Youngsters showing their stuff

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By Tommie Kendall

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself - I have a problem doing that at times - but thinking about the future Henry County High School and Eminence High School football teams make me grin a bit.

And if you're a fan of either squad, it should make you smile, too.

First off, let's look at the HCHS Wildcats. They have very good upperclassmen, which is why they're celebrating one of their best seasons in recent memory, but they're loaded with freshmen and sophomores as well. Currently, three freshmen start for the Cats - Justin Hartlage, Darien Ingram and Dylan Doll - and numerous sophomores are filling needed roles.

Those youngsters have helped the Wildcats win the regular-season district title for the third time in school history, joining the 1977 and 1987 teams, finish the regular season with an impressive 7-3 record and host the opening round of the state playoffs this Friday against Western Hills.

As for the junior varsity Cats, they finished their season with a 5-3 record against a very tough schedule, even though some JV-aged players didn't play the full season so they could concentrate on helping the varsity squad win more games. Also, freshman quarterback Luke Magness has displayed what can be expected with the departure of varsity starter Hayden Yancey in a few years. Magness averaged about 250 yards and three touchdown passes per outing, JV coach Lyndon Johnson said.

Four miles down the road at Eminence, the Warriors also have a young team with unlimited upside, and they have a talented freshman quarterback as well. Dre Banta moved into the starting QB role against Henry midseason, and has stayed behind center since. His numbers aren't staggering, but very good for a starting freshman.

Eminence also has two other freshmen starting for the varsity team - Shiven Harris and Byron Foree. And the Warriors JV team finished its season last Monday with a 12-0 win over Kentucky Country Day, which ended their season at a perfect 3-0.

While the 2007 football season nears the end - Eminence will be at top-ranked Frankfort High School in the state playoffs this Friday while Henry will host Western Hills - the future looks brighter than ever for the Wildcats and Warriors. After all, if these contributing freshmen are this good now, it's scary to think what level they'll rise to as mature seniors.

As for me, I like to live in the present but also think about the future. I'm eager to see what it holds.

You don't want to throw these young players to the wolves too fast, but in these rare cases, especially on the gridiron, they're the wolves already.

Now, they have three more years to run with the pack.

Tommie can be reached at sports@hclocal.com.