Coach: Kenan McWhorter
Last year: 6-5 (lost to Lexington Christian in first round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Zach Mounts (OL/DL), Daniel Hubbard (OL/DL), Hunter Wilson (OL/DL), Darrious Whittaker (RB)
Newcomers to watch: Cameron Lashelle (DB/WR), Andrew Doering (S/RB), Trenton Phillips (QB), Eli Woodie (WR), Zach Cunningham (LB)
Strengths: Discipline, mental toughness, attitude, unity — "those underlying factors that you can't really see on paper is really going to be our strength," McWhorter said. Plus, an infusion of Leonard Postero's leftover "smart pills." "Most of these guys are very good in the classroom, and it's allowed me to get a little more intricate with my offense," McWhorter said. "A little more plays, a little more defensive schemes."
Weaknesses: Inexperience and more inexperience. The Pirates lost a pair of 1,000-yard receivers since last season, plus a 1,000-yard rusher and 3,000-yard passer.
Outlook: In its second year since rejoining the district, Berea has a killer schedule — three home games, seven on the road. The goal is to get two or three district wins and make it past the first round of the playoffs.
Coach: Johnny Poynter
Last year: 5-6 (lost to Boyle County in first round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Kentayvous Hopkins (RB), Devin Arnold (TE), Ryan Charles (RB/DL), Taylor Myers (RB/LB), John Stout (DB), Spencer Sledd (DB), Austin Burberry (DB), Dillon Arnold (OL), Levi Eads (DL)
Newcomers to watch: D'Andre Jackson (QB/LB), Hayden Cox (WR), Dakota Mitchell (LB), Jaxson Hilander (DB), Jake Fooks (LB), Lucas Ruthledge (OL), Tony Hulett (OL), Jamal Clark (OL/DL)
Strengths: Speed. Poynter says he has three of the fastest players he's ever coached in Hopkins, Charles and Jackson. (QB/LB Joe Gomez would have made it four of the fastest, but he suffered a broken leg during practice and is out for the season.) "And overall team speed, we are much, much improved from last year," Poynter said. "Probably the fastest overall team I've ever coached."
Weaknesses: Inexperience and size on the offensive line. Two freshmen are possible starters.
Outlook: The Colonels will take a cliché — play one game at a time — to heart and aim to transform from inexperienced to experienced in a hurry. The incoming freshmen went 10-1 as eighth-graders, following on the heels of an 8-0 eighth-grade team.
Coach: Paul Columbia
Last year: 8-4 (lost to Scott County in first round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Andrew Dini (QB); Corey Rogers (TE/DE); Darius Skinner (WR/DB); Mykal Barnes (WR/DB); Cody Liggett (OL/DL); Mason Jones (FB/LB); Brent Stephens (OL/DL); Wes Banks (OL/DL)
Newcomers to watch: Pokey Harris (RB); Mark Davis (RB); Jaylen Abbott (OL/DL); Sylan Mayes (OL/DL); Ethan Curry (RB)
Strengths: The Cards are strong at the skill positions. Dini passed and ran for 1,600 yards and 16 TDs last season. Skinner had almost 700 yards rushing and receiving last fall. Rogers is a beast on defense.
Weaknesses: Clark County is fairly inexperienced up front and at linebacker.
Outlook: The Cards are optimistic about the coming season for good reason. They return a lot of the key players who won six of their last seven games last year, losing an 18-15 heartbreaker to Scott County in the playoffs. Dini's leadership will be a key. He's the first three-year starter at QB in the program's history.
Coach: Mike Bowlin
Last year: 4-7 (lost to Holmes in first round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Cameron Thomas (RB/DB), Austin Hager (RB/DB), Zack Templin (OT/DT)
Newcomers to watch: Jordan Redd (WR/DB), Justin Myers (LB/OL)
Strengths: Strong and experienced, the Jaguars have all their touchdown-scorers back.
Weaknesses: Depth could be a problem at a few positions.
Outlook: Given the team's experience, if East can learn how to "finish" in the big games, this could be a turnaround season for the Jaguars. Thomas was the team MVP last season, Hager compiled 1,100 rushing yards and Templin is a Division I college prospect.
