If Boyle County is to win a third straight championship, coach Larry French said his team is going to have to do better than it has shown in the preseason.
“Everything has been going slow. We’ll take a step forward then take two steps back. But they’re starting to come around a little bit and starting to improve some,” French said. “We need to improve daily, and if we do I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”
With the opener against 20-time champion Highlands looming on Friday, French admits his team may be feeling the pressure to get better in a hurry.
“Any time you’re playing a nationally-ranked team, you’re going to feel a little pressure to get ready, and sometimes you lose your fundamentals in the process of it,” he said. “We’re just trying to refocus as a staff, and go back to fundamentals. We’ve got to play well in order to win that first game.”
French said his team has been battling nagging injuries, including tight end Blake Mason who has a thumb injury. But French expects Mason, who had 25 catches and seven touchdowns last year, to be ready for the opener.
Who may be gone for a while is running back-linebacker Jesse Mattingly. He suffered a torn meniscus in his knee lifting weights.
“And he was our long snapper, too, so he will be missed,” French said. “We’re not sure when he will be back.”
The only coaching change for Boyle is the loss of Stephen French, who is now teaching at John Hardin and coaching at Central Hardin with new coach Mark Perry.
Here’s a look at what’s going on at other area schools as teams prepare to open the season this week:
Coach Sam Harp said his young team has a good preseason going into Friday’s opener with Lincoln County in the PBK Bank Death Valley Bowl.
“I’ve been very encouraged about the group of kids we’ve got. They’re young. We don’t have one senior lineman that’s going to be playing, and we’ve only got about four or five seniors that are going to contribute. The rest are underclassmen,” Harp said. “What we lack in experience, we can overcome with enthusiasm and athleticism.”
Danville has four transfers. Three transfers are from Garrard County, including potential starters J.K. Howard and Jadarious Brown. The others are freshmen whom Harp said would not make an impact on this year’s varsity squad.
Luckily for the Admirals, Harp said there have been no serious injuries that will keep anyone out of Friday’s opener.
“Pretty much just bumps and bruises. We’ve had a couple of younger kids sustain concussions, but we’re taking extra precautions with those kids and they will gradually be put back in,” the Danville coach said.
In the Admirals’ only coaching move, former Danville star Jeremy Vaught has joined Harp’s staff as a linebackers and tight ends coach.
First-year coach Paul Rains said he has been pleased with his team’s preseason, but he said there was just not enough of it.
“Practice is going well, players are improving,” he said. “Time is our biggest enemy at Mercer right now.”
Rains has revamped the coaching staff, with only Mark Dunn and Joe Bill Fister remaining from last season.
Dennis Ledford, a former head coach at Franklin County, is the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, and Kenan McWhorter, a former Berea head coach, is the receivers coach. Blair Pittman is the defensive line coach, former Mercer standout Casey Taylor is coaching the quarterbacks and James Frisby coaches running backs.
Dunn, a former Harrodsburg and Eastern Kentucky star, is coaching the secondary, and Fister is the freshman and junior varsity coach.
Three players are likely out for the Aug. 27 opener against Collins in Boyle County’s bowl. Brody Votaw Sallee and Austin Schooler suffered shoulder injuries and Lane Peavler has a broken collar bone. Two players have joined the team as transfers — Lewis Mason is a sophomore from Indiana, and Tyler Hatton is a sophomore from Montgomery County.
Coach Mark Scenters said his team has had a positive camp after a rough preseason which saw players transfer and leave the team.
“We have been very pleased with the positive attitude of the players and how the team continues to come together,” he said. “In the last couple of days I have noticed that our kids are ready to see a different-colored jersey in front of them. We have been working against each other for so long, it will be exciting to get to play someone else.”
The Golden Lions, who open at home Friday against Clay County, have not suffered any serious injuries, Scenters said. Cody Brown, a sophomore from Georgia, is new to the team after mo-ving in during spring practice.
Scenters has added Charlie Owens, formerly the defensive coordinator at East Jessamine, to his staff.
Lincoln County has had a relatively uneventful preseason as far as injuries and coaching changes.
“Practice is going well. We have benefited from the start of school being delayed,” coach Mike Settles said. “We have be practicing at 8 in the morning when the heat index is lowest. Praise God we have not had any major injuries up to this point. It is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our players and coaches in the offseason.”
First-year coach Sam Marple is ready to get the season going. The Rebels, coming off the best season in school history, play Simon Kenton on Friday in the Death Valley Bowl.
“We’re at a point now where we’re tired of hitting on ourselves, we’re ready to hit someone else,” Marple said. “The kids have come in and learned a new offense and defense and I feel we’re pretty lucky because the core of our group are upperclassmen and we were able to focus and get everything accomplished.
“We are where we would have hoped to be at this point.”
Being familiar to the players as a former assistant coach has made for a smooth transition to head coach for Marple, who takes over from Andy Stephens.
“It’s easier for the kids to buy into what we are trying to do. I didn’t have to build up trust with the kids,” Marple said.
Casey did lose senior Trent Lee, who has moved to Whitley County.
Marple has made a few coaching changes. Greg Hammonds, who will also be the new baseball coach, will coach inside linebackers and receivers. Casey graduate Kyle Long will be coaching the defensive line while he finishes up classes at Campbellsville, and Kevin Long is the new defensive coordinator.
A stomach virus has sidelined quarterback Will Hatter, but Marple said that just allowed sophomore Wyatt Bishop to take more snaps.
“He took every snap for five straight days, so I feel we’re a lot more prepared if something happens to Will now,” said Marple, who added that Hatter will be ready for Friday’s season opener.