South Oldham and Conner were the top teams last year, but both have suffered major losses on offense, leaving the district wide open.
Scott and Cooper also graduated several key components of their teams and Grant County is trying to bounce back from a 1-9 season, so this could be a down year in Class 5A.
1. SOUTH OLDHAM
Coach: Jamie Reed (5th season, 29-17).
2013 finish: 8-4, lost to Franklin County in the second round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: It seems like a lifetime ago the Dragons went 0-10, but that was only six years ago, and Reed has turned this program completely around since.
South Oldham is looking for its fifth straight winning season, but the Dragons lost their quarterback (was there ever a better QB name than Chase Lightfoot?) and top receiver from their 8-4 campaign.
Senior Kevin Kuriger is the team’s top returning skill player, having rushed for 1,145 yards and six touchdowns in 2013.
South Oldham has to face Conner and Grant County on the road in district play before hosting Cooper and Scott. The game against the Cougars could end up deciding the district championship.
Coach: Dan Woolley (3rd season, 12-10).
2013 finish: 7-4, lost to Franklin County in the first round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: Woolley led Scott to a 22 year-best five-win season in 2012, and he followed that up by coaching the Eagles to their best season in school history last year.
A team that runs the ball nearly exclusively, Scott lost three of its top four rushers from 2013. Junior Roberto London is back after rushing 58 times for 558 yards – a 9.6-yard average – and six TDs.
The Eagles played exceptional defense the first six games last year, allowing an average of just 12.6 points, but they need to finish stronger this year on that side of the ball. Scott gave up at least 28 points in all of its final four games.
Once again, the Eagles open with smaller opponents leading up to their district schedule. Holmes and Newport should be their biggest challenges, but there is no reason Scott should not be at least 4-1 heading into district play.
Coach: Dave Trosper (12th season, 58-62).
2013 finish: 8-4, lost to Anderson County in the second round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: With a team built to win in 2013, the Cougars suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to Anderson County to end their season.
That also ended the careers of generational quarterback Drew Barker and three of his top five targets including his best two.
Senior Michael Postel is the only returning Conner receiver with at least 250 yards last season – he finished with 268 and three touchdowns.
The Cougars, with inexperience at skill positions, will not have the luxury of being able to break in their players slowly. After opening with Boone County, Conner faces Simon Kenton, Ryle and Campbell County before opening district play.
Coach: Randy Borchers (9th season, 37-51).
2013 finish: 3-8, lost to Anderson County in the first round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: The Jaguars need to score more points this year to compete in Class 5A.
Cooper averaged just 21.3 points per game, with 49 coming in its win over Grant County. The Jaguars scored more than 22 points just one other time.
And improving on offense will be tough to do since Cooper lost its quarterback and top two receivers in a pass-oriented system.
The Jaguars are still undecided on their starting QB, and their skill players will have to learn against a non-district opponents Ryle, NewCath, Boone County, Simon Kenton and Scott.
5. GRANT COUNTY
Coach: Kevin Siple (2nd season, 4-16).
2013 finish: 1-9, did not qualify for the playoffs.
2014 outlook: The Braves tied for their worst record since the football program’s inception in 1992 last year and are looking for redemption.
After modest success late last decade, Grant County has not won more than three games 2008.
The Braves do return their quarterback and top running back from last season, and both are juniors. Joseph Knipp was 60-for-140 for 440 yards and three scores, and Hunter Lawson rushed 135 times for 576 yards and five scores.
The offense needs much improvement, as Grant County averaged just 13.4 points per game in 2013 and 5.4 in its last five.