DeSales at Holy Cross among the key matchups the first night of high school football action in Kentucky.
JASON FRAKES’ TOP FOOTBALL PICKS
DESALES AT HOLY CROSS
Colts have won three straight in battle for Hibernian Cup, including 45-0 last year.
• Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
• DeSales senior Bryant Pirtle, who has committed to Western Kentucky, had 22 ½ sacks as a defensive end in helping his team win the Class 2-A state title last season. Pirtle also will play some running back this year, though coach Harold Davis said senior Matt Ruxer will be the featured back. “Bryant will still be more of a defensive starter for us,” Davis said.
• Holy Cross has 10 starters (six offense/four defense) back from last year’s 6-6 squad but just three seniors on the roster. Quarterback Alec Greenwell and running back Evan Perry — both juniors — return to lead the offense. Only 5 feet 6 and 155 pounds, senior linebacker Ryan Kaelin keys the defense.
• Quotable: “We know Holy Cross is going to give us their best game,” Davis said. “They’re always physical with us … The series is tied 15-15, so there’s motivation on both sides to get the lead. DeSales has never had the lead in the series.”
• The pick: DeSales 35-14.
DOSS AT PLEASURE RIDGE PARK
Phillip Hawkins makes his debut as the Dragons’ head coach.
• Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
• Doss has been one of the buzz teams of the summer and has plenty of talent, led by wide receiver Tyler Jefferson (Western Kentucky commit), defensive tackle David Mack, wide receiver/safety Terrell Gray, linebacker Ramone Kelly and running back Keyontae Parris. Hawkins said the key will be his players believing they can beat PRP, noting the Panthers’ 18-2 all-time edge in the series.
• PRP has just five starters back (three offense/two defense) from last year’s 4-7 team, but senior running back/defensive back Delvon Dunn gives the Panthers a star to build around. He’ll run behind two returning starters on the offensive line in center Nolan Johnson and guard Cameron Tomes. “They have a superb offensive line,” Hawkins said of the Panthers.
• Quotable: “This will set the tone for the rest of the year,” Hawkins said. “Most of them get up in the morning and assume they’ll lose to PRP because that’s all they know. To put this in the right direction, somebody is going to have to get beat.”
• The pick: PRP 28-27.
BALLARD AT ST. XAVIER
Tigers have won 14 straight in this series, including 32-14 last season.
• Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
• The Bruins will debut their new wing-T offense, having scrapped the spread they used in recent years. Kenshawn Washington, a transfer from Butler, is expected to start at quarterback. Running back Davis Daniels and wide receiver Moe Masden are other top weapons on offense. Sean Hammons, who has committed to Ball State, anchors the defense at end.
• St. X returns just three starters (two offense/one defense) from last year’s 7-5 squad. Senior Noah Houk is the new starting quarterback, and senior TaiJon Smith is expected to be the top running back. Coach Will Wolford likes his defense, particularly a front seven led by linebackers Kyle McFarland, Connor Barnes and Kyle Oliver.
• Quotable: “Noah has really matured the past year,” Wolford said of his 6-4, 190-pound quarterback. “He’s put on about 15 pounds, and he’s a little taller. He’s definitely a pass-first quarterback, but he runs very well for a guy his size.”
• The pick: St. Xavier 30-13.
TRINITY AT NASHVILLE (TENN.) ENSWORTH
Rocks sophomore quarterback Harper gets tough test in debut.
• Kickoff: 8 p.m. EDT.
• Trinity is hoping a revamped off-season program will help it rebound from a 6-6 record last season. There’s plenty of talent on offense, led by senior running back Donald Brooks, junior wide receiver Rodjay Burns and sophomore quarterback Larry Harper III. The defense must improve after allowing 27.6 points per game.
• Ensworth beat Trinity 27-26 last year in the season opener on its way to a fourth straight Division II-AA state championship. The Tigers feature two senior defensive backs who have committed to Southeastern Conference schools — Rico McGraw (Alabama) and Donovan Sheffield (Vanderbilt). The Tigers are ranked No. 26 in the nation by Scout.com.
• The pick: Ensworth 34-30.
MALE AT FLOYD CENTRAL
Game moved from Male because its Bermuda field not ready for play.
• Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Male has high hopes for this season, having returned eight starters on both offense and defense from last year’s team that went 12-2 and lost to eventual state champion Scott County in the Class 6-A state semifinals. It will be interesting to see how quarterback Davis Mattingly spreads the ball around after the graduation of Marque Northington, who had a state-record 108 receptions last year.
• This game will mark the debut of Floyd Central’s new synthetic turf at Ron Weigleb Stadium. The Highlanders are 1-3 against Male over the past four years, including a 62-16 defeat last year. Floyd Central lost 28 seniors from last year’s 8-3 squad.
• The pick: Male 42-13.
BUTLER AT FERN CREEK
Bears won 30-16 last year as William Johnson passed for three TDs.
• Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
• Butler lost seven of 11 starters on offense from last year’s 11-3 team, including top running backs Joe Brown and Joe Hines. Coach Gary Wheeler is hoping Gregory Bethel and Demondre Blanks will fill the void. Johnson returns at quarterback after passing for 1,768 yards and 21 TDs last season.
• Former assistant Josh Abell will make his debut as the Tigers’ head coach. Sophomores Shamar Bryant and Hunter Mills are in contention to start at quarterback. Lamarius Kinslow (6-3, 228), a talented wide receiver and linebacker, also could see time at quarterback. Kinslow, linebacker Tre Webb and defensive back Kameron Smith anchor the defense.
• The pick: Butler 23-20.
Tonight’s other games
(Home team in CAPS)
Atherton 20, LYNN CAMP 14
Boyle County 30, Bullitt East 23 (at Lincoln County)
Christian Academy 21, LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN 13
SIMON KENTON 27, Collins 21
Eastern 20, JEFFERSONTOWN 17
OLDHAM COUNTY 28, Iroquois 12
KENTUCKY COUNTRY DAY 22, Shawnee 13
Southern 34, MOORE 28
Franklin County 37, NORTH BULLITT 22
North Oldham 40, Evansville (Ind.) Central 33 (at South Oldham)
JOHN HARDIN 28, Seneca 20
Shelby County 24, HENRY COUNTY 22
South Oldham 35, WEST JESSAMINE 20
SPENCER COUNTY 45, Thomas Nelson 13
Jason Frakes’ 2013 season record: 234-63.