Area football preview: Teams relying on veterans, asking newcomers to step up
Published 8:06 pm Friday, July 26, 2019
Last year, area powerhouse Boyle County went undefeated before losing in the 3A State semifinals during its bid to repeat as state champions. This year, the Rebels return 19 seniors from that squad and are looking to finish what they started. Area 3A rival Garrard County is hoping to improve on its 2-9 finish from last year with a strong interior game, but inexperience at the skill positions.
At the 4A level, Mercer County is hoping that a strong returning core can propel them to the best finish in coach Dave Buchanan’s time with the Titans.
Across the area, however, youth might be an obstacle for most of the schools, as coaches are trying to replace key departures with first-year varsity players. The focus for these schools will be small improvements every day and maintaining focus during the early part of the season.
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Coach: Chuck Smith (19th year at Boyle, 6th year in current stint)
Last year’s record: 13-1 (lost in semi-finals of state)
Returning core: Reese Smith, Landon Bartleson, Wilson Kelly, Reed Lanter, Riley Koek, Jackson Lakes, Trent Lanham, Isaac Hardwick, Andrew Sacco, Ezarious Roller, Hayden Bottoms
Key newcomers: A solid group of sophomores and juniors who can find roles despite a big senior class
Strengths: Experience (19 returning seniors), talented skill positions and linemen
Weaknesses: Lack of depth
Team goals: “I want us to be a team and a family,” Smith said.
Outlook for 2019: “Playing for each other, serving each other,” Smith said.
Coach: Steve Stonebraker (Fifth year, third year during this stint)
Last year’s record: 8-3
Returning core: Haden Bastin, Adam Price, Reece Brown, Zach Palmer, Keegan Hansford, Trenton Gibson
Key newcomers: Logan Stephens, Collin Iski, Austin Publow, Cody Publow
Strengths: Perimeter (receivers and secondary)
Weaknesses: Inexperienced players filling holes from last year
Team goals: “Fighting through adversity,” Stonebraker said. “Play the next play.”
Outlook for 2019: “We’re playing one of the toughest schedules in program history,” Stonebraker said. “We’re coming off three straight winning seasons, which has never happened in program history before. Upping our schedule and being in a tough district — it’s going to be challenging for us.”
Coach: Clay Clevenger (Seventh season)
Last year’s record: 5-7
Returning core: Darrian Bell, Seth Gosser, Nick Hancock-Price
Key newcomers: “Really too many to name,” Clevenger said. “Depending on the game plan, more and more guys can get experience and make big plays.”
Strengths: Excitement of young guys who are trying to compete and get in
Weaknesses: Youth and inexperience
Team goals: “Our goal around here is to get better every day,” Clevenger said. “It’s important for us to keep our confidence early in the season.”
Outlook for 2019: “We play a tough schedule, and when you do that you can be improving without it showing in the win column,” Clevenger said.
Coach: Jerry Perry (13th year)
Last year’s record: 2-9
Returning core: Owen Stinnett, Cortez Ison, Bryce Sulla, Jon Rayburn, Dakoda Wagoner, Jacob Hacker, Jules Hale, Christian Hansford, Aidan Foley
Key newcomers: “All of them,” Perry said.
Strengths: Offensive and defensive lines
Weaknesses: Speed — same as last year
Team goals: “Get better every day; improve every play,” Perry said.
Outlook for 2019: “We expect to be successful,” Perry said. “We do every year, and this year’s no different. Injuries hurt us last year, so hopefully we can stay away from injuries.”
Coach: Spencer Crutchfield (Second year)
Last year’s record: 7-5
Returning core: Levi Daughtery, Mykah Turpin, Jacob Napier, Zack Hazlett, Nick Harris
Key newcomers: Clayton Davis, plus a group on special teams
Strengths: Experience on the offensive and defensive lines
Weaknesses: Inexperience losing four-year starting QB and top running back
Team goals: Stay undefeated at home, compete for top spot in the district.
Outlook for 2019: “We’re going to try to build off the success last year,” Crutchfield said. “Get better every day. If we bring that work ethic, I think we can have success.”
Coach: Dave Buchanan (Fifth season)
Last year’s record: 5-7
Returning core: Darrian Baker, Noah Sewell, Kaelin Drakeford, Bryce Yeast, Malachi Yulee, Brayden Dunn, Isaiah Morris-Kirkpatrick, Gunnar Fister, Dillon Warren, Lane Horn
Key newcomers: Several who could step up.
Strengths: Offensive line, defensive line, running game
Weaknesses: Replacing key departures
Team goals: “Be the best we can today,” Buchanan said.
Outlook for 2019: “I really like our team,” Buchanan said. “I’ll be really disappointed if this isn’t our best team since I’ve been here.”