.; Madison Central at Lafayette, 7:30 p.m.
Frederick Douglass at Henry Clay
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19 (Week 10)
Why you should watch: No team in Lexington had a better chance of putting a blemish on Douglass’ schedule of city opponents than Henry Clay, which held the Broncos’ offense in check but couldn’t score enough in a 14-7 loss. If the Blue Devils’ defense can match that intensity, this could be another barn-burner in district play.
Other city games: Bryan Station at Paul Laurence Dunbar, 7:30 p.m.; Tates Creek at Lafayette, 7:30 p.m.
Madison Central at Bryan Station
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 (Week 11)
Why you should watch: The Indians under Mark Scenters have been steady challengers in their district and play harder than their overall talent level suggests they might. Bryan Station lost all but one game, a win which occurred the week before dropping a 12-8 contest to the Indians, at this point last season. Can the Defenders, who’ve renewed their defensive focus entering 2018, hold Madison Central to two scores (or fewer) again?
Other city games: Franklin County at Tates Creek, 7:30 p.m; Southwestern at Lexington Catholic, 7:30 p.m.; Western at Paul Laurence Dunbar, 7:30 p.m.