The storyline for Class 4A remains unchanged.
Is Highlands still the top team in the district, or is this the year Covington Catholic knocks the king off its throne?
Holmes had a decent season under first-year coach Benjamin Nevels, but Harrison County is still likely relegated to also-ran status.
Coach: Brian Weinrich (1st season).
2013 finish: 13-2, lost to Collins in the state final.
2014 outlook: No high school football coach in Kentucky has more pressure on him than Weinrich.
With the annual bar set so high, if Highlands is as successful, that is what is expected. If the Bluebirds have a down year, Weinrich will likely feel the heat.
But Weinrich is already a Highlands man, having been defensive coordinator for the Bluebirds in recent years, and he coached the state championship game in 2012 when Dale Mueller had to attend a funeral.
His quarterback, senior Beau Hoge, posted video game numbers of 36-for-56, 735 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions. His top returning receiver, senior Alex Veneman, had nearly 900 receiving yards in 2013.
The Bluebirds open up at Campbell County next week, and they host out-of-state teams Miami (Fla.) Columbus and Cincinnati Elder.
2. COVINGTON CATHOLIC
Coach: David Wirth (6th season, 41-22).
2013 finish: 10-3, lost to Highlands in a state quarterfinal.
2014 outlook: CovCath had a good year in 2013, especially considering they lost their quarterback and running back to lengthy injuries the first game of the season.
As a result, the Colonels now have two quarterbacks with ample varsity experience in senior Adam Wagner and junior Ben Dressman. Dressman took most of the snaps and finished 125-for-213 for 1,730 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Wagner went 29-for-37 (78.4 percent) for 400 yards and three scores.
Defense should again be a strong suit for CovCath, which held five opponents to single-digit point totals and allowed an average of just 16.3 points per game.
Sept. 26 is the biggest game on the Colonels’ regular season schedule, as that is when they travel to Fort Thomas to take on Highlands.
Coach: Benjamin Nevels (2nd season, 5-6).
2013 finish: 5-6, lost to Ashland Blazer in the first round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: Nevels had a decent first season at the Bulldogs’ helm, and this year he looks to get his team past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Do-it-all Jon Scruggs’ graduation leaves a big hole in the Holmes lineup, but junior Desean Brumfield returns after gaining ample experience under center in 2013.
Brumfield was 80-for-177 for 1,024 yards and 10 TDs last season.
The Bulldogs need to tighten up their defense, as they allowed 34.1 points per game in 2013.
Holmes opens up with a rebuilding Holy Cross team, but Week 1 vs. a rejuvenated Scott team should be an excellent test for the Bulldogs.
4. HARRISON COUNTY
Coach: Jim Carr (3rd season, 4-18).
2013 finish: 3-8, lost to Johnson Central in the first round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: The Thorobreds are in search of their first winning season since 2007, and being in Class 4A with Holmes, CovCath and Highlands each year makes that a major challenge.
Harrison County does have its QB-RB duo back in Robbie Stroub and Zack Mastin. Stroub threw for 1,818 yards and 13 TDs on a team that loves to throw the ball, and Mastin led the team with 545 yards on the ground and six scores.
The Thorobreds open the season with four straight road games, and their home opener is not until Sept. 19. Harrison County does host Holmes, which it only lost to by a touchdown last season, which is the team’s best chance at getting out of the Class 4A basement.