As the season opens Friday night, there aren’t many question marks for a Manual High School football team that has eight starters back on offense and seven on defense from last year’s 9-3 team.
Perhaps the Crimsons’ biggest loss to graduation was at quarterback, where Mason Motley passed for 1,929 yards and 20 touchdowns last season before signing with DePauw University.
Enter Tim Comstock, an athletic junior whom Manual coach Oliver Lucas is excited to see. Comstock will get his first start when Manual opens its season at Central. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
“Tim is real heady,” Lucas said. “It’s been refreshing to see someone pick up the offense that quick. … I need him to manage the game. I always say that if you have to win with your quarterback, then you’re probably going to get beat, especially when you have other talents around him.”
Manual is No. 5 in Class 6-A in The Courier-Journal’s preseason poll of coaches. Central is No. 2 in Class 3-A.
Comstock will be a key if Manual wants to live up to its ranking, but Lucas isn’t expecting too much from him. After all, the Crimsons have talented senior running back Michael Nero (1,832 yards, 20 TDs last year) and a strong group of receivers led by Will Blackford, Jake Rist and Eric Niemann.
Comstock (6 feet, 180 pounds) — a member of Manual’s basketball and track and field teams and the school’s “best athlete,” according to Lucas — is capable of breaking a big play but mostly will be asked to spread the ball around.
“Above all things, we have to know ourselves,” Lucas said. “I don’t want to think of Kentucky Fried Chicken making hamburgers. That’s not what they do.”
Central’s run of three straight state championships came to an end last year with a 9-4 season capped by a 17-7 loss to Wayne County in a regional final. The Yellowjackets return just two starters on both offense and defense. Gone are former defensive stalwarts Donald Styles, Phillip Francis and Derquione Mobley.
“There are not any household names here at Central anymore,” coach Ty Scroggins said. “We graduated all those guys. But now it’s an opportunity for these kids to make names for themselves.”
Scroggins expects to play two quarterbacks, with junior Myron Norfleet having the better arm and sophomore James Simpson the faster legs. Senior Stevon Beason and sophomore Corey Johnson will lead the rushing attack.
Scroggins said his team’s No. 2 ranking in 3-A is based more on its past than its present, but he expects the Yellowjackets to show marked improvement through the season.
“We still plan to go out and give teams fits,” he said. “They’ll underestimate us because we’re so young and we don’t have those names, but give us three weeks and people will be talking about what we’re doing over here. We’ll be right in the hunt come 3-A (playoffs).”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
GAME OF THE WEEK
• Who: Manual at Central
• When: 7:30 p.m. today
• Jason’s pick: Manual 28-13