You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Kentucky high school football: Iroquois has a tough season

Louisville Courier-Journal logo Louisville Courier-Journal 8/23/2019 Jason Frakes
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

The Iroquois High School football team — 19 members strong — will open its season Saturday in Mercer County’s Little Caesars Fort Harrod Bowl against a Boyle County squad that has 66 players on its roster and reached the Class 3A state semifinals last year.

It won’t get easier for the Raiders next week, as they’ll face host Central in the inaugural BSN Bowl. Central won the 3A state title last year and has 71 players on the roster this season.

Boyle County and Central both have moved up to Class 4A this season and are among the top contenders to win the state title. Iroquois is a 5A school with a Class A-sized roster and a combined record of 11-29 over the past four seasons.

To say first-year Iroquois coach Donte Ellison is unhappy about the schedule would be an understatement. In fact, he said he considered dipping into his own wallet to buy out both games before finding out it would cost a total of $11,000.

“If it were $1,000 or $2,000,” Ellison said, “I would have paid for it myself.”

Take notes: Our reporters' picks for Week 1 of high school football

a man wearing a blue shirt: Iroquois High School football head coach Donte Ellison. © Alton Strupp/Courier Journal Iroquois High School football head coach Donte Ellison.

So how did Iroquois end up in a situation where the running-clock mercy rule is a likely scenario in its first two games?

Ellison, who replaced Chris Peters as the Raiders’ coach in April, said he knew about the bowl games when he took the job but did not know his team would be matched up against Boyle County and Central.

Ellison said Iroquois will receive a $4,000 guarantee to play Boyle County and $2,000 to play Central, which is significant for a program that makes little in ticket revenue and fundraising. As part of the two-year bowl contracts, next year Iroquois will play Mercer County in the Fort Harrod Bowl and Holy Cross in the Central event.

Support local journalism a drawing of a face © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

Support stories like this one by becoming a subscriber today! Get unlimited digital access here!

Ellison said he looked for a way out of the contracts and had lined up replacement opponents for the first two weeks of this season.

“I approached my principal and my athletic director, and they said it was too late to get out of them,” Ellison said.

Iroquois athletic director John Barbagallo did not return a call seeking comment.

Central athletic director Ryan Bringhurst said Apollo originally was scheduled to be Iroquois’ opponent in the BSN Bowl before the Owensboro school backed out. Bringhurst said he ultimately matched Central and Iroquois because Peters — the former Iroquois coach — is a Central graduate.

“I had no idea when we were putting this together that they were also playing Boyle County,” Bringhurst said. “And I also don’t think anybody knew they were only going to have (19) kids. They weren’t rolling in with 80 the last few years, but they’ve been competitive.”

Check out: Meet 50 of the top high school football prospects in Kentucky

Ellison said his biggest concern is that his players will become discouraged after the first two games and quit the team. Ellison, who played football at Male and graduated in 2010, said he understands the gap between Iroquois and the Boyle Countys and Centrals of the world but that many of his players don’t.

Another factor is that both the Boyle County and Central games are scheduled for Saturdays instead of Friday nights.

“The lives our kids live by, Saturday is a day they work,” Ellison said. “And the Central game is on Labor Day weekend … and that’s a weekend a lot of us go out of town. Four or five of my kids told me, ‘I won’t be in town that weekend.’ Football just isn’t that prevalent in a lot of my kids’ lives. It’s not their ticket out. They don’t see that.”

Ellison said he and his assistants likely will have to drive to players’ homes to pick them up before the two Saturday games.

“Hopefully they’re home,” he said.

Ellison said the No. 1 goal is to stay healthy through the first two weeks and hopefully add players as the season progresses.

The Raiders were picked to finish last in the Class 5A, District Three preseason poll, but Ellison believes his team can be competitive once district play begins at Bullitt Central, Doss, Fairdale and Western.

“I feel like if we come out of these two games healthy, we have a chance to be a really good football team on the back end,” Ellison said. “If we can enter district play and have 25 to 30 kids, I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs.”

See also: 5 things to know about Friday's Game of the Week — DeSales at St. Xavier

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @kyhighs. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/jasonf.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky high school football: Iroquois has a tough season

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Louisville Courier-Journal

Louisville Courier-Journal
Louisville Courier-Journal
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon