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2019 Kentucky high school football preview
The 2019 high school football season kicks off Friday, Aug. 23. New high school sports beat writer Jared Peck is rolling out several stories over the next two weeks in the Herald-Leader and on Kentucky.com previewing the season around the city, region and state and highlighting the top players and games. Click below to read all of his previous stories.
In past years, the Herald-Leader has tried to highlight the best “small-town” games, but so many small schools are from relatively big towns.
And when the public chimes in with their own opinions of what are “the best” or “the biggest” games, they often turn to well-known rivalries such as the Danville-Boyle County annual affair (Psst. That will be on another list. I promise). Also note, this is not a best rivalries list. It’s a best-games-on-paper list.
So, this year, we’re going to keep it simple. Here are some of the best games I’ve circled each week involving Class A schools at Class A venues (or near about). They focus on teams in the Herald-Leader’s preseason top 10 and others receiving votes in our @HLpreps annual coaches survey.
The 2019 season kicks off Aug. 23.
Week 1 (Friday, Aug. 23)
Lynn Camp at No. 8 Frankfort: Frankfort, the Herald-Leader Class A preseason No. 8 team, reached the quarterfinals of last year’s playoffs and has this early home test against highly regarded Lynn Camp, which went 10-2 a year ago and will be battling it out with No. 7 Williamsburg to escape the 8th District. The Wildcats graduated 19 seniors to the Panthers’ 11.
Week 2 (Friday-Saturday, Aug. 30-31)
Friday, Glasgow at Russellville: It’s an intradistrict battle as Class 3A stalwart Glasgow meets a dangerous Russellville team which just missed cracking the H-L top 10. Russellville’s Lennon Rees, a 6-1, 180-pound sophomore, transitions from wideout to quarterback and has junior standouts Xavier Coleman and Chevis Elliott as his go-to guys. The Panthers also have some size in the trenches with three linemen in the 6-foot, 300-pound range.
Saturday, No. 8 Frankfort vs. No. 10 Paris (at Bourbon County): The Dan Cummins Bourbon Bowl will pit two young top-10 teams looking to see what they have for the 2019 campaign. Paris Coach Brian Washington said he has two potential 1,000-yard running backs in Matthew Barber and Jamaun Clark. Frankfort has three new running backs in Dallan Hawkins, Azeno Williams and Parks Pressley.
Week 3 (Friday, Sept. 6)
No. 1 Pikeville at No. 4 Paintsville: Pikeville comes into this season as the Herald-Leader’s preseason No. 1 team and has a big-time schedule to match. This tilt with Paintsville is just the tip of a brutal campaign that includes No. 2 Raceland and Class 3A No. 2 Belfry (at Belfry). But hey, it’s not like one of the other toughest teams in the class is also in its district (checks to see No. 6 Hazard still there). Oh, well.
Honorable mention: Butler County at Russellville.
Week 4 (Friday, Sept. 13)
No. 3 Raceland at No. 1 Pikeville: These two teams have taken turns knocking each other out of the last two playoffs. Preseason No. 2 at No. 1. What else do you need?
Caldwell County at No. 9 Crittenden County: Caldwell County, one Class 2A’s top teams, faces Western Kentucky next-door neighbor No. 9 Crittenden County in an annual tilt the Tigers have owned. The Rockets haven’t beaten Caldwell since 2009.
Honorable mention: No. 8 Frankfort at No. 7 Williamsburg.
Week 5 (Friday, Sept. 20)
Somerset at No. 7 Williamsburg: Speaking of teams that have ridiculously tough schedules, No. 7 Williamsburg welcomes Class 2A title contender Somerset. The Briar Jumpers reached the Class 2A semis in 2018 and have 1,000-yard rusher Alex Miller and dual-threat quarterback Kaiya Sheron back for their senior and junior years, respectively. Williamsburg has its own run/pass threat in Dalton Ponder, who combined for 55 TDs last year.
Week 6 (Friday Sept. 27)
No. 4 Paintsville at No. 6 Hazard: This is the point where I must note that the Paintsville-Hazard-Pikeville-Raceland bias here is simply because these are ALL BIG GAMES with major implications for what might happen later in the playoffs. Can’t get around it. Sorry. Won’t.
Nicholas County at Ludlow: Nicholas County and Ludlow both received votes in the H-L preseason survey and this game could mark an important turning point in each of their seasons. The Bluejackets return senior Cain Saucedo, their second leading rusher from 2018, while Ludlow boasts senior quarterback Ian Vallandingham who had 1,037 yards passing and 677 yards rushing in 2018.
Week 7 (Friday Oct. 4)
Fulton County at Russellville: Way out on the western tip of Kentucky is a pretty good Fulton County team that will get to prove it at 1st District foe Russellville. This game will likely decide who gets to put off facing Crittenden County again until the second round of the playoffs.
Somerset at Hazard: Two of the best from Class 2A and A, respectively.
Week 8 (Friday, Oct. 10)
Ludlow at No. 5 Newport Central Catholic: If Ludlow survived Nicholas County two weeks ago, well, then welcome to the five-time Class 2A champ in Newport Central Catholic, who, by the way, is now in its class and in its 4th District. The Thoroughbreds return 17 seniors, including signal-caller Paul Kremer, who threw for 1,519 yards and 18 TDs in 2018.
Honorable mention: No. 10 Paris at Nicholas County, Saturday, Oct. 11.
Week 9 (Friday, Oct. 18)
Kentucky Country Day at No. 9 Frankfort: KCD is another team that just missed out on the H-L preseason top 10. With eight starters back on offense and nine on defense, including one of the best tacklers in the state in junior linebacker Exavier Douglas, KCD looks to return to the form that saw the Bearcats go 11-2 in 2017. Douglas will also see time at fullback to set up a 1-2 rushing attack with senior running back Dorian Heard.
No. 6 Hazard at No. 1 Pikeville: This late-season 7th District clash will decide who has home-field advantage when they likely meet again in the playoffs.
Honorable mention: No. 9 Crittenden County at Fulton County.
Week 10 (Friday, Oct. 25)
District showdowns: This week includes matchups that will likely be replayed in two weeks under the new playoff format where district foes must face each other again in the first round of the postseason. Top-seed implications will likely be at stake for Raceland at Paintsville, Lynn Camp at Williamsburg and Russellville at Crittenden County, among others.
Week 11 (Friday, Nov. 1)
Lexington Christian at No. 4 Paintsville: The Tigers tee up what looks to be one of the toughest teams in Class 2A as a tuneup for its own playoffs. Lexington Christian boasts eight all-city players returning from a team that went a surprising 9-4 in 2018. The Tigers have a Division I linebacker prospect in senior Jaylyn Allen and standout cornerback John Phelps. If either of these teams are going to make any noise in the coming weeks, this is their bellwether game.