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Vaught's Views: Plenty of games to enjoy this year

August 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

With the start of the high school football season now less than a week away, it's time to look ahead to what one might expect this year.

Certainly expectations are high, especially in Title Town where Boyle County will be seeking a fifth straight state title and Danville a third one in four years. However, other area teams are also optimistic. Casey County is playing its most competitive schedule ever. Garrard County has added solid non-district competition. Harrodsburg has a new coach. Mercer County wants to continue its playoff run. Lincoln County figures it has to be better.

So what will be the marquee games to watch this year in an area that consistently produces big-time football? Here is my list of the top 10 games I would like to see for a variety of reasons.

1. Boyle at Danville, Sept. 5.

Not only is this the area's marquee game, it has developed into one of the best in the state. Danville stunned Boyle 20-10 last year to end the Rebels' 47-game win streak. The Rebels had won the three previous games. Danville returns more experience and speed, but Boyle has the proven quarterback this year in Brandon Smith and a host of young players waiting to prove they can play, too. It should make for an intense atmosphere once again and easily will draw the area's biggest crowd of the year.

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2. Manual at Danville, Aug. 23 (Bob Allen Pigskin Classic).

This game is intriguing because it matches a dominant Class A team - Danville - against a rising Class AAAA program. Manual feels it is ready to challenge traditional AAAA powers like Trinity, St. Xavier and Male. Manual's star player last year, Keenan Burton, is now at the University of Kentucky and says at least two returning Manual players are better than him. This is a great way to open the season for both teams and should show just how good both are.

3. Boyle County vs. Lafayette, Aug. 22 (Charger Classic).

The game is at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and is Boyle's opener. That's more than enough to make it special. But if that's not enough, Boyle coach Chuck Smith will be inducted into the Jeffersontown Hall of Fame at the game. Lafayette has defensive lineman Bilal El-Amin, a highly-touted player with several Division I offers, including one from Kentucky. This will be the game of the year for Lafayette, but it will also be a chance for the Rebels to establish early that they are a Class AAA title contender again.

4. Mercer at Harrodsburg, Sept. 5.

This might not have state title implications, but it is a huge rivalry to both teams. Win this game and enjoy life away from football. Lose this game and hear about it all year. First-year coach Terry Yeast played at Harrodsburg and knows what this game means to the Pioneers. But Mercer will again be a solid favorite.

5. Casey at Garrard, Oct. 3.

This normally would not make my list. However, Casey fans have had this game circled on their calendars for months because former Casey coach Steve Stonebraker is now the head coach at Garrard. This is the first year the two have been in the same Class AA district and while Stonebraker knows how much the Casey program has improved, many Garrard fans may not. This will be Casey's game of the year.

6. Danville at Highlands, Sept. 26, and Highlands at Boyle, Sept. 19.

These games tie and qualify as one because of the common opponent for the Title Town teams. Highlands would love to show it can be one of the state's premier teams again and there's no better way to do that than by beating Boyle and Danville on consecutive weekends. The trip to Highlands will be an eye-opening experience for the Ads, but the Bluebirds may be just as surprised by what they find at Boyle. Both games will be among the best in the state.

7. Mercer at Garrard, Sept. 26.

This Class AA district rivalry usually has big playoff implications. Garrard aspires to move ahead of the Scotties, but Mercer continues to find ways to win. This has developed into a healthy rivalry, one that brings out the nasty side in both teams.

8. Danville at Lincoln, Aug. 29.

This renews a series that should never have been stopped. Lincoln has just one win over Danville, but Lincoln fans love this challenge and it was always an intense rivalry. These two teams should be playing and there's no way Lincoln can ever build a Class AAA winner if it won't play a Class A area rival.

9. Garrard at Lincoln, Sept. 5.

Neighboring counties that both think they should always win this game. That produces more than enough fireworks to make my top 10.

10. Henry Clay at Boyle, Aug. 29.

It was tempting to put this game higher because on paper, it always stacks up as a great contest. But the last two years the Rebels have just dominated the game. Henry Clay has to remember those beatings and again looks to have more than enough talent to test a young Boyle team.

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