The 2022 KHSAA football season is an exciting one for archrivals Christian Academy of Louisville and DeSales for very different reasons. On the side of CAL, the Centurions return most of their talent-laden roster from a year ago and are primed to make a run at the title.
For DeSales, after two seasons filled with adversity, the arrival of new coach Mike Jackson could bring some much needed energy to the program.
But before the 2022 season kicks off here’s what you need to know about CAL and DeSales football:
More preseason football:It’s football season! Everything to know about your 2022 Louisville-area football teams
CAL (11-2 in 2021)
Coach: Hunter Cantwell (fourth season, 25-10)
Offense (7 starters back): Eaton Messer caught 68 passes for 1,254 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, but CAL’s No. 1 priority is finding a way to replace that level of production. With Messer graduated, the Centurions must rely on the usual suspects (and an exciting new one) to make up for his production. Quarterback Cole Hodge and halfback Gavin Copenhaver will carry the weight, but who will emerge as Hodge’s top target? Enter Oldham County transfer WR/DB Justin Ruffin, who already has offers from Louisville, James Madison and South Florida and brings speed and versatility to the Centurion offense. Hodge will be wise to connect with him often, but he’ll also have weapons like WR/DB Connor Hodge and WR Nate Heidenreich at his disposal.
Defense (9 starters back): Returning nine starters from a defense that only allowed 14 points per game last season has to be exciting for Cantwell. Copenhaver sets the tone at linebacker, while defensive lineman Sam McCoun returns after leading the Centurions in sacks last season. In the secondary, CAL is thrilled to have cornerback Connor Hodge back after the sophomore broke his collarbone last season. He’ll man one of the corner spots alongside Ruffin.
Outlook: The Centurions march into 2022 loaded to make another deep playoff run. With Cole Hodge and Gavin Copenhaver back alongside four returning linemen and a couple of big-time transfers, CAL’s offense could be explosive. Returning nine starters on defense isn’t a bad way to start the season either. With a mix of familiar faces and exciting transfers, CAL could be in the running for the Class 3A title this season.
CAL and DeSales schedules:Check out the Louisville-area KHSAA Class 3A-1A football schedules for the 2022 season
DeSales (2-9 in 2021)
Coach: Mike Jackson (first year)
Offense (4 starters back): Luke Pfaadt (33 rushes, 238 yards, two touchdowns) returns to the backfield as DeSales’ top offensive weapon. Blocking for him will be senior Carson Mattingly and junior Landon Blount. Jackson said he expects a lot of sophomores and potentially some freshman to get playing time for this young team.
Defense (3 starters back): Defensive lineman James Glover-Tyson, junior linebacker Cole Mays and Pfaadt are the Colts’ three returning defensive starters from last season. Mays ranked sixth on the team in tackles, while Glover-Tyson, a senior, added 13 tackles and a sack. Jackson will look to both to have breakout seasons while some of the younger guys find their bearings.
Outlook: Former Male offensive coordinator Mike Jackson knows how to put points on the board and win football games, but with an inexperienced team, rebuilding the culture first is crucial. The Colts haven’t had a winning season since 2019, but it wasn’t long ago that DeSales was a powerhouse.
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Class 3A, District Four poll
Coaches could not vote for their own teams. First-place votes in parentheses, followed by total points.
1. Christian Academy (4) 16
2. Mercer County (1) 12
3. Henry County 11
4. DeSales 7
5. Western Hills 4