It’s hard to imagine there could a better marquee matchup to start a high school football season than Frederick Douglass-North Hardin this Friday in Lexington.
The game will feature four University of Kentucky commits — offensive lineman Jager Burton and receiver Dekel Crowdus of Douglas and North Hardin has running back La’Vell Wright and safety Jordan Lovett. All four are in the top eight rated players in Kentucky, including Burton at No. 1, in the 2021 recruiting class.
If that’s not enough, Douglass juniors Dane Key and Ty Bryant have Kentucky offers along with a lot of other offers. Sophomore tight end Thomas Howard, a Louisville baseball commit, and sophomore receiver/defensive back Isaiah Kenney also have UK offers.
North Hardin sophomore offensive lineman Trey Alexander recently got a Kentucky offer. North Hardin seniors Marcus Harris (Kent State) and Michael Lunz (Tulane) are committed to Division I schools.
The game got set after Douglass’ scheduled games with Dunbar on Sept. 11 and Henry Clay on Sept. 18 were both cancelled. North Hardin was supposed to play Tates Creek on Sept. 11, but that game also got cancelled.
“I just got with (North Hardin) coach (Brent) Thompson and we decided to play,” Douglass coach Nathan McPeek said. “There certainly will be a lot of Division I talent and I know Big Blue Nation will be happy. I am sure (UK coach Mark) Stoops and his staff will try to get here. It should be a really exciting game.”
Thompson believes there’s been such a long period between the last high school sports in Kentucky that Friday’s game is the perfect way to put the spotlight back on high school athletics. He compares it to how college football has played premium games to open the season in recent years.
“To have a game of this magnitude for the state was a no-brainer for both of us coaches,” Thompson said. “I know we both would probably rather play this game at a different time in the season but for the kids we have this game is just a bonus for us both. With us both having two UK commits, there are going to be a lot of folks looking at this game.”
Douglass was Class 5A state runner-up in 2019 and North Hardin was a Class 6A semifinalist. While both teams lost players off last year’s team — including Douglass offensive lineman Walker Parks, a Clemson signee, and North Hardin defensive lineman Octavious Oxendine, a UK signee — both are expected to be state title contenders.
McKee is worried about Wright, who ran for 1,819 yards and 25 touchdowns in 13 games last year while averaging about seven yards per carry. He also had 34 catches for 553 yards and three more scores.
“That running back is one of the best I have seen on film,” McKee said. “His athleticism and speed are unreal. You better rally to the ball and tackle if you are going to get him to the ground. With less than three weeks of practice, tackling is probably not going to be great but it’s better than not playing.”
Thompson agrees that the 6-0, 205-pound Wright is special.
“I would take No. 11 (Wright) for me any day of the week. I would not want to tackle him on any Friday, but I know short weeks (of practice) would be a concern,” Thompson said. “I have my own concern trying to catch players he has that run great routes. They have some really fast players.”
He calls Crowdus a “tremendous athlete” but is impressed by Key, too.
“I have seen him make several sensational catches,” Thompson said. “Burton has also been up there for top lineman in the state for two years. Heck, they went to the state championship game and got beat 14-7 by one of the better teams (Covington Catholic) in a game that could have gone either way.”
Friday’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. and the audio broadcast will be available at https://www.glicod.com/audio2 thanks to Glicod.com. Every Frederick Douglass game this season will be on Glicod.com and the weekly schedule for other games will be posted at https://www.glicod.com/thisweek.
“We just want to give our kids a chance to play,” Thompson said. “It won’t be great football. We will both make mistakes. I hope we can make it look like a game. But it’s going to be fun for us and I am sure for fans, too.”