Things start to get real on Monday.
Summer break officially comes to a close (at least on the playing field) for high school fall sports athletes as practice/tryouts begin for all fall sports participants in their respective sport. Football got a head start with practices beginning last Tuesday, but soccer, volleyball, golf and cross country hit full swing Monday.
Before seasons begin, starting with golf on July 27, let’s take a look at some storylines to look forward to…
GOLF (regular season starts July 27)
-Is Mason County’s youth ready to take the next step? The Royals featured four golfers in tournaments all sophomores or younger last season and won’t have a senior on the team this year. They finished fourth in the region and hope to improve upon that for the upcoming season. Last season was the first time in quite a while they didn’t send an individual or team to the state tournament.
-Speaking of youth, Lewis County freshman Logan Liles will be a player to watch in the 12th Region. He’s won seven summer events this summer on the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour and enters the season already with his feet wet, playing in the state tournament last year, something Liles or Lewis County as a team had never done in school history.
-Can West Union three-peat in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference? The Dragons have owned the SHAC the past two seasons, winning conference titles back-to-back years. But Elijah McCarty has graduated, the individual back-to-back champ. The Lady Dragons will also look to defend the SHAC crown, dominating last year, winning by 52 strokes.
-Georgetown’s Lance Sininger will be another name to watch, coming off a season in which he won the Southwest Ohio Division III sectional title. Sininger also claimed Player of the Year in the Southern Buckeye Conference.
VOLLEYBALL (regular season starts August 6)
-Bracken County searches for a four-peat in the 39th District as Mason County, St. Patrick and Augusta look to take the Lady Bears down. Bracken will be tough to topple, having lost just two seniors from a year ago.
-Fleming County has a senior-laden team this year and hopes to get past Rowan County in the 61st District. The Lady Vikings have won the last six district titles, Fleming County’s last title coming in 2011.
-Can anyone top North Adams in the SHAC? The Lady Devils have won over 50 straight games in conference play. Eastern and Peebles were their top competitors last year, finishing 9-3 and 10-2 in the SHAC, respectively.
SOCCER (regular season starts August 13)
-How will Mason County replace the prolific goal scoring from Bryce Johnson on the boys’ side and Danielle Heflin on the girls’ side? The two graduated and accounted for 163 goals the last four years, Johnson with 66 and Heflin with 97.
-As we await the announcement of St. Patrick’s new coach to replace Father Michael Black, they’ll return the dynamic duo of Cesar Briseno and Marvin Koch, combining for 24 goals and 24 assists last year, accounting for 48 of their 53 goals from a season ago. No word yet on if the Saints will go co-ed again this year, having some girls join the boys team due to lack of players.
-Ripley hopes to make some noise in the SHAC this year and compete with Lynchburg-Clay at the top. The Blue Jays went 3-4 in the SHAC last season, but only graduated three seniors.
-Georgetown went 8-2 in the Southern Buckeye Conference last season and the G-Men will have Noah Pack back in goal to anchor the defense.
FOOTBALL (regular season starts August 17)
-Can Fleming County repeat as district champs in the Class 3A, 5th District? Who will play quarterback after Josh Crump’s departure? The leader under center for the majority of the past three seasons. The Panthers will face an adjustment phase early on as they lost 17 seniors from last season, many of them key contributors. They’ll have plenty of time to figure it out as the first district contest comes September 21 against Lewis County.
-It was oh-so-close for Mason County claiming a district title a year ago, losing to Scott in overtime and Bourbon County on a failed two-point conversion. They’ll be in a similar boat as Fleming County, having to replace a ton of talent all over the field from a season ago. The Royals have improved every season in the three seasons under Jonathan Thomas, going from 1-9 to 4-7 to 7-4, can they continue the trend?
-The schedule should set up nicely for Bracken County to continue their winning ways. The Polar Bears have won 17 games the last two years, including their first ever playoff victory last year. After winning 16 games the previous five seasons, the Polar Bears now have their sights set on their first outright district title in school history. A date with Paris on September 28 will help determine that. Bracken gets running back Tad Fisher back, who already holds the school’s rushing yards and touchdowns record.
CROSS COUNTRY (regular season starts August 20)
-All eyes will be on Bracken County’s Jared Jefferson as he starts his senior year with a quest for a state cross country title. Jefferson finished third in the state meet last year and is hungry for the crown this year. The Polar Bears as a team should be strong with all top five runners back from a season ago, including Brandon Cox, who placed 13th last year. Bracken hopes for a top four and podium finish, something the school has never done, finishing seventh last year and fifth the year prior.
-Mason County’s girls’ team had their youth on full display last year as the team was led by primarily middle schoolers. Alyssa Bissotti, Elizabeth Lavinder, Paige Decker and Kylee Howe helped pace the team throughout the year with freshman Hayden Faris also in the mix.
-Augusta’s boys made their first trip to the state meet as a team since the program was revived and will look to build on that this season. A couple of other runners to look out for include St. Patrick’s Marvin Koch and Willie Franco, who look to improve upon their state performances from last season, along with teammate Paco Franco. The Royals hope to have Connor Linville back healthy and ready to lead them. Isaiah Riggs showed a strong ending to the track season, qualifying for the state meet and hopes to carry it over to cross country.
-On the Ohio side, Peebles’ Jenny Seas enters her senior year with a state title in the 3,200 meters in track and hopes to continue the success to the cross country side. Seas was dominant in the fall in cross country, winning the district meet by over a minute and the Southern Hills Athletic Conference meet by 1:48, but an injury cut her season short from there. If healthy, Seas will be in the mix for a state cross country title.
These storylines and much more will be something to look out for come the months of August through November.