Friday, September 03, 1999

Ryle steps up in to big-time

Enquirer contributor

        Last Saturday's Comair Bowl game between Ryle and Belfry featured two teams going in opposite directions.

        The game was Belfry's first as a Class AA team after several successful seasons in AAA, and Ryle's first as a AAAA team after spending its entire previous existence in AAA.

        The game was indicative of the change in scenery Kentucky high school football is enduring in a redistricting year. Those affected locally are Ryle and Simon Kenton, which both moved up from AAA to AAAA.

        Last year, 197 of the state's football-playing schools were split into four classes: 46 in Class A, 50 in AA, 57 in AAA and 44 in AAAA. An additional 17 fielded teams but did not compete for playoff spots.

        This year, in what has come to be called the “54 Split,” 216 teams have been divided equally — the biggest 54 in AAAA, the next 54 in AAA, and so on. The KHSAA now plans to realign every two years.

        Studying enrollment trends, Dixie Heights and Conner could also face a move from AAA to AAAA in the next realignment, while perennial AAA power Highlands could be dropped to Class AA.

        “We're one of the smallest AAAA schools, if not the smallest,” Simon Kenton coach Roy Lucas Jr. said. “We're only five or 10 or 15 people over the cutoff.”

        Ryle also is among the smaller AAAA schools, first-year coach Kyle Hockman said, but he was looking forward to the challenge.

        It's likely to be imposing. The new district in which Ryle and Simon Kenton play — Region 3, District 6 — includes local rivals Boone County and Campbell County, as well as two Lexington schools, Henry Clay and Bryan Station.

        Henry Clay is 2-0 and ranked No. 2 in this week's Associated Press state AAAA poll, and 1-0 Bryan Station is No. 5. Ryle is ranked No. 8 in the poll.

        The Raiders (1-0) were sixth in The Enquirer's preseason Northern Kentucky coaches poll, and Simon Kenton was No. 8. The Pioneers were upset by No. 10 Holmes in their season opener last Friday.

        “We'll be playing more consistently against top-ranked teams from around the state,” Lucas said. “In the past, the competition was more local stuff.

        “I think we'll get a little more statewide recognition, and I think that's something we're all definitely looking forward to. I know the tradition and AAA power that exists in Northern Kentucky, but AAAA is more challenging.”

        Hockman still is a relative stranger to the Northern Kentucky football scene, but he knows enough to understand what Ryle is leaving behind — the chance to match up in a district with perennial title contenders Highlands and Covington Catholic. (The Raiders do play CovCath in a non-district game Saturday.)

        “Sure, there's some people who are going to miss that rivalry, but what (redistricting) can create for us and the other AAAA schools is, if you put together a real good season, you can create a scenario of who's the best,” Hockman said.

        “The conversation and enthusiasm coming out of Northern Kentucky could be about teams besides the AAA dominant team, which is usually CovCath or Highlands, and Beechwood in A. Now, you add another element.

        “I'm looking forward to being out in the state and having the district talked about around the state. That's only good. It can only help the school system.”

Week 2 Report

Sports Stories
High school football schedule
Hawkins' resume: receiver, long snapper, mom
Healthy Reisert ready to shoulder load for Moeller
Sycamore rolling up the points
CovCath QB already looking foweard to Highlands
- Ryle steps up in to big-time