Many coaches, players and fans alike can attest to the frustration that comes along with an â€œalmost thereâ€ season. Knowing your team has what it takes to go all the way and falling just short of that goal can be more frustrating than going 0-12 on the season. This was the situation faced by the Male High School football faithful last season. Now looking forward, there is much to get their hopes up yet again.
Following an outstanding 12-2 season in 2013 capped off by a bittersweet loss to Scott County in the semifinals of the class 6A playoffs, the Male Bulldogs football program has much to be positive about heading into the 2014 season.
With eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in the state of Kentucky, and No. 44 in the nation, making them only Kentucky school nationally ranked. The biggest project for this Male team is tightening up the screws, ensuring a realization of the state championship goal.
The Bulldogs have yet another star-studded offense, headlined by senior quarterback Davis Mattingly. Mattingly passed for 3,152 yards and 27 touchdowns in his junior campaign and will look to top those records in 2014. Mattingly has dominated each performance this season, including last weekâ€™s 43-7 routing at Butler. Mattingly threw for four touchdowns and 296 yards in that game, with a 67 percent completion rate.
One of Mattinglyâ€™s top targets in the Butler game was junior wide receiver Keion Wakefield, who had six receptions for 132 yards and three touchdowns. Wakefield will continue to be Mattinglyâ€™s top receiver, leading a core of veteran receivers. The Bulldogs ground game is deep too, led by seniors Tyrone Wilkerson and Ellis Cain. Devin Gentry will also be in the mix at running back. Gentry rushed for one of Maleâ€™s six touchdowns last Friday.
The skill positions arenâ€™t the only component of the offense that is reloaded and ready to go. The offensive line returns four starters, including senior center Houston Sparkman and junior lineman Noah Bringer.
On the other side of the ball is a defense, which has had dominating performances in each of the Bulldogs first two games, holding Butler to one touchdown and Floyd Central to just three points. When Maleâ€™s offense stumbled in the first quarter of the Butler game, the defense proved it could be the catalyst for the comeback win. Maleâ€™s defense allowed just three first downs and 47 total yards against Butler. Headlining that defense is defensive end Marcus Davis. The 6-foot-2, 250 lb. junior led the Bulldogs last season with 90Â½ tackles and already has two solo tackles this season.
With stars returning on both sides of the ball and two dominating performances already in the books, Male is well on its way to the programâ€™s seventh state championship.
Photos by DAMON ATHERTON | Contributing Photographer