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Each season finds a number of games dotting the schedule that catch the eye, for various reasons. District or hometown rivalries, the opportunity to see a special player, or a key chance at a big statement win all qualify.
Here’s a few circle-the-date games that are intriguing for 2014.
Nelson Co. at Woodford Co.
Cardinals coach Jamie Egli hands over the keys to his high-octane offense to junior Cameron Cornish, who appears ready to take flight after tossing five touchdowns in Friday’s scrimmage against North Bullitt.
The Yellowjackets’ junior lineman Drake Jackson is drawing rave reviews on the recruiting trail and has scholarship offers from Kentucky, Alabama and Vanderbilt.
Thomas Nelson at Spencer Co.
The Generals may not pick up the program’s first win at Spencer, but it will be interesting to see how much Thomas Nelson is able to build upon a fairly solid showing in Friday’s scrimmage against Valley.
Bethlehem at Thomas Nelson
The Eagles’ opener features the debut of Matthew Hagan, who takes over at quarterback for Connor Ballard, last year’s Class 1A District 2 Player of the Year.
The Generals would love to get their historic first win over a Bethlehem team they figure to have a long local rivalry with.
Bullitt East at Nelson Co.
This game got wild last year, with the Chargers storming back from a deficit to grab a 67-59 win as the Cardinals struggled to control the ground game, and Bullitt East got just enough stops.
Thomas Nelson at Nelson Co.
The Generals get a chance to see how they measure up against their former classmates.
Bardstown at Marion Co.
The Tigers’ game with the Knights last year was pretty entertaining, a 45-31 Bardstown win. How the Tigers perform coming out of the bye week will be interesting, especially with Nelson County on deck.
Nelson Co. at Bardstown
Behind a stout defense, the Tigers held the Cardinals to their second-lowest scoring output of the season in a 47-33 Bardstown win. The Tigers have won three straight in the series, and County fans are itching to see the Cardinals stop that trend.
Thomas Nelson at CAL
The schedule-makers didn’t do the Generals any favors by saddling them with three of four games on the road to start 2014. This is the fourth in that stretch, Thomas Nelson’s district opener against a top-10 2A team.
Owen Co. at Thomas Nelson
Last year at about this time, the Generals resembled a M*A*S*H unit. If they can survive an unfriendly four-game stretch to open the season, the middle part of the schedule could provide some relief, as Owen County, Washington County and Shawnee went a combined 9-22 last year. Look for TNHS to get its first win during this stretch.
DeSales at Bardstown
The defending state champion Colts open the season rated No. 1 in Class 2A. If the Tigers are to make a run at a state championship of their own, avenging last year’s 55-7 road loss would make a big statement to the football world in Kentucky.
Bethlehem at Campbellsville
By this point last season, the local Eagles had outscored its opponents 205-14 in a 4-0 start, but the Campbellsville version made them fight for 5-0 before falling 33-21.
Look for this game between future district rivals to be a dandy, as Campbellsville has a strong junior class that has folks down that way excited.
Washington Co. at Thomas Nelson
Making the playoffs in the super-sized seven-team Class 2A District 4 isn’t easy, and these are the games the Generals need to win if they want to get there before jumping to 3A next year.
Nelson County at Western
The most thrilling game of last season, with the Warriors intercepting a Cardinal pass at their own 2-yard line in the final seconds to preserve a 55-50 win, locking up the top seed in Class 4A District 4. If Nelson County can keep back Adrian Ralston-Williams (388 yards, 5 TDs last year) from dancing through their nightmares again, it could propel the Cardinals to a big season.
Bardstown at CAL
The Centurions got to the state semifinals in 2A last year, handing the Tigers two of their three losses along the way. The second time around was in the playoffs, a 26-18 heartbreaker to end Bardstown’s season. Slowing down bruising back Nick Payne will be paramount.
Paris at Bethlehem
The Eagles’ lone regular-season loss last year and a good jump-off point going into the Class 1A District 2 season.
Bardstown at Thomas Nelson
The Tigers should provide a good measuring stick for the progress of the Generals, who hope to be in contention for a playoff spot by this point.
Bethlehem at Caverna
The Eagles have designs on repeating as district champs. Gotta win the district opener to make that happen.
Bardstown at Washington Co.
They’ve been district rivals since 2007, and area rivals for a lot longer than that. The Commanders are remaining behind in Class 2A, but would love to send the Tigers off to 3A with an upset loss.
Thomas Nelson at Fort Knox
The Eagles won 37-27 last year, but the loss marked the Generals’ top scoring output of the season and narrowest defeat. I think they get the job done this time around, and if Thomas Nelson can pick up some other wins in district play, this could be the game that gets them into the playoffs.
Holy Cross at Bethlehem
The Eagles finally broke through against their longtime district nemesis last year, grabbing the road win to capture the district crown. Bethlehem is hoping to back that up with a home coronation this time around.
Nelson Co. at Moore
The Cardinals’ district finale is also their regular-season finale. By this time the following week, they hope to be sitting back healing during their bye week, awaiting a pair of visitors for 4A home playoff games. But they’ve gotta take care of business against their district first and foremost.
DeSales at Thomas Nelson
The Generals close out the regular season against the defending state champs. If things go well enough in the games leading up to this one, Thomas Nelson may already have a playoff berth locked up.
Playoff tuneup time for Bethlehem, who hosts Bracken County, and Bardstown, who visits Holy Cross. Building momentum will be critical.