With 10 state championships in his first 13 seasons as Trinity High School’s football coach, Bob Beatty saw little reason for change.
But after a 6-6 record and a third-round playoff loss to Male in 2013, Beatty believed it was time for something new.
“With 6-6 comes change because, obviously, the plan wasn’t working,” Beatty said. “Part of that plan was staff. Part of that plan was restructuring practices for kids to go both ways. Part of that was making sure we are offensively and defensively erecting game plans to match our talent.”
Meet the 2014 Shamrocks, whom fans in St. Matthews are hoping will be “New and Improved.”
The expectations are still high, as Trinity is ranked No. 3 in Class 6-A in The Courier-Journal’s preseason poll of coaches. But for a program that went 41-2 and won three straight state titles from 2010-12, not being on top of the poll is a sign that others have caught up.
“It’s been a long time since we ended a season with a loss,” Beatty said. “You find out whether you want to spit that taste out of your mouth or swallow it again.”
With that in mind, Beatty made several changes to the preseason program, starting two weeks earlier than normal in January. From the time school was out until the beginning of the dead period, Trinity held 31 workouts, compared with about 15 in previous years.
“Going 6-6 is not Trinity football,” junior wide receiver Rodjay Burns said. “We’ve worked hard every day since that Male game. We’ve constantly practiced, practiced, practiced with no days off. We’ve worked as hard as we can to prepare for this season.”
Beatty also made personnel changes, retaining just one assistant from his defensive staff from last season. Jay Cobb, the former head coach at Knott County Central, Somerset and Campbellsville, is the new defensive coordinator.
“The only thing someone should read into that is the head guy by the name of Bob Beatty has to do a much better job of coaching than what he did last year,” Beatty said.
MORE HS FOOTBALL: St. Xavier reloading in Wolford’s 2nd year
Seldom has Beatty utilized players on both sides of the ball, but he said up to 20 players could see action on both sides this season in an attempt to have his best players on the field at all times.
Burns is among them, playing both wide receiver and defensive back.
“You’re going to find out who doesn’t want to leave the field,” Beatty said of playing guys both ways. “Those are your warriors. Those are your guys.”
The Shamrocks return just four starters from an offense that averaged 28.7 points per game last season. Among them are senior running back Donald Brooks (896 yards, 15 touchdowns last year) and Burns (43 catches, 743 yards, four TDs).
The player creating the most buzz is sophomore quarterback Larry Harper III (5 feet 9, 163 pounds). He played in the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl as a freshman.
“He lives (football), breathes it and thinks it,” Beatty said. “He has the same philosophy as a Brian Brohm. He was groomed to be a quarterback. He feels it. … This is his dream.”
Nine starters return on a defense that featured just one senior last year. Lineman Connor Foos, linebackers Zach Berger and Damon Lowe and safety Canon Jackson are the leaders.
They’ll face a tough schedule that includes seven games against out-of-state opponents and three foes ranked among the top 100 in the nation by NationalHSFootball.com — No. 35 Cocoa (Fla.), No. 51 Cincinnati Moeller and No. 91 Male.
Burns said the Shamrocks will be better-prepared than they were last season.
“We’ll be way better than last year’s team,” he said. “We’re more together as a team. We’re like a family. Our defense is more physical than last year, and our offense is faster than last year. We’re in good shape.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.