Speedster Gentry keys Male's rushing attack

Speedster Gentry keys Male's rushing attack

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Speedster Gentry keys Male's rushing attack

Senior has rushed for at least one TD in all 11 of his games this year

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Senior has rushed for at least one TD in all 11 of his games this year

The team and coach say they want to finish the job they started.

Even at the age of 5, Devin Gentry felt the need to prove himself.

So after his first season of flag football, Gentry decided he needed a bigger challenge.

“I watched my brother play tackle football and told my dad, ‘If I have to play flag, I don’t want to play anymore,’” Gentry said. “I moved up to peewee when I was 6 years old and took my lumps a little bit. Everybody was bigger. But that’s all I’ve known is real football.”

Now a senior running back at Male, Gentry has just one final challenge remaining on the high school level – winning a state championship.

Gentry and his teammates will get their chance at 6 p.m. EST Saturday when Male (14-0) – No. 1 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – faces No. 9 Lafayette (12-2) in the Class 6-A final at Houchens Industries/L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky.

MORE COVERAGE | Male as high as No. 7 in national rankings

MORE COVERAGE | Litkenhous Ratings predict winners of all 6 state finals

Gentry missed last week’s state-semifinal victory over Central Hardin with an ankle injury but said he’ll be 100 percent for Saturday’s finale.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Gentry has enjoyed a strong senior season as the Bulldogs’ featured running back, rushing for 1,015 yards and 18 touchdowns on 160 carries. He’s scored at least one touchdown in all 11 games he’s played this season.

But in an offense that averages 45.5 points and 241 passing yards per games, Gentry’s contributions sometimes are overshadowed. He said the team’s running backs and receivers have a strong relationship.

“They take guys out of the box for me, and I have to bring people back in the box to help them out,” Gentry said. “When you get the run game going, it opens up the play-action for our receivers. We work together. I wouldn’t say the running game is overlooked.”

Also a track and field star, Gentry’s main asset is his speed. As a sophomore he was the Class 3-A state runner up in the 100-meter dash and long jump. Last year he finished among the top 12 in four events — triple jump (fourth), 100 (fifth), long jump (ninth) and 200 (12th).

Male coach Chris Wolfe said Gentry was clocked at a blazing 4.18 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Western Kentucky University camp during the summer.

“They said, ‘You have to run it again because we’ve never had anybody timed that fast,’” Wolfe said. “I don’t know what he ran the second time, but he was the fastest guy at their camp. …

“Devin has barely scratched the surface. When I talk to college coaches, I say, ‘You don’t realize that this guy is still learning how to play running back, and he’s getting better every week.’ He’s a slasher. He sticks his foot in the ground and goes. He’s not the jitterbug-style running back like a Barry Sanders. He’s more of a guy who gets downhill.”

Gentry missed the regular-season finale against Western and the first-round playoff game against Jeffersontown with a hamstring injury but enjoyed big performances in second- and third-round playoff victories.

Against Manual on Nov. 13, he carried 26 times for a career-high 202 yards and two touchdowns. The following week against Trinity he rushed for 126 yards on 16 carries, including a 54-yard touchdown run.

“If you miss him one time, he can take it to the house,” Wolfe said.

Added Gentry: “When I make my mind up I go 100 percent. I’m not going to tip-toe. When I see a hole I’m gone.”

Gentry said he currently has scholarship offers from Georgia State, Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri State, Austin Peay and Lindsey Wilson but isn’t in a hurry to make a choice.

He’d like to play football and compete in track and field in college, but his focus this week is leading Male to its first state title since 2000.

“It took us a while to get here … and that makes it that much more special,” he said. “You finally made it, and now you have to go out and make sure you’re remembered as the class that finished the job. …

“The students are talking about wanting to go have a party, but there’s no party if you don’t win. I have to win this game. I can’t worry about anything else.”

Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and jfrakes@courier-journal.com.

STATE FOOTBALL FINALS

At Houchens Industries/L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green

All times Eastern

THURSDAY

* Class A – Beechwood (13-1) vs. Pikeville (12-2), 8 p.m.

SATURDAY

* Class 6-A – Male (14-0) vs. Lafayette (12-2), 6 p.m.

* Class 5-A – Bowling Green (13-1) vs. Pulaski County (13-1), 9 p.m.

SUNDAY

* Class 2-A – Mayfield (13-1) vs. Newport Central Catholic (9-5), 2 p.m.

* Class 3-A – Lexington Catholic (11-3) vs. Belfry (13-1), 5 p.m.

* Class 4-A – South Warren (14-0) vs. Johnson Central (12-1), 8 p.m.

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