Freshmen Cardinals battle Lexington Catholic Monday

Published 11:32 pm Saturday, September 9, 2017

The George Rogers Clark High School freshman football team has opened its season undefeated through three games.

The Cardinals put that unblemished record on the line tonight when they take on Lexington Catholic at Cardinal Stadium. The junior varsity game will follow.

In those three games, GRC has defeated two Lexington teams — Frederick Douglass and Dunbar — and Scott County, the latter a huge win for the program.

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Douglass had great team speed, but the young Cardinal defense met the challenge and contained Douglass for a 14-8 win.

“When these kids are much older, they can say that they played the first official football game at Douglass High School,” GRC freshman coach Jason Ashburn said. “They helped inaugurate the newest high school stadium in the state of Kentucky for their freshman opener.”

The Cardinals scored 32 points against Scott County in their home opener. At one point, they were up by 20. But a combination of cramps, injuries, and mistakes let the opponent back into the game. It’s been nearly ten years since a GRC freshman team has defeated a Scott Co. freshman team.

GRC held on for a 32-26 win.

“It was a big win for our program as a whole and a stepping stone for great things to come,” GRC assistant coach Tony Kirk said.

In their last outing, the Cardinals defeated Dunbar 14-12. 

Defense is a point of pride for this team. Coach Ashton Boyken runs the defense, a unit that stopped Dunbar on the 1-yard line as time expired in a thrilling win on Labor Day evening.

“It was a hard-fought win. The kids never gave up and that mentality lead us to a win in the final seconds,” Boyken said.

Early in the season, defensive stand outs include Colby Ritchie and Azariah Israel. Ritchie anchors a stout defensive line led by assistant coach Maurice Moberly.

The Cardinals run game has worn its opponents down in what has been a very tough opening schedule. Azariah Israel, Colby Ritchie, Kyle Price, Jonathan Rietral, and AJ Conner pose multiple problems for defenses.

Israel is a dual threat as a runner and pass receiver.

“Great kid! We have big plans for him,” Ashburn said.

Ritchie and Price are power runners. Rietral and Conner are elusive runners who play multiple positions. 

But the run game is only as good as the guys up front.

“We have an excellent offensive line that has allowed us to dominate the line of scrimmage. In Tommy Wright, we have a freshman who is capable of playing at a varsity level. Bryson Waller has stepped up and allowed us to rotate some of our guys who play both sides of the ball,” GRC assistant coach John Hendricks said.

This hard-working unit is also manned by Sam Neeley, Sam Williams, Blake Freeman, Tate Richardson, Dylan Gibson and Billy Parsons.

Once the run game is established, the young Cards resort to a potent passing game featuring quarterbacks Jordan Manley and Jonathan Rietral. Dawson Gay is a stand out wide receiver who leads the team in receptions.

GRC varsity coach Oliver Lucas dubbed this freshman class “The Chosen Few.”

The junior varsity team is 1-1 after falling to Douglass, 20-8, and defeating Dunbar, 8-0.

In the win, Dylan Gibson scored on a 10-yard pass from Isaac Graham. Graham ran for the 2-point conversion. The defense was lead by Zion Israel, Jaylynn Johnson, Hunter Curtis, Elijah Taylor and Jackson Brian.