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It’s been more than eight months since an area football team has played a meaningful game. Sorry, scrimmages don’t qualify as meaningful.
There’s nothing like the beginning of football season. The smell of fresh cut grass. The sounds of fans cheering and bands playing. The feeling of optimism within every team.
High school football is the sport at its purest form. At this level, there are no stories about players doing autograph signings or involved in possible heinous crimes. It’s just the game the way it was meant to be played — for all the right reasons.
That’s why I always look forward to the start of the season. And this year is no different despite hearing from fans – diehard to casual – that this is going to be a down year for area teams.
They like to point out how John Hardin graduated its top players. And there’s no disputing that. Gone are Wade Holtsclaw, Domonick Brown, Garrett Ray, Chris Doss, Jalen Fleming, Dorian Collins and on and on.
But it’s not like the cupboard is empty. The Bulldogs boast a legitimate Mr. Football candidate — something this area hasn’t had in years — in senior defensive tackle Matt Elam. It’s not like the entire roster is new. Seniors Patrick Anderson, Khalil Frazier, Chris Smith, Dimitri Cooper, Marcus Goree, Austin Laing and Koufax Stephens are veterans and they’ll make sure the program doesn’t slip this season.
Do I think John Hardin will go 10-0 during the regular season? No. But at the same time, I don’t think they’ll go 5-5. The Bulldogs might end up surprising a lot of people this year.
Speaking of surprises, watch out for Central Hardin and North Hardin. Both had losing records last season, but I think that will change this year.
The Bruins have 16 returning starters. The offense should be better with junior quarterback Koree Krupinski in his second year as the starter. Plus, there are weapons around him, namely senior Kenneth Browning and junior Zack Helton.
Like Central Hardin, North Hardin returns plenty of talent with five starters back on offense and seven on defense. The offense has the ability to be explosive. The Trojans have a veteran at quarterback in senior Andrew Rugerio and playmakers like seniors Dante Johnson and Kevin Dyer and sophomore Taven Graves.
The thing about both is they struggled – which is putting it nicely – defensively last season. The Bruins gave up 30.3 points per game and held only one opponent to less than 20 points. North Hardin allowed 31.9 points a game and seven opponents score more than 30 points.
If either is going to be better, the defense has to be better.
Meade County is an intriguing team. It wouldn’t surprise me if they get off to a shaky start, but watch out down the stretch. Elizabethtown, Fort Knox and LaRue County seem to be in a similar situation, which is all three will play a lot of youngsters and look to build for the future.
Here are a few of my predictions for this season. Elam will be the Area Lineman of the Year. Call it a hunch, but I think he’ll make it two years in a row. Smith or Elam will be the Area Defensive Player of the Year.
As for Area Offensive Player of the Year, that’s where it gets a little tricky. Anderson, Krupinski, and Rugerio all certainly have to be contenders. But watch out for a John Hardin running back emerging. That’s where the award has gone three consecutive years with Landon Savoy (2010), Jeremy Harness (2011) and Holtsclaw (2012). Frazier could be that guy this year. And a darkhorse to consider is Johnson, although a receiver hasn’t won it since Chris Gohman in 2008.
Here is how I see the teams doing this year during the regular season: John Hardin, 9-1; Central Hardin 7-3; North Hardin, 6-4; Meade County, 6-4; LaRue County, 6-4; Elizabethtown, 5-5; and Fort Knox, 4-6.
Chuck Jonesis the sports editor for The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at 270-505-1759, or at email@example.com.