Last season, the Class 2A Metcalfe County Hornets went 2-9 with victories over Adair County and Caverna.
But with a lot of returning players, Metcalfe County hopes to improve in 2019.
“I’m excited,” Hornet coach LJ Harbison said. “We return most of our players. We’re still young, but we return like 24 of our 30 players from last year.
“We’ve got a group that knows the offense, knows the defense — so we don’t have to install a lot this year. We can build off of what we have. That’s always a plus, but we’re still going to be young — mainly sophomores and juniors.
“We’ve had good practices so far and we’ve gotten better each day, so hopefully we can keep building.”
Harbison said junior Gabe Zurmehly will lead the Hornets on defense and offense.
“He led us in tackles (95) last year,” Harbison said. “He’ll probably break the 100 mark this year if we keep him healthy — he’ll be a running back also. He’ll get most of the loads.”
Last season, Zurmehly rushed for 502 yards on 112 carries with three touchdowns.
Sophomore Peyton Dial will be in his second year at the quarterback position. As a freshman, Dial threw 57 passes for 28 completions, collecting 229 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
“Hopefully we’ll get him a little more comfortable,” Harbison said of Dial. “As the year went on (last season), he got his reps in and started seeing it better. He’s gotten to know the offense a lot better.
“We’ve got to get him a little more vocal, but right now he’s taking control of the offense. He knows what read to hit. He knows what route they’re supposed to run, and then if they mess up, he goes and tells them: ‘Hey man, you can score a touchdown if you do this for me.’”
Harbison said the receivers are responding really well to that approach.
“(Dial) has done a good job of taking control of the huddle and the offense,” he said. “You have to have that as a leader. It’s hard for a young buck to come in and take leadership, but he’s done it.”
The Hornets have lost their linebacking core, Harbison said.
“We’re going to be young,” he said. “There’s going to be some guys who played backup last year, but they’ve been looking good.”
Harbison spoke highly of sophomores Luke South and Cole Shive, who are going to be stepping up on defense.
“(Shive) is going to have some good size on him in the future, we’re going to put some weight on him. But he can fly,” the Hornet coach said, adding that Shive is “a bruiser down there.”
“Both of them got backup reps and ended up starting a few games (last season,” Harbison said.
The Hornet coach said his lineman on both offense and defense are going to be young.
“Not a lot of depth,” he said. “But, man, those guys, they’re working hard and there’s about 10 of them, and they work hard every day — day in and day out.
“It’s a group that’s tight-knit. They want to push each other and that’s what you gotta have.”
Harbison described his players as “tough.”
“We’re going to have to be tough,” he said. “We’re really young, and there’s going to be plays that an older guy is going to make on them — and they have to respond to me mentally, and they’ve got to respond physically to the challenges that’s going to be ahead.
“We’ve got to be mentally and physically tough, and hopefully we can do that.”
The Hornets will open their season at home against 6A Barren County on Aug. 23.