All signs point to this being a special season for the Trinity High School football team, but don’t expect veteran head coach Bob Beatty to buy into the hype.
On offense, he returns a quarterback who passed for more than 2,500 yards and 31 touchdowns, two 1,000-yard rushers and two linemen who have committed to NCAA Division I colleges.
Defensively, the Shamrocks are poised to start 11 seniors, including eight starters from a group that allowed just 9.2 points per game.
For Beatty, the accomplishments of 2019 — a 13-2 record and Class 6A state championship – will mean little when the Shamrocks open the 2020 season at 7 p.m. Friday against Cincinnati Moeller.
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“We were experienced at the end of last year … but right now this football team has no experience,” Beatty said. “It all revolves around Friday night, and I’ll have a whole lot more answers after that game.”
Trinity was the overwhelming choice for the No. 1 ranking in the coaches’ preseason Class 6A poll. Nationally, the Shamrocks are ranked No. 17 in the nation by USA TODAY.
Beatty has won 14 state titles in his 20 full seasons as Trinity’s head coach, and No. 15 would come as a surprise to very few.
“We have a very strong senior class coming into the 2020 season, young men that showed strong leadership during their sophomore and junior years,” Beatty said. “Now they must take the next step and lead as seniors.”
Like every program in the state, Trinity saw its preseason routine disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beatty said he was frustrated by his team’s apparent lack of football shape until Saturday, when he said he saw a breakthrough.
“It was the first I felt like we hit prime-time game conditioning,” Beatty said. “Conditioning Saturday morning was not fun. Not because I was upset, but that’s what we do on Saturdays when we’re getting ready for the first game of the season. We breezed it. I was very happy. …
“We were not breathing hard, and that’s a great feeling. In the previous weeks I kept going home frustrated because I felt like we were exhausted and in survivor mode as opposed to executing.”
The offense returns plenty of weapons after averaging 39.9 points last season.
Leading the way is senior quarterback Nathan McElroy, who passed for 2,597 yards and 31 touchdowns last season while completing 61.6% of his passes.
“It feels like forever since football has ended, especially with the COVID struggles taking place,” McElroy said. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the squad and defending our state championship.”
The Shamrocks once again will have the luxury of two workhorse running backs in Junior Armon Tucker (1,210 yards, 23 TDs) and senior Bradley West (1,022 yards, 10 TDs).
Beatty said both will have expanded roles in the offense.
“We’ll move them both around a little bit more,” he said. “As far at the run game goes, I learned a valuable lesson that fresh legs can carry you a long way.”
If there’s a question mark, it’s in the passing game after the graduations of top receiver Ryan Miller and versatile tight end Kaelan Racculia. Senior Wynton Johnson (21 catches, 247 yards, four TDs) could emerge as the top threat after battling a hamstring injury during the summer.
“He got that healed and so far has had a great camp,” Beatty said. “But as I’ve said a thousand times, the lights haven’t come on yet.”
Seniors Alex Moore (Air Force commit) and Gavin Malott (Akron commit) anchor the line.
Defensively, the Shamrocks are loaded with talent, led by senior linebackers Charlie Ely (Appalachian State commit) and Jack Dingle (Cincinnati commit).
Beatty said the key to the defense will be the line consisting of senior Alton Jefferson, DeAnthony Perry and Cole Johnson.
“We went against them (Tuesday) ones on ones, and they’re awfully good,” Beatty said. “If they can keep people off our linebackers, then we’re even better.”
Some have compared the talent on this year’s Trinity team to that of 2011, when the Shamrocks went 15-0 and were declared national champions in four different rankings.
It remains to be seen whether the Shamrocks can reach those heights, but Beatty won’t use the disjointed summer schedule as an excuse.
“A crisis is only a crisis if you make it one,” Beatty said. “I don’t want to say we’re behind because if you say we’re behind then you’re already giving somebody an excuse. I don’t know whether or not we’re behind. I know going into Friday that I feel good about our game plan.”
Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @kyhighs. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/jasonf.