High School Football

Henry Clay preview: Devils relish high expectations

Quarterback Jerry Williams returns after a season in which he threw for 17 touchdowns and ran for six.
Quarterback Jerry Williams returns after a season in which he threw for 17 touchdowns and ran for six.

Henry Clay senior Ryan Duzyk is a smart, tough guy. Yale is recruiting him to study and play football in the Ivy League.

Duzyk obviously sets high goals for himself, which is why he loves playing at Henry Clay. He knows that season in, season out, the Blue Devils expect lots of success.

Sam Simpson has guided Henry Clay to the playoffs 12 years in a row. The Devils haven't had a losing season since 1997. Both streaks are the longest of any public school in town.

"The bar is set high here, and we want to live up to that standard, and do even better than the year before," Duzyk said.

Henry Clay appears to have what it takes to continue its winning ways.

It has some talented playmakers, terrific speed on both sides of the ball, a few veteran linemen, and what should be a hard-hitting defense.

Simpson also likes his team's intangibles.

"I think we have a little better chemistry than last year," he said. "It seems to have more of a willingness to share the limelight because it knows the team will benefit when that happens."

Especially on offense, where Henry Clay has a surplus of attention-getters, led by senior quarterback Jerry Williams.

He was a dual threat last season, throwing for 1,380 yards and 17 touchdowns, and running for 920 yards and six TDs.

Simpson expects Williams to ratchet up his game this year. "Jerry is more in command, more of a leader, his mechanics are better and he's a better student of the game," Simpson said.

Williams, who is getting looks from UK and Louisville as an athlete, is surrounded by game-breakers.

Bo Brooks, son of former UK player Randy Brooks, rushed for 932 yards last fall.

"Bo is really looking good," Simpson said.

Blake Green, a sprint star, had 34 catches for 481 yards and five TDs and ran for 208 yards and two scores in 2009.

Quick-footed Vinny Miller had more than 400 yards and five TDs rushing and receiving last year.

Carwell Gardner will get his share of touches. Duzyk, who played only defense last season, has emerged as a top-notch receiver. And 290-pound Ryan Smith, who runs a 4.9 40, will be a force at tight end.

Simpson said the Devils' offensive line is "coming along," led by Allen Moore, Justin Rivers, Tim Hadlock, Joey Herrera, Daniel Tavic and J.C. Frankenberg.

Henry Clay's bugaboo last year was turnovers. Williams knows that as quarterback he has to set an example with ball security.

"We have a team full of stars, so we know if we don't make turnovers we're pretty hard to stop," he said.

Henry Clay's defense hopes to be the ball-hawking menace it was last year when it had 24 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.

Smith, James Hendron, Slade Klinksiek and Darius Fields will man the front line, with Charles McCarty, Anthony "Bam" Lindsey and Nick Miller at linebacker.

Duzyk will play corner and safety. "I want him as our last line of defense," Simpson said.

Gardner and Green will lend their athleticism to the secondary, as will Williams on occasion.

Henry Clay will be rated among the top Class 6A teams in the state in the pre-season, which is nothing new.

"The players know the tradition here, and we try to communicate with the parents that it's a challenging schedule, but we always have high expectations," Simpson said.

"The bar is set pretty high, and that's the only way we want it."