Coach: Craig Foley
Last year: 8-4 (lost to Bellevue in second round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Dylan Quinn (QB); Zach Mason (RB); Kaleb Leach (RB); Evan Wright (TE); Ryan Reed (OL/DL); Jesse Dunmire (OL/DL); Dylan Perry (OL/DL)
Strengths: The Panthers, as usual, have speed at the skill positions, and they've got experience to go with it in Quinn, Mason, Leach and Wright. Frankfort also has some veteran linemen, who make up what they lack in size with mobility.
Weaknesses: Depth is always a worry at most Class A schools, and Frankfort is no exception. The hot weather has kept the Panthers from conditioning as much as they would like. They've started practicing at 6 a.m. to beat the heat.
Outlook: As Frankfort found out last year when knee injuries sidelined stars Quan Weaver and Dwight Tillman for the season, the best laid plans can get scuttled. One silver lining was that other players stepped in and got experience. Foley said the Panthers' expectations are always to make a long run in the playoffs. "If we're not playing around Thanksgiving, we'll be disappointed."
Coach: Chris Tracy
Last year: 1-9 (did not make playoffs)
Top returnees: Kris Long (T/DL), Wesley Watkins (T/DL), Ryan Timmons (WR/CB), Will Bell (WR), Jay Brough (G/DL), Daniel Anderson (LB), Allen Williams (LB), Jacob Campbell (DB), Jalen Jones (DB), Keaston Jones (LB)
Newcomers to watch: Zach Bowman (QB), Sean Jarboe (QB/WR/LB), Chris Roberts (RB/LB), Damani Aziz (RB/DB), Zach Durham (K/P)
Strengths: The Flyers have good size (topped by Long at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, and Watkins at 6-1, 275) and experience on the line. Depth on a good defensive unit allows Tracy to use a lot of players.
Weaknesses: "Just inexperience in general," Tracy said. "We've got a lot of kids coming off 1-19 (the last two seasons) and, to be honest, I'm not sure what that's worth." The Flyers will find out soon enough, meeting state-champion Boyle County in the second game of the season.
Outlook: Tracy says this could be "a great season. ... We want to get ourselves back in the playoffs. They've not made it the last couple years, and we want to get back there because we feel we belong there. We feel we should be very competitive in our district."
Coach: Bert Browne
Last year: 0-9 (lost to Bryan Station in first round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Justin Williams (TB/LB); Nick Ford (QB/LB); Clint Burgess (OL/DL); Jon Floyd (TE/DL); Darian Cox (RB/LB); Anthony George (OL/DL); Antwon Clark (OL/DL); Kody Dickenson (WR/DB)
Newcomers to watch: Chris Jones (WR); Brandon Parks (DE); Tony DeBoard (OL/DL)
Strengths: A backfield featuring Ford, Williams and Cox figures to provide the offensive spark. If the O-line can provide some muscle up front, Browne hopes to be a power team.
Weaknesses: The Indians will be relatively young at a lot of key positions, so they'll need game experience to develop into a team that can put last year's winless record behind it.
Outlook: Browne, who was a star quarterback at Madison Central in the mid-1980s, is committed to making the Indians a physical team. That means he's putting an emphasis on his players getting stronger in the weight room. Cox, Ford and Williams will set the tone for that toughness this season.
Coach: Dave Brumley
Last year: 1-9 (did not make playoffs)
Top returnees: Devon Johnson (RB/DB); Bubby Parsons (FB/LB); Chris Roberts (QB); Ethan Lake (WR/DB)
Newcomers to watch: Brett Sipple (TE/LB); Adam Simpson (WR/DB)
Strengths: Experience at the skill positions is a big plus. Roberts passed for 1,372 yards and 14 TDs last year, and Johnson rushed for 518 yards and 4 TDs. Parsons is a bull at fullback. He's also a hard-hitting linebacker.
Weaknesses: The Eagles must shore up their offensive and defensive lines, and develop overall depth.
Outlook: Madison Southern hasn't had much success in recent years. Since posting a 9-3 record in 2005, it has gone 6-34, including a winless season in 2008. Brumley hopes the Eagles can start turning things around this fall, starting with a home game against West Jessamine Friday night.
