2013 Bullitt Central Football preview

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Cougars have the tools to make a move

By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – After posting winning records four of the past five seasons, but winning just one game in the post-season, the Bullitt Central Cougars are looking to take another step forward this fall.

     With the return of leading rusher Trevor Carnell, who had a school record 1,946 yards as a sophomore last season, along with a strong junior class, the maroon and gray appear set to make more noise in 2013.

     The Cougars do have some holes to fill from a year ago when they went 6-5 and lost to Grayson County in the first round of the Class 5-A play-offs, but that is true of most high school teams. Veteran head coach Danny Leasor lost top assistant coach Mike Gossett and on the field the team needed to fill in three offensive line spots as well as needing to find a quarterback to replace graduated senior Brad Combs.

     So far, Leasor is pleased with what he has seen from this team. The Cougars blew out Moore in a scrimmage two weeks ago. The squad is ready to get back to action after being off last week and getting a later start than most teams around the state.

     “I think we’ll have a sound football team,” Leasor said last week in his office at the school. “We have a lot of experienced kids coming back. Then we have a good running back returning. I think he is as good as anyone.”

     Leasor is going to play the ‘respect’ card at least early in the season. The Cougars were picked by the other coaches in the district as the top team, but then both Bullitt East and North Bullitt got votes in the state-wide Class 5-A rankings. The coach was really ticked off that Carnell was not part of a list of the top 50 players in the state this year.

     “I hate for our kids not to be recognized,” the coach said on the eve of his seventh season as the head coach in his second stint at the school. “I know where our program was in 2007 when I came here and met with only 27 kids and now what we have. We still get no respect. We’ll play with that chip on our shoulder this season.”

     The coach has high expectations for this season.

     “I think we’ll have a good year,” Leasor said. “We have kids who started last year and we have good size and we have speed in all the running backs. Even without Trevor we’d have four or five good backs.”

     Nobody wants to think about not having Trevor in the Cougar camp. The junior does things that few players have been able to do in the 43 year history of the program.

     With the move of former associate head coach Mike Gossett to the athletic director’s chair at the school, Leasor is once again running the offense for the Cougars. Long-time assistant coach Lewis Clark will be the defensive coordinator.

     Leasor has switched back to predominantly an ‘I’ formation attack which will put an extra blocker in front of Carnell on most plays. There will also be two tight ends to create more blocking.

     “New we use two tight ends and we want to be physical and get ahead and stay ahead,” Leasor said of getting rid of the fast-paced ‘pistol’ offense the team has used the past couple of seasons. “We want to play fast by playing slow. We want to control the ball and control the clock.”

     One question has been answered as Leasor has said that sophomore Cameron Dukes will start at quarterback when the team takes the field on Friday at home against Fairdale. Dukes saw a few plays at quarterback late last season, but he has never started a varsity game. He won a battle of four candidates for the starting job.

     “It was quite a quarterback battle with four of them getting work there,” Leasor said. “After the scrimmage we saw that it would be Dukes. But I won’t hesitate to put D.J. (Dennison) in there if we need too.”

     The Cougars had also practiced with senior Brett McConahay and junior transfer Cameron Mallory at quarterback in the pre-season. Any of those four not playing quarterback will see time at other positions.

     Obviously, Carnell will be the tailback and the player lining up in front of him will be either Michael Saunders or Jacob Fulkerson, a pair of seniors. Saunder provides more speed while Fulkerson, at 250-pounds, is a powerful blocker.

     Leasor is also high on his slot running back position which will be manned by either junior Zack Patton or senior Jason Johns. Patton was the third leading rusher for the Cougars last season behind Carnell and Combs.

     At tight end, the Cougars will rotate junior Tyler McCarthy and senior Alex Cromer on one side while seniors Tyler Bray and Nate Ennis, the coaches’ grandson, play on the other side.

     Up front, the Cougars had to replace three starters on the line including center Alex Gossett who had taken ever snap at the position for the past three seasons. After the season Gossett became the first All-State player in the program’s history when he was a third-team selection.

     Still, anchoring the line will be the junior left tackle Zack Smith who at 6-4, 330 pounds is one of the top linemen in the area. Across the front, the Cougars will also start senior Cody Ford at the opposite tackle from Smith. At guard, senior Joseph Combest and junior Thomas Troutman will start. At center, sophomore Sean Sanders will get the call.

     Other candiates for playing time on the front line will be senior David Greenwell, juniors Sterling Rayhill, Eli Thacker and Micalan Kerberg as well as sophomore Dylan Davis.

Defensive Front

     Leasor was hoping to find enough linemen so that no player will start on both sides of the ball, but at times some of the players will need to go both ways including Smith and Ennis.

     The Cougars will continue to use their six-man front formation.

     Inside, the two defensive guards will be Smith and junior Justin Flener. At tackle, Ennis will start along with junior Alec Hobbs. At the inside spots, the depth will come from senior Dakota Mason, juniors David Greenwell and Kerberg along with Davis.

     On the outside, the two ends will be Saunders and Johns while Bray and junior Adrian Shifflett will also see playing time.

     At linebacker, Fulkerson will start on the strong side while the weakside lineback will be Mallory, who played last year at Jeffersonville High School in Indiana. They will be supported by junior Anthony Smith and senior Carl Phillips.

     In the secondary, the two cornerbacks will be Patton and senior Josh Goodall while Dennison will start at the safety spot. Carnell could play at free safety if needed while McCarthy and junior Nolan Mann have worked at the two cornerback spots.

     As of last week, Dukes was listed as both the punter and the placekicker. Carnell has punted in the past and Dennison has also done some placekicking.

     The way the schedule breaks for the Cougars, the team needs to get off to a good start to build for the rest of the season. Outside of the district/county games, the toughest foes for the Cougars appear to be McCracken County in week four and Simon Kenton in week nine.

     “It’s important to get out of the gate fast,” Leasor said. “We play three games (Fairdale, Southern and Valley) before we make that trip to Paducah to play McCracken. We need to be 3-0 before that game.

     “I feel we’re better now than we were at this point last year – overall,” the coach added.

     The goals for the Cougars haven’t changed for this season.

     “Our goal as always is to win the district and win the top spot so we get to play at home in the play-offs and then we want to win the county games,” Leasor explained. “We’re fortunate that our rivalry games are right here within six or seven miles.

     “We’re not the overwhelming favorite, obviously,” the coach continued. “It should be an interesting year. We have to get off to a good start. We need the confidence and positive feeling.”