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Ensworth football is headed to ESPNU


1:00 AM, Jul. 03, 2012 EDT

Ensworth features running back/defensive back Corn Elder, the reigning DII-AA Mr. Football Back of the Year. / JAE S. LEE / THE TENNESSEAN

Returning eight offensive starters and six more on defense, including every lineman on both sides of the ball, Ensworth may be as ready for prime time as it would ever be.

The Tigers will make their national television debut on Aug. 25 at Kentucky power Lexington Catholic as part of the third annual ESPN High School Football Kickoff weekend. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on ESPNU.

Ensworth is the two-time defending Division II-AA champion and No. 22 in the maxpreps.com preseason poll.

"We see it as a recognition of all those kids that have played here since 2006, 2007," Ensworth Coach Ricky Bowers said. "I think each group has gotten a little better, gained a little more momentum, and this is the culmination of all that.

"I think any time any of our (local) teams receives national recognition, the opportunity to play on national TV, it's good for all of us. It's a good opportunity for this particular team as well."

A total of 13 high school games -- including Ensworth-Lexington Catholic, as well as Alcoa-Maryville on Aug. 26 -- will air on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 beginning Aug. 24.

"We try to get as many states (represented) as we can, try to get some of the best players we can," ESPNU Senior Director of Programming and Acquisitions Dan Margulis said. "We don't have our Top 50 (ranking) done yet, but this would be a team we'd be watching, so this game played in perfectly with what we try to get done."

Ensworth features running back/defensive back Corn Elder, the reigning DII-AA Mr. Football Back of the Year. Coming off a 2,042-yard, 22-touchdown junior year, Elder has scholarship offers from Nebraska, Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

"Obviously Corn has brought a lot of exposure to us, but we've got a lot of great players in that senior class," Ensworth associate head coach Paul Wade said. "We've got four or five guys we think can play somewhere at the next level. We've got eight starters back on offense, eight offensive linemen that played in the championship game and six of those played on defense as well.

"We think as far as core depth, we've got a lot coming back, and we wanted to do something special."

Lexington Catholic, which lost to Kentucky Class 4A champion Fort Thomas Highlands in the semifinals and finished 11-3 last fall, is led by quarterback Kyle Bolin, who has committed to Louisville. The Knights won Kentucky's 3A title in 2005 and won 4A in 2007.

"We're excited to have a program like that come in," Lexington Catholic Coach Bill Letton said of the matchup with Ensworth. "They've certainly made their mark on the football landscape, not just in (Tennessee) but on a national level. It's an honor for us to have somebody like that come up here and play."

The matchup, part of the Bluegrass Bowl that Lexington Catholic holds annually, has been scheduled for a couple of months. The television aspect did not become certain until ESPN released its schedule Monday.

"We're very excited," Wade said. "With this senior class we've got and with the success we've had, we tried very hard this year to get somebody to play us on some sort of national level."

"With states having different contract (cycles), with a lot of the northern states not starting till after Labor Day, rules on how many games you can play against teams from other states, various travel rules, it was kinda hard. We didn't think it was going to pan out."

Ensworth is scheduled to open the season against visiting Memphis University School on Aug. 17.

 

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