Prep Football: Garrard counting on new players in opener against Clay
Garrard County linebackers Garrett Caudill, left, Ronnie Saylor make a stop in last year¿s playoff win over Powell County. The two are some of the veterans returning for the Golden Lions, who open up the season Friday when they host Clay County. (Clay Jackson / August 15, 2012)
But the Golden Lions must also rely on a number of first-time starters and other new faces, and coach Mark Scenters said he’ll be watching their performance carefully Friday in the season opener against Clay County at Dyehouse Stadium.
“We hope to see some young kids who are having an opportunity to get on the field take advantage of their opportunity and make plays,” Scenters said. “We’ve got some known commodities in our offensive line and (quarterback) Billy (Abney) and (running back-linebacker) Garrett (Caudill), but we need some of those guys who haven’t been on the field to shine for us.”
Scenters said there is talent among the players who are stepping into larger roles this season, but there isn’t much confidence.
“It’s getting those guys having confidence and faith in themselves that they can get the job done, and they’ve got to develop faith in their teammates as well,” he said.
Many of the new faces on the field will belong to wide receivers. Juniors Jacob Smith and Jacob Simpson and senior Layne Cumby have played sparingly on offense in the past, while others such as freshmen Mike Redmon, Clay Shuey, Nick McCollum and Jay McPherson are untested.
“We feel like we’ve got several kids that can catch it, but they need that game experience,” Scenters said. “Our philosophy has always been to try and spread the ball around. The only way they’re going to make plays is to be put in position to make plays.”
There isn’t much experience at running back, either. Senior Garrett Caudill and juniors Noah Williams and Trey Merritt carried the ball only 30 times between them last season, and they’ll be used in the backfield along with McPherson.
Scenters said that depending on the circumstances and situation, there could be as many as four or five freshmen on the field on offense and/or defense Friday, and even more on special teams.
They’ll face a Clay team that lost a four-overtime thriller at Garrard to open last season, then spiraled to a 1-10 finish.
“If you had told me after they played us that they were going to go 1-10, I’d have never believed it,” Scenters said.
The Tigers have two star linemen in Jacob Hyde (6-3, 325 pounds), who verbally committed to Kentucky as a defensive tackle last winter, and Christian McNeal (6-3, 245), whom Scenters said might be “just as good” as Hyde.
“They’ve got very good size on their front line on offense and defense, but those guys are really good athletes,” Scenters said.
Clay’s 2011 season was marked by a porous defense. The 40 points the Tigers surrendered to Garrard a year ago were actually below their season average of 45.3 allowed per game, and only five teams in Kentucky gave up more points.
But Scenters said they seem to be playing more of a base defense in their first season under Evan Napier, a longtime assistant who was promoted to head coach following the death of Kenny Roark earlier this year, rather than the attacking style that often led to opponents’ big plays.
“We’ve got to pay so much attention to those big linemen that we don’t want to lose track of their linebackers,” Scenters said.