Coach: J.J. Everage
Last year: 0-10 (did not make playoffs)
Top returnees: Nate Stevens (QB/FS), Jalen Walton (RB/DB), Marcus Champs (RB/DB)
Newcomers to watch: Solomon Fields (athlete/DB), Malik Washington (RB/OLB), Beutley Enlow (OL/DL).
Strengths: Everage says his players are coachable and eager to learn. Strong spots include quarterback and running back.
Weaknesses: Even by Class A standards, the Greyhounds lack numbers — only two seniors among 15 players total.
Outlook: With no wins last year and three wins in 2008, it's not likely that Paris will set the district on its ear this season. If the Greyhounds can be competitive early, added confidence could help them pull out a few wins. With such a small roster, though, avoiding any and all injuries is a must.
Coach: Jim McKee
Last year: 6-5 (lost to Trinity in semifinals of playoffs)
Top returnees: Josh Walls (RB/FS), Jordan Kindred (ILB), Marcus Hill (RB/DB), James Happy (WR), Jay Wilmott (K/P).
Newcomers to watch: Too early to tell, according to the coach.
Strengths: McKee cites his staff, facilities (home games at Georgetown College) and community support. On the field, "we have six, eight kids that could start for anyone in the state. We need the other guys to come on." McKee says Walls, a junior, has a chance to hold every rushing and tackling school record.
Weaknesses: The Cardinals have four new starters on the offensive line.
Outlook: "We have played in the regional finals each of the last two years and would love to make that three in a row," McKee said. "Our program has won 29 games in the last three years, so we want to have another season in the 10-win range."
Coach: Graham Heasley
Last year: 9-3 (lost to Boyle County in second round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Aaron Shearer (LB), Matt Carbol (QB), Tate Stidam (DB), Kyle Collins (OL), Sean Donaldson (LB/WR), Eric Bickelman (OL/DL)
Newcomers to watch: Romando Tatum (RB), Will Knight (WR/DB)
Strengths: The Colts gained a good measure of confidence by going 9-3 last season, and the excitement has carried over with more than 70 players turning out. Heasley says West has senior leadership, unity and "decent" overall speed.
Weaknesses: Inexperience. Heasley says depth "is a major issue for us right now." Also, learning and being successful in a new system is a concern.
Outlook: In a district that includes defending state champion Boyle County, traditional powerhouse Lexington Catholic and an experienced East Jessamine squad, "having some success early in the year in our out-of-district schedule basically will set the tone," Heasley said. "Our goal is to climb into the top two in the district."
Coach: Don Miller
Last year: 8-4 (lost to Louisville Central in second round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Christian Wilkins (OL/DL), Ken Holbrook (OL/DL), Arie Slone (QB/LB), Dakota Miley (WR/DB), Bobby Clay (WR/DB), Jacob Sharp (WR/DB), Logan Curry (WR/DE), Chris Pugh (WR/LB), Jalen Adair (WR/DB), Quentin Martin (FB/LB).
Strength: The Wolverines are a little bit faster, Miller says, which should help on both sides of the ball.
Weakness: In a word — depth.
Outlook: Western Hills has had its first back-to-back winning seasons and, last year, had the best record in school history, along with its first playoff win. Now, Miller wants the school's first district title. "It goes back to, if we can stay healthy or not," he said. "If we can do that and we can execute, then I think we'll have another successful season and build on that, and go from there. I think they've got the mentality and understanding of what's expected from them to get to that point."
Coach: Steve Stonebraker
Last year: 5-6 (lost to Covington Catholic in first round of playoffs)
Top returnees: Taylor Ratcliff (P/K); Ian Smarr (LB/TE); Joe Korby (OT/LB); Eric Crowley (OL/DL)
Newcomers to watch: Jon Tuttle (DE/WR); Aaron Bays (DL/OL); Levi Akridge (TE/DE); Connor Leach (DL/FB); Patrick Trevino (DL/FB); Tyler Allen (DE/WR)
Strengths: The Yellowjackets are especially strong in the defensive backfield. Other strong points include specialists and overall team aggressiveness.
Weaknesses: Overall size is lacking, as is depth in spots.
Outlook: "If new starters and contributors can come around, this team can make a name for itself very quickly," Stonebraker said. "Approach to the focus of all energy on the next opponent will be key to a team with so many new players."