Top five story lines entering prep football season
1. Can Ensworth win its fifth consecutive Division II-AA state title? The Tigers boast one of the state’s best cornerback duos in Rico McGraw and Donovan Sheffield. McGraw has committed to Alabama; Sheffield will follow his dad’s footsteps at Vanderbilt. Quarterback P.J. Settles can’t wait for Friday’s opener against Trinity, Ky., after missing the end of last year with a knee injury. Trinity fell to 6-6 last year, but it has won 22 Kentucky state championships. Then Ensworth hits the road for six straight games. Showdown against Brentwood Academy in regular-season finale. Gut feeling says coach Ricky Bowers will find a way to lead Tigers back to Cookeville in December.
2. The best game of the year might be the first game of the year when Oakland visits Blackman on Sunday in an opener that will be televised by ESPN2. Both teams are loaded. Oakland boasts three Southeastern Conference commitments: linebacker Josh Smith (Vanderbilt), offensive lineman Jack Jones (Tennessee) and tight end Kyle Oliver (Tennessee). Blackman quarterback/defensive back Jauan Jennings, a UT commitment, is an impact player on both sides of the ball. Sunday’s winner moves into the driver’s seat in District 7-AAA, one of the state’s toughest leagues. The rivals split two games last year. Who will win Sunday? Flip a coin.
3. Can Christ Presbyterian Academy find a way back to the Class 3A title game? Wouldn’t be surprised. Lions coach Ingle Martin inherited a team that went 5-6 in 2010 and he has gone 39-4 since then. CPA made it to the state final last year, falling to Alcoa 25-7. The Lions will go as far as quarterbacks Zack Weatherly and Jay Hockaday and lineman Parker Howell can take them. It starts Friday at Brentwood.
4. “Keep chopping wood” was Henry County’s slogan last year. Nothing fancy, the Patriots just outwork you. Coach James Counce reminds his players that trees don’t come down in one swipe. By the fourth quarter they wear teams down. They toppled all the trees last year, going 15-0 en route to the Class 5A title. Don’t be surprised if Henry County makes another deep run this year, considering it has gone 48-5 since 2011.
5. What about Trousdale County and Giles County? Trousdale County begins defense of its Class 2A title armed with one of the state’s most versatile players in Kenyan Harper. The senior wingback rushed for 1,800 yards with 27 touchdowns and added 582 receiving yards and nine TDs in 2013. Playing safety on defense, he had 59 tackles with three interceptions. He also had three TDs on punt and kickoff returns. The Yellow Jackets also have a talented quarterback in Marquel Claiborn, but they graduated five offensive linemen. Giles County is seeking its second straight appearance in the Class 4A final. Players like CB Cameron Ordway (major college prospect) QB Trevor Holder and WR Lucas Harrison give the Bobcats reason for optimism.