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George Rogers Clark to rely on star running back Azariah Israel, experienced offensive unit this fall

(KyForward is previewing the upcoming football season for many high school programs in Central Kentucky. The season is scheduled to begin Sept. 11.)

By Chad Hensley
Special to KyForward

Senior running back Azariah Israel will once again be a highlight reel on the football field for George Rogers Clark High School.

A year ago, Israel led Class 6A with 2,346 rushing yards and was third overall in the state in that category. He carried the ball 287 times and scored 28 touchdowns on the ground.

Israel added a receiving and a kick return touchdown for the Cardinals, who posted a 7-5 record and advanced to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. The 5-foot-10 speedster also led Class 6A in scoring with 180 points with 30 total touchdowns.

George Rogers Clark running back Azariah Israel led Class 6A with 2,346 rushing yards last season. (GRC photo)

Veteran head coach Dr. Oliver Lucas, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the Cardinals, welcomes back 16 starters (nine on offense and seven on defense). Among those returning on offense will be Jordan Manley and Dawson Gay, both of whom are looking to compliment Israel at their respective positions.

Manley is a senior quarterback and threw for 1,737 yards and 18 touchdowns on 116-for-231 passing and just seven interceptions. Gay, a senior wide receiver, caught 43 passes for 715 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

With weapons on offense like Manley and Gay, opponents will be unable to key on Israel and the GRC running game. Israel and Manley have garnered attention from numerous NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams, including multiple schools from the Mid-American Conference.

Gay has already decided to take his talents to West Virginia State University, which is a member of the NCAA Division II’s Mountain East Conference.

Not to be overlooked on offense is Dylan Gibson, a bruising tight end who has already verbally committed to Tennessee Tech of the Ohio Valley Conference. Gibson is an effective blocker with great hands that helped him catch 16 passes for 299 yards and five touchdowns last season.

“The strength of the team is senior leadership,” said Lucas. “Our weakness will be inexperience at some positions on defense.”

A major strength on the defensive unit is nose tackle Trace Mitchell, who is an Indiana State University commit. Mitchell recorded 50 tackles, with seven being for negative yards while collecting five sacks.

GRC head coach Dr. Oliver Lucas welcomes back 16 starters. (GRC photo)

Helping Mitchell on defense will be Jeremiah Mundy-Lloyd, who is switching from running back to free safety. The move will strengthen the GRC defensive backfield.

The inexperience that Lucas spoke of will primarily come from the linebacker position. Gone is Aquevion Lewis and his team-leading 109 tackles. The Georgetown College signee also recorded five tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

GRC will face a strong schedule that will include teams from the two biggest classes in the KHSAA. Montgomery County, Southwestern, Cooper and Conner are all Class 5A schools, while Ballard will be the lone non-district Class 6A opponent for the Cardinals.

When asked about his team’s goals, Lucas said that his team would first need to win the district then the region. The Cardinals were regular-seasons champs in Class 6A District 8 with a 3-0 record against Bryan Station, Madison Central and Oldham County.

GRC began the 2019 campaign with a 2-3 record, but a five-game winning streak propelled the Cardinals into the district finals. Oldham County posted a 35-21 win over GRC in that contest.

That loss seems to have fueled a fire in Cardinals that carried over into the offseason. Despite the lack of team workouts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucas has been impressed with the work ethic that his team has shown.

“Our players found a way to keep themselves in shape while we followed CDC guidelines and KHSAA phases throughout the offseason,” Lucas said.

Sept. 11 – MONTGOMERY COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 18 – @ Southwestern, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 25 – @ Ballard, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 – @ Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 9 – BRYAN STATION*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 – @ Madison Central*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 – OLDHAM COUNTY*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 30 – CONNER, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 6 – BYE
* = District Game



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