The day many of us have been pointing toward for months is finally here, as a new high school football season begins again tonight, with five of the six Advocate-area teams kicking things off with local games.
It’s Danville vs. Lincoln County and Casey County vs. Simon Kenton in Lincoln’s Death Valley Bowl, Boyle County hosts Highlands and Garrard County hosts Clay County. (Mercer County will wait until next week to get going.)
Let’s cut to the chase. With due respect to tonight’s other three local games, the Highlands-Boyle game is the most anticipated regular-season game in these parts in several years. It’s a battle between two teams that have been stacking up championships — Highlands has won four straight; Boyle has two in a row — but that will now be fighting for the same title as a result of the latest realignment.
Message board discussions on this game were under way even before last season ended, and of course they’ve been going strong for the last two or three weeks. The question is whether Boyle can stand up to the tough new kid on its block or whether Highlands will simply steamroll through Boyle and everyone else in Class 4A as it has done recently in 5A.
The answer, however, lies somewhere in the middle. Boyle is certainly good enough to be more than a speed bump in Highlands’ path, but the Bluebirds still look on paper to be a better team than the Rebels at this point. I expect Highlands to win convincingly but not in a rout, and I expect a much better game between these two teams if they meet again in November, which they likely will.
To the south, there are three local teams in the Death Valley Bowl, and the main event is the opener, a renewal of the Danville-Lincoln rivalry that has been dormant since 2004. It’s good to see these two teams playing again, which they’ll also do next year in Danville’s bowl. There’s not much love lost between the two fan bases, but this rivalry isn’t so bitter that it can’t be played at least every now and then. Danville begins its 100th season with a bright outlook but also a fistful of question marks on both sides of the ball, while Lincoln is looking to build some momentum after starting an upward climb last season.
Casey has one of the area’s two new coaches, as Sam Marple makes his head coaching debut at his alma mater. Marple inherited an experienced team from Andy Stephens, who is now an assistant coach at Southwestern, but he also inherited a brutal schedule that is easily the toughest the Rebels have ever played. The other new coach is Mercer’s Paul Rains, who is trying to turn a program that has been going in the wrong direction since 2007, the year after it won the 2A championship.
Garrard and its coach, Mark Scenters, are looking for a better year but are starting with a tough opponent in Clay. Still, the Golden Lions have a wealth of experience returning as well, including a number of skill players who hope to help them put up big numbers on the scoreboard — which they’ll probably have to do.
The Garrard-Clay game is dubbed the Hall of Fame Bowl — though its only a single game — and it and the Death Valley Bowl comprise only half the schedule of local bowls this year. There are two more games next Saturday, one established and one new: the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic at Danville (Anderson County vs. Lincoln, Garrard vs. Danville) and a yet-to-bep-named bowl at Boyle (Collins vs. Mercer, Allen County-Scottsville vs. Boyle). More on that next week.
Hope you’re ready for the season. Enjoy the games and my predictions for week 1:
- Clay County over Garrard County.
- Danville over Lincoln County.
- Highlands over Boyle County.
- Simon Kenton over Casey County.