Letcher Central at Shelby Valley
Who: Letcher Central (0-0) at Shelby Valley (0-0)
Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Johnson Brothers Athletic Complex, Robinson Creek.
Coaches: Letcher Central, Junior Matthews. Shelby Valley, Anthony Hampton.
Notes: This will be the first-ever game between Letcher Central and Shelby Valley.
Letcher Central moves down to Class 4A after spending years in Class 5A. The Cougars will compete in Class 4A District 8 against Perry Central, Harlan County, Clay County and Johnson Central.
The Cougars finished with a 5-6 record last season.
Letcher Central lost starting quarterback Nick Sergent from last season and No. 2 running back Jonathan Sergent.
The Cougars do return leading rusher Hunter Campbell for his senior season, though. Campbell finished last season with 895 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Shelby Valley returns its entire offensive and defensive line.
But on offense, the Wildcats only return one skill player who started.
That skill player is senior Dalton Meade.
Meade will be in a different role, though as he will be the signal caller for the Wildcats.
Meade is getting a lot of attention from colleges for his athleticism and versatility on the field. Meade led the Wildcats in tackles on the defensive side of the ball last season.
The question for Shelby Valley is how will the run game be affected after losing 2,000 yard rusher Seth Johnson.
Meade will be a big part of that because he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season.
The Wildcats will try and be a running back by committee team this year.
Sophomore Ethan Bentley and freshman Jayden Newsome may be the top two running backs for the Wildcats this season.
Who 2 Watch: Shelby Valley’s offensive line.
Anchored by one of the state’s best lineman Peyton Blackburn, the Wildcats returned all of its starters.
The Wildcats offensive line has looked good in its two scrimmages this preseason.
The inexperience at running back will be helped by the offensive line.
If the Wildcats want to knock off Class 4A Letcher Central in the season opener, the offensive line will have to pave the way.
Prestonsburg at Pike Central
Who: Prestonsburg (0-0) at Pike Central (0-0)
Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Location: The Hawks Nest, Buckleys Creek.
Coaches: Prestonsburg, Brandon Brewer. Pike Central, Eric Ratliff.
Notes: The Blackcats and Hawks both had tough seasons last year.
Prestonsburg finished 2018 with a 2-9 record, while the Hawks finished with a 3-8 record last season.
Last season was Brandon Brewer’s first year as head coach.
Brewer is looking to build on last season and be back in the Class 2A District 8 hunt. Shelby Valley is the reigning district champs.
The Blackcats lost leading rusher Ethan Varney and the No. 2 running back Ezekiel Briggs.
Quarterback Brayden Slone returns for the Blackcats.
Slone was 16 for 41 passing for 236 yards and two TDs with one interception last year. Slone also rushed for 250 yards and four TDs.
Samuel Kelly could emerge as the top running back in for the Blackcats.
Pike Central was in a rebuild last season, but kept getting better as the season progressed.
The Hawks return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
Tyler Hunt returns as the starting quarterback and Nate Roberts anchors the defense.
Who 2 Watch: For Prestonsburg, Brayden Slone. For Pike Central, Nate Roberts.
Slone will have to be able to run and throw both.
Slone is the most experienced and top skill player coming back for the Blackcats.
Slone will have to have a big game if Prestonsburg wants to knock off Pike Central on the road.
Roberts had a big season last year as one of top linebackers in the mountains.
This preseason, he has picked up where he left off.
Roberts flies to the ball and is in on almost every tackle.
If Prestonsburg can’t put a body on Roberts, it could be a long night for the young Blackcats.
Belfry at Southwestern
Who: Belfry (0-0) at Southwestern (0-0)
Kickoff: Friday, 8:30 p.m.
Location: Don Franklin Bowl. The Reservation, Somerset.
Coaches: Belfry, Philip Haywood. Southwestern, Jason Foley.
Notes: Belfry always has trouble finding opponents.
The Pirates only have nine scheduled games so far.
Belfry usually sits out Week 0 and opens the season at home during the Pike County Bowl, but the Pirates needed a game.
Enter Southwestern. The Warriors are a Class 5A squad.
The Pirates and the Warriors will close out the Don Franklin Bowl. Lexington Catholic will take on Pulaski County in the opening game of the bowl.
Class 3A will look a lot different for the Pirates as powers Boyle County, Lexington Catholic, Corbin and Central all move to Class 4A this season.
Belfry will start the season with some major injuries.
How will the injuries affect the Pirates?
That’s to be seen.
Southwestern finished last season with a 10-3 record last season.
The Warriors advanced to the Class 5A Region 4 championship before falling to Pulaski County 13-6 last season.
The Warriors lost quarterback Drew Sawyers to graduation.
Sawyers threw for over 1,100 yards and eight TDs last season and rushed for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs last season.
Chase Don was the second leading rusher last season. He rushed for 916 yards and 10 TDs last season. Don returns for the Warriors this season.
Who 2 Watch: Belfry running back Isaac Dixon.
Dixon is a speedy back who can bust a play open at any moment.
Dixon rushed for 1,393 yards and 16 TDs for the Pirates last season.
Dixon will be entering his junior season for the Pirates.
If Dixon has a big game, he could help the Pirates open the season with a big road win over a good Class 5A school.
Bardstown at Pikeville
Who: Bardstown (0-0) at Pikeville (0-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 6:00 p.m.
Location: Hillard Howard Field, Pikeville.
Coaches: Bardstown, David Clark. Pikeville, Chris McNamee.
Notes: Class 3A Bardstown finished last season with a 6-6 record.
Bardstown returns its top two quarterbacks from last season.
DaTrail Wright led the Tigers passing attack going 45 for 75 for 646 yards and five TDs with five interceptions. Brady Clark was 50 for 111 for 619 yards and 12 TDs with six interceptions.
The Tigers also return top running back LaDarion Montgomery. Montgomery finished last season with 704 yards and three TDs.
Pikeville is hungry this season.
The Panthers looked good in both of their preseason scrimmages.
Pikeville looked really good in their last scrimmage against Pulaski County.
But that’s scrimmage play.
The regular season is what counts.
Look for the Panthers to come out focused and use this as the first step on their way back to Kroger Field.
The Panthers are going to be fun to watch on both sides of the ball.
Pikeville is fast on offense and defense.
Isaac McNamee will look to stretch the field with two of the state’s top wide receivers with the duo of Jackson Hensley and Seth Pugh. Add in Cody Raines in the backfield and Clay Tinsley as an underneath threat in the pass game and the Panthers have weapons all over the field.
On defense, the Pikeville defense is quick.
They get to the ball fast.
Who 2 Watch: Pikeville quarterback Isaac McNamee.
He’s got a solid offensive line to protect him. He’s got Cody Raines in the backfield. He’s got Hensley, Pugh, Tinsley and Zack Lockhart to throw to.
The Panther offense has a chance to be special.
If McNamee has a big game, look for the Panthers to get off to a quick start.