Coronavirus affected every football team in different ways. However no one Tri-State squad was hurt more by the pandemic than Henderson County. And it's a scar the Colonels carry with them into 2021.
"We didn't lose to a team," says Henderson County senior wide receiver/defensive back Kani Smith. "We lost to COVID."
"With the COVID just coming in out of nowhere, we was rolling," said Henderson County senior wide receiver/defensive back Brayden Powell. "We was excited. We was ready. And then COVID just hit us out of nowhere."
No team was playing better football by the end of the 2020 regular season than Henderson County. Winners of seven straight, earning the top seed in the distritc for the first time in nearly a decade, the Colonels took a thriller from Daviess County in the opening round of the playoffs. And that's where it ended, as a positive Coronavirus test forced them to forfeit their second round home match-up with a McCracken County squad they beat on the road during the regular season.
"Having that pulled away from them so quickly," says Henderson County head coach Josh Boston. "They're upset that the kids had. The way the season just kind of came to a halt. Everything they've been working for just kind of went away, But super proud of the way the guys were mature through the COVID process and all the things we had to do. They handles it great to get to where we were. Super senior leadership through that process."
And that painful lesson those seniors learned has been left to this senior class to put into action.
"The seniors last year they motivated us a lot to just come out here and compete," says Powell, "and bring back what they couldn't last year."
"Anything can happen," says Smith. "So play every game the hardest, because it might be the last."
"That just has a little bit more of a sense of urgency in everything thing that you do," says Boston. "Knowing that things could end abruptly, without your control. So the way that they've been able to focus their way through everything that we've been doing, because of how fast that can be taken away."
Head coach Josh Boston has some new faces in new place all over the roster. However, on offense, while they need to replace several key positions, including quarterback, there are plenty of familar faces as well.
"We return running back Jordan Wright, inside receiver Jaheim Williams," says Boston. "Our tight end, Turner Mattingly. Our left guard and left tackle, Bryce Tapp and Saaquid Clements. The rest of us are all new."
"A lot of talent," says Powell. "We've just got of young people. We've just got to coach them up."
"All the young talent we have in our offense." says Smith. "How anyone can move the ball and do anything with the ball."
The defensive side of the ball has even more new faces, with only Kani Smith and Jackson Williams returning as starters. However, with the addition of new blood, including former Madisonville North Hopkins head coach Jay Burgett, now an assistant head coach, the Colonels appear to have ratched up the intensity.
"Very heavy junior-based," says Boston. "Very talented in the way they pursue the football. The way they can get off blocks and just be aggressive in the way they play."
"We've got a lot of competitors," says Powell. "Our young people are getting better. We go day-by-day."
"The new people on the defense coming in, JV, they went undefeated," says Smith. "They know what they're doing too."
Henderson County opens the season this Friday on the road at Calloway County.