This class should have the most parity of any involving Northern Kentucky teams, as Simon Kenton lost a lot of talent and Dixie Heights and Ryle should be rejuventated.
And then there is Campbell County, which always seems to be in the running for the district title and has improved each year under coach Stephen Lickert.
1. SIMON KENTON
Coach: Jeff Marksberry (15th season, 89-72).
2013 finish: 12-1, lost to Louisville Butler in a state quarterfinal.
2014 outlook: It will be tough for the Pioneers to match their offensive output from 2013 without quarterback Brenan Kuntz.
Simon Kenton scored 500 points – 38.5 per game – last season, and the Pioneers do return senior Logan Winkler, who led the team in receiving touchdowns (11), tied for first in receptions (51) and was second in receiving yards (719).
Junior Dillion Powell, who rushed for 738 yards and nine TDs, also returns.
Under center will be sophomore Cameron Racke, who threw 17 passes last season. He should have a solid O-line and a good returning set of skill players to work with.
Simon Kenton should be tested by Collins in its opener, but other than NewCath, the Pioneers do not have a terribly difficult non-district schedule.
2. CAMPBELL COUNTY
Coach: Stephen Lickert (11th season, 56-55).
2013 finish: 8-4, lost to Louisville Butler in the second round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: The Camels posted their first eight-win season since 2006 last year, and they have won a playoff game four straight years.
Improving on last season’s 8-4 mark will be difficult for a team that lost its quarterback, two top rushers and two top receivers from 2013.
Campbell County hopes to build on an outstanding second half defensively, as the Camels gave up just 10.3 points per game in their final six, including their two playoff games.
The Camels’ schedule is top-heavy, as they open with East Central (Ind.), Highlands ad NewCath but finish with Ryle, Boone County and Holy Cross.
Likely the most important game on the Class 6A schedule is Oct. 3, when Campbell County visits Simon Kenton.
3. DIXIE HEIGHTS
Coach: Dave Brossart (5th season, 21-26).
2013 finish: 8-4, lost to Simon Kenton in the second round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: Brossart struggled to a 3-8 mark his first season as the Colonels’ head coach in 2012, but last year was Dixie Heights’ best since 2005.
Senior Drew Moore is back under center this season, leading an offense that averaged 31.2 points per game in 2013.
But the Colonels’ defense was even more impressive, holding opponents to an average of 13.1 points.
One area Dixie Heights needs to improve in is winning close games. The Colonels were 0-4 in games decided by 12 points of fewer and 8-0 when teams were separated by 13 or more points.
Coach: Mike Engler (1st season).
2013 finish: 2-9, lost to Louisville Butler in the first round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: Ryle had the second-worst offense of any Class 6A team in Kentucky last season, scoring just 120 points (10.9 per game – Boone County was last), but there is reason for optimism on that side of the ball in 2014.
Engler, a former Lexington Catholic assistant, is running a no-huddle offense and the Raiders’ quarterback, top receiver and two top running backs are returning.
Senior Ryan Rytlewski played five games under center last season and was 27-for-64 for 331 yards, and junior Colin England also returns after catching nine passes for 159 yards and one score.
Senior Ryan Woolf led the team in rushing yards with 543.
Ryle has a tough non-district schedule that features Scott County, Cincinnati Sycamore and CovCath.
5. BOONE COUNTY
Coach: Jeff Griffith (2nd season, 0-11).
2013 finish: 0-11, lost to McCracken County in the first round of the playoffs.
2014 outlook: Griffith’s first season at the helm of the Rebels was a forgettable one, as they did not win a game and had the worst offense of any Class 6A team in the state, averaging 10.0 points per game.
Boone County is hoping to turn that around with senior Jamar Lamb under center this season.
The Rebels’ top two rushers from 2013 are back in seniors Aaron Floyd and Jerry Marshall, but Floyd – who led the team with 615 ground yards – is listed as a defensive back this season.
Marshall rushed 101 times for 347 yards and one score, and he caught 14 passes for 92 yards.
In addition to playing in a highly-competitive district, Boone County will face CovCath, Conner, Lexington Lafayette and Lexington Catholic.