Last Friday â€“ 24 hours after announcing that this season will be his last â€“ longtime St. Xavier football coach Mike Glaser was awash in digital encomiums.
â€œItâ€™s been overwhelming,â€ said Glaser, hours before a scrimmage against Simon Kenton (a 35-0 win). â€œBetween the texts and emails thatâ€™s really all that Iâ€™ve been doing. They mean so much to me.â€
The coach who has dedicated nearly all of his life to St. X â€“ first as a young fan, then as a player, and for the past three decades as head football coach â€“ found himself enveloped in a protracted George Bailey moment.
â€œSometimes you work real hard and youâ€™re not sure youâ€™re making any kind of a difference, and then you hear from all of these young men, and it really made what Iâ€™ve done for the last 40 years worthwhile,â€ he said.
Glaser has led the Tigers to seven state titles and is the winningest coach in Louisville history with a staggering 328-73 record, but his ambitions were not exactly soaring when he took over in 1982.
â€œMy only goal was to last about five years without getting fired,â€ he said. â€œIn this day and age itâ€™s so competitive. Sometimes you coach out of fear and you work so hard because itâ€™s a society of instant gratification and what have you done for me lately, so Iâ€™m very proud that Iâ€™ve hung on for 31 years.â€
Glaser, 59, will continue his service to the school in a newly-created Director of Activities position, but first heâ€™ll lean on junior running back Charles Walker and an experienced defense to make his final season one to remember.
Walker (5.5 yards per carry, 6 TDs) was the Tigersâ€™ leading rusher as a sophomore and will again be the go-to guy on offense, while DE Karl Roesler (34 tackles) and linebacker Deonte Clyburn (88 tackles) headline a strong Tigers defense, which returns seven starters.
Senior Patrick Sermersheim (50 tackles, 4 INTs) is back at DB and Lemondray Clemons will move to corner after three seasons at running back. Senior Austin Gahafer (19-of-43 passing, 5 TDs) will get the nod behind center after emerging from a tight preseason QB battle.
Standing in St. Xâ€™s path is two-time defending state champion Trinity, which enters the season on a 25-game winning streak.
â€œI think streaks are kind of like national rankings,â€ said Rocks coach Bob Beatty. â€œWhat does it mean? Absolutely nothing, really. The thing we put merit into is we have a bracket in the state of Kentucky and weâ€™re going to try to win that bracket and thatâ€™s the only merit that we look at. If we lose a game or take a punch on the way, then so be it.â€
State champions in nine of the past eleven seasons, Trinity outscored opponents 697-116 last year and returns three of the stateâ€™s top playmakers in WR James Quick (82 catches for 1,434 yards, 21 TDs), RB Dalyn Dawkins (8.0 yards per carry, 32 TDs) and QB Travis Wright (202-of-285 passing for 3,036 yards, 39 TDs).
The Rocks allowed a state-best 8.3 points per game in 2011 and figure to be superb again on that side with the return of DE Jason Hatcher (46 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries) and corner Ryan White (51 tackles, 1 INT).
Male and Manual round out the stateâ€™s toughest district.
â€œItâ€™s the SEC of high school,â€ said Manual coach Oliver Lucas, who returns six starters from a 9-3 team. Senior RB Dishan Romine is back after averaging 6.6 yards per carry (10 TDs) as well as senior safety Juwan Gardner, who grabbed five interceptions and recorded 44 tackles.
Male will be without senior QB Aladin Ganibegovic, who fractured his wrist during the offseason. Senior Tyler Erny â€“ a kicker last season â€“ will take over at the position and has been a quick study according to Bulldogs coach Chris Wolfe.
â€œI could tell at the first practiceâ€¦it was a move he was going to be able to make,â€ Wolfe said â€œHe hasnâ€™t had any game experience but weâ€™ve been pretty pleased with him this summer.â€
Class 6-A District 4 Capsules
Coach â€“ Chris Wolfe (third season)
Last season â€“ 4-8; Lost to St. X 56-10 in second round of state
Returning starters â€“ D (5), O (3)
Key departure â€“ S Lorentez Barbour (66 tackles)
Players to watch â€“ Jr. RB Marque Northington (5â€™8, 170); Sr. QB Tyler Erny; Sr. WR Nathan Case; Sr. WR Kainin Lewis; Sr. S Nathan Hearn (74 tackles)
Season opener â€“ Home vs. Floyd Central (Ind.), Aug. 17, 7:30
Wolfeâ€™s outlook â€“ â€œWeâ€™ve had a great offseason and the team as a whole is much stronger. Iâ€™m a little bit more comfortable knowing what Iâ€™m going to have on defense.Â (On) offense, even though I think the potential is there to be pretty good, until Friday night gets here you never know for sure.â€
Coach â€“ Oliver Lucas (third season)
Last season â€“ 9-3; Lost to Trinity 55-0 in second round of state
Returning starters â€“ D (3), O (3)
Key departure â€“ WR Quintez Sutton-Thompson (10 TDs)
Players to watch â€“ Sr. RB Dishan Romine (5â€™11, 185); Sr. WR Miles Thompson (6â€™0, 185); Sr. S Juwan Gardner (6â€™1, 200)
Season opener â€“ At Central, Aug. 17, 7:30
Lucasâ€™s outlook â€“ â€œWeâ€™re going to be young, but I think weâ€™re going to be a better team than we were last year. â€¦Weâ€™re going to play solid defense and our offense should do enough to win.â€
St. Xavier Tigers
Coach â€“ Mike Glaser (31st season)
Last season â€“ 8-5; Lost to Trinity 42-6 in state quarterfinal
Returning starters â€“ D (7), O (7)
Key departure â€“ QB Alex Mattingly (99 of 196 passing, 11 TDs)
Players to watch â€“ Sr. DE Karl Roesler (6â€™2, 230); Sr. LB Deonte Clyburn (6â€™1, 215); Jr. DB/WR Patrick Sermersheim (6â€™0, 170); Sr. CB Lamondray Clemons (5â€™11, 165)
Season opener â€“ Home vs. Fern Creek, Aug. 17, 7:30
Glaserâ€™s outlook â€“ â€œThe last eight months have been excellent. (Weâ€™ve) probably got about 10 guys that want to play in college, whether they get scholarships or not. They love the game of football and I think thatâ€™s going to be a real bonus for us.â€
Coach â€“ Bob Beatty (13th season)
Last season â€“ 14-0, 6-A State Champions, Beat Scott Co. 62-21 in championship game
Returning starters â€“ D (5), O (3)
Key departures â€“ All five starters on the vaunted 2011 offensive line
Players to watch â€“ Sr. QB Travis Wright (6â€™1, 185); Sr. WR James Quick (6â€™2, 185); Sr. RB Dalyn Dawkins (5â€™10, 185); Sr. DE Jason Hatcher (6â€™3, 245); Sr. CB Ryan White (5â€™11, 180)
Season opener â€“ Home vs. Brentwood Academy (Tenn.), Aug. 17, 7:30
Beattyâ€™s outlook â€“ â€œWeâ€™ve been very pleased with our younger kids and the contributions that theyâ€™ve made and very pleased with our work ethic from our older kids. â€¦Are we where we want to be? Absolutely not, but weâ€™re hopefully going to get there by Game 15.â€
District 4 Slate
Trinity vs. St. X at Papa Johnâ€™s Cardinal Stadium, 8
Trinity at Manual, 7:30
St. X at Male, 7:30
Male at Trinity, 7:30
Manual at St. X, 7:30
Manual at Male, 7:30
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.