USA TODAY Sports is releasing one school from its preseason top five in the Super 25 high school preseason rankings each day this week.
Trinity High School must replace 10 defensive starters from its 6A state champion team and returns just six starters overall from last year’s state championship team.
At another school, that would be cause for alarm, or at least a sign of rebuilding. This is how concerned the Shamrocks are.
Trinity, the No. 2 team in USA TODAY Sports’ Super 25 preseason rankings, opens at home Aug. 23 against Tennessee state champion Ensworth, ranked No. 18 in the Super 25, in a game broadcast live by ESPNU. Two weeks later, the Shamrocks play No. 20 Lawrence Central (Indianapolis), the Indiana 5A champion, followed by No. 25 Colerain (Cincinnati). The Shamrocks close their regular season with Ohio state champion Moeller (Cincinnati).
“That schedule is not a fad,” Trinity coach Bob Beatty said. “That’s something you will see at Trinity from here on out. When you make a decision to play at Trinity, you make a commitment. In order to play that schedule, the kids get a month off and that’s it. If you can’t make that commitment, you can’t come to Trinity.”
The Shamrocks have won 22 state titles, including three in a row.
Beatty will have to replace starting quarterback Travis Wright (now at Florida International), running back Dalyn Dawkins (Purdue) and top receiver James Quick (University of Louisville). On the other side of the ball, four-star defensive end Jason Hatcher graduated and moved on to the University of Kentucky.
Those players also guided the Shamrocks to an undefeated season and mythical national championships in 2011 from RivalsHigh Top 100, Sports Illustrated Power Rankings, Scout.com Top 50 and Massey computer ratings. Don Bosco Prep of Ramsey, N.J., finished atop the USA Today rankings that year.
Starting at quarterback this season will be Reggie Bonnafon, who was one of the team’s leading receivers (37 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns) last year.
“He’s on schedule to play quarterback, but you really don’t find out the true test until when the lights are on,” Beatty said if Bonnafon, already a U of L commit. “I think more than anything, he comes in with knowledge of our offense, having been a receiver.”
Bonnafon’s likely lead target will be Cody Swabek, but the Shamrocks’ offense generally spreads the ball to a multitude of receivers.
“Cody’s a tough kid. He brings an attitude to your team,” Beatty said. “He does everything right, but our offense doesn’t center around one guy. If you’re just throwing to one guy, you’re going to get beat.”
Another likely standout on offense is junior running back Donald Brooks, who has been playing with the varsity since he was a freshman.
“We wanted him to get used to varsity speed early,” Beatty said. “He started at slot for us last year and we felt he was a talented young man.”
Though the Shamrocks will be young, many of last year’s backups got plenty of playing time. Trinity went 13-1 last season to win the 6A title and outscored opponents by more than three touchdowns a game.
“I feel good about our offensive line and our defense is athletic and aggressive,” Beatty said. “We have a lot of kids who have seen varsity action. We have a tough early schedule. You find out nothing about your football team when you’re playing patsies early in the season. By the time we get ready to play our Kentucky teams, we’ll know what game speed is.”
The preseason RivalsHigh Top 100 ranks Trinity 45th, five spots behind St. Xavier in 40th.