FOOTBALL MINI-PREVIEW: A sneak peek at the 2014 season

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By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Football season is right around the corner, with the high school regular season opening Friday, Aug. 22.


The Kentucky Standard will publish its 2014 Football Preview special section in the Wednesday, Aug. 20 edition of the paper. In addition, PLG-TV 13 will kick off the sixth season of Zubaty and Crew Sports Week with team profile interview segments beginning Monday, Aug. 18.

To tide football fans over until then, here are capsules of all four local teams.


Bardstown Tigers

Class 2A District 4

2013: 9-3, fell 26-18 to eventual state semifinalist Christian Academy – Louisville in second round of Class 2A playoffs

Starters returning: 6 offense/6 defense

Roster size: 65

Top returnees: QB/DB Keanu Young, OL/DL Julian Rogers, WR/DB Donovan Nance, RB/DB Jarrett Dennison, RB/OLB Voshon Livers

Key losses: OL/LB Junior Mudd, RB/LB Deion Tonge

Key position changes: Austin Mason takes over at the running back position

Impact newcomers: WR/DB Deondre Boggs, QB/DB Santrel Farmer

Staff changes: DC Chuck Smith, five-time state champion at Boyle County, left to take over head coaching spot at Madison Central

Assistant coaches: Bob Blackmon OL/DL, Justin Blanford OL/LB, Jeremy Dale DL/RB, Justin Grundy LB/WR, Jeff Morning DB/WR, Josh Payne Freshmen, Tony Rogers Freshmen

Coach David Clark’s comment: “Our players have worked very hard this off season. The team seems very focused and committed. We hope to have a really fun year.”

My take: The Tigers are going into their last season in the toughest district in Class 2A, which also produced 2013 state champion DeSales and semifinalist CAL. If Bardstown hopes to add a fifth state championship to its trophy case, those two teams will yet again be the biggest obstacles. Speedy QB Keanu Young could be poised for a monster senior season, building upon his outstanding 2012 and 2013 campaigns, but the Tigers will have to replace an outstanding linebacker corps.


Bethlehem Eagles

Class 1A District 2

2013: 10-2, district champion, fell 50-14 to eventual state semifinalist Russellville in second round of Class 1A playoffs

Starters returning: 5 offense/5 defense

Roster size: 32

Top returnees: RB Jake Yates (1,479 total yards, 26 TDs), C/DT William Brown

Key losses: QB Connor Ballard, Class 1A District 2 POY

Impact newcomers: QB Matt Hagan, RB Zach Ritchie, OL/DE Tommy Crawford

Staff changes: Anthony Boggs joins the staff as WR/DB coach.

Assistant coaches: OC Michael Holt, DC Keith Graham, ST Junior DiStefano, OL/DL Corbin Hack

Coach Ron Koontz’s comment: “We expect this team to be even stronger on defense. Our offense will rely more on the ground game. We also expect to compete for the district championship.”

My take: The Eagles are coming off one of the best seasons in school history, with Koontz the reigning Coach of the Year for Class 1A. Bethlehem was an offensive juggernaut last year, rolling up 43 points and 395 yards per game, but replacing Ballard won’t be easy. The Eagles will need Yates to take on an even bigger role if they’re going to hold off nemesis Holy Cross and repeat as district champs.


Nelson County Cardinals

Class 4A District 4

2013: 8-4, fell 63-14 to eventual state champion Collins in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs

Returning starters: 5 offense/7 defense

Roster size: 50+

Top returnees: WR/DB Jay Moore, WR/DB Willie Moore, RB/LB Michael Pesina, RB/LB Clay Downs, RB/LB Le’Ander Beckley, WR/DB Thomas Greenwell, OL/DL Blake Crepps, OL/DL Jacob Monroe, OL/DL Tyler Marchese and RB/DB Charlie Berry

Key Losses: QB Jonathan Breeding, RB/DB Ben Jones, OL/DL Zac Lawson

Impact Newcomers: QB Cameron Cornish, WR Michael Greenwell, DB/WR John Cooper, WR Tayshaun Anthony, DL De’Marcus Hamilton, DL/OL Zach Mosgrove, LB/RB Zach Hopper

Staff changes: Former North Hardin head coach Crad Jaggers takes over as DC and LB coach, OL coach Carl Shannon joins staff after 28 years coaching in Texas, Jerome Davison (RB), Michael Crowder (DB)

Assistant coaches: Hunter Ballard OL, Tyler Faucett JV HC, Matt Hicks DL, Nick Cravens WR, J.T. Bass WR, Ramon Pineiroa LB, Ross Smith WR/DB

Coach Jamie Egli’s comment: “We want to win the district and then play for a state championship. We are young, with only six seniors, but our expectations will remain high. Offensively, we will continue to be one of the top offenses in the state, and we will make a huge improvement on defense with the addition of Coach Jaggers and his defensive scheme.”

My take: The Cardinals are coming off their best regular season since the halcyon days of the late-’90s. The Nelson defense was porous last year, and getting Jaggers on board should help greatly in that department. Under Egli, the Cardinals have shown they can score with anybody, and if they can close the holes on defense, it could be a big year. New QB Cameron Cornish has big shoes to fill after Breeding’s record-setting year (4,719 total yards, 53 TDs), but Egli’s system will put the junior in a position to succeed.


Thomas Nelson Generals

Class 2A District 4

2013: 0-10, failed to qualify for Class 2A playoffs in first year of varsity competition

Returning starters: 5 offense/5 defense

Roster size: 55

Top returnees: OT Mason Flechler, RB/QB Eli Clark, DE Austin Hughes, RB/OLB Drew Hurst, WR/DB Ethan Fleming, OT John Michael Faulkner, TE/LB Trevor Pike

Key losses: RB/OLB Austin Yaeger, RB/LB Basil Sanders, WR/DE  Steven Price

Impact newcomers: OLB/RB Drew Miles, QB/TE Franklin Curtis, FB/LB Jonathan Whiteman, WR/DB Jake Clark

Staff changes: Former NCHS assistant Kyle Boblitt takes over at head coach following the departure of Greg Brohm

Assistant coaches: (offense) Brian Sims, Brad Nord, Dustin Yankey, Mike Hanson, Lynn Whiteman, (defense) Chris Girdley, Mike Clark, Possum Hopper, Michael Butler, Chase Simpson, Daniel Osbourne, Ryan Wimsett

Coach Kyle Boblitt’s comment: “We will aim to play fundamentally sound football with an emphasis on playing fast and being physical. Our goals will be focused on our daily work habits.”

My take: Opponents greeted the Generals harshly in the school’s first varsity season, as TNHS was shut out five times and scored just 60 points all season long. Numbers were a problem last year; a problem compounded by a rash of injuries that made developing continuity difficult. This time around, the Generals start out the season with a robust 55 kids on the roster, and that’s a good start. It might take a while for that first win in school history, and the key will be how much TNHS improves from game-to-game.


Follow sports editor Peter W. Zubaty on Twitter @PLG_KYS_Sports.