April 27th, 2020

DeSales Davis going into ninth year


Ed Peak

Staff Writer

DeSales Davis going into ninth year
Photo by Ed Peak

It is is a lovely early spring afternoon when high school spring sports are in full swing including football practices. Kentucky high schools are allowed six weeks of practice before summer break returning July 15. But this particular day DeSales Head Coach Davis was cutting his grass in south Louisville.

Usually this is when teams work on fundamentals and begin preparing for their fall games. It is especially important to the younger players. It's also a time to work on conditioning.


Davis has been cutting grass and doing a handful of home improvement chores he otherwise wouldn't have time for. "I've needed to do some of these things for awhile, said Davis who begins his ninth season as the Colts leader. During his seventh season he became the Kenwood Drive’s all time winningest coach. 


After winning back to back Class 2-A State Championships in 2013 and 2014, The Colts jumped to 3-A this past season. The success continued ,but a bitter loss in double overtime to Belfry in the semifinals continues to leave a bad taste in Davis' mouth.


"When you mentioned it, I got that sick feeling in my stomach again. Like that night, said Davis. "We believed and our players believed who ever won that game was going to win the championship."


They were right. Belfry beat Bell County in the finals.


Davis second guesses himself about not calling a timeout and going for two at the end of the first overtime and then calling a timeout in the second when the Pirates converted the winning two point conversion run. You can't blame Davis or his players. The Colts had the ball deep in Belfry territory twice one was a fumble and another was when Demetri Scott made an acrobatic catch ruled out of bounds deep in Belfry territory. 


DeSales won the district just twice, last year and mainly because rival Christian Academy would win the regular season battle only to lose in the playoffs. Davis' record is 91-20 including 20-6 in the post season. 


Only 6-A power Trinity could boast more titles during that time and victories.


After playing safety for coach Ron Madrick's Class 4-A runner-up Colts, lost to Lexington Henry Clay, Davis went to spend time at the University of Louisville before transferring to Kentucky Wesleyan. Returning to Louisville, Davis was a firefighter for 22 years.


He got into coaching at Most Blessed Sacrament grade school before helping Bart Bruner, a teammate at Wesleyan, and Southern. He returned to his alma matter with longtime coach Harold Joyce. He followed Madrick and Buddy Pfaadt to Ridge Park before returning to DeSales to be with Mark Sander.


When Sander left after the 2011 season. Davis never really thought about being a head coach, but felt it made sense for a graduate and someone familiar with the program and he felt it made sense.


"I talked it over with my family, wife. Coach Madrick and coach (Don) Hettich. I knew if I didn't at least apply, I might not get another opportunity. I'd regret it."


Davis had retired from the fire department and his daughters were getting older and Joe his son enrolled at DeSales. "I had several people that supported me, boosters, board members. I wanted to coach Joe," said Davis. 


The Colts won nine games in his first season advancing to the semifinals losing to Caldwell County. The next two seasons were what dreams are made of, back to back titles, beating Newport Central Catholic, both times. 


Davis doesn't take a lot of credit for winning. He gives his assistant coaches credit, a tight group that's been with him most of the way. Wes Rogers, Jeff Poole, Aaron Donhauer are mainstays. 


Ty Scroggins joined a DeSales a couple of seasons ago and his son Jayden will be a quarterback and defensive back this season. Scroggins won several championships at Louisville Central and is now the offensive coordinator. Rogers felt it was time for a change and he told Davis he could work with Scroggins. “He did a really nice thing by doing that,” said Davis 


"I lean on these guys a lot," said Davis. "I call the defense, but Jeff has impact as do the other defensive coaches. Scorggins and Rogers work well together. "I told Wes when I got here, I wanted him to call the offense. Scroggins and Rogers now split the duties." Davis has input as well.


Others are on the staff. Aaron Donhauer, a line coach, now teaches at DeSales. Offensive line coach Renardo Foster, a former University of Louisville lineman and Jason Horton. Former players Matt Bouchard, Michael Wheatley and Matt Corbett are also on the staff.


Jeff Johnson, a former Colt and All-Ohio Valley Conference punter, helps with the kickers. Always a strength. Johnson had two sons punt for the Colts.


While coaching is a big part of the program it's the players that ultimately make the difference. "We've had a lot of great players," said Davis. Dylan Byrd, Scott and others were First Team All State by The Courier-Journal. Austin Johnson a first team punter and Bryant Pirtle, second team in 2014.


DeSales has many All Region players and many All District selections. The Colts and Christian Academy have dominated those categories.


Scott, a defensive end and receiver signed with Austin Peavy, was an AP First-Team selection after leading the state in sacks and tackles for loss.


In 2013 running back Dylan Byrd was First team player and the WAVE3 "Player of the Year." 


Retiring as a firefighter Davis never seems overwhelmed by a situation on the field or by problems that arise. He's never way up or way down. He's even keel.


A couple of years ago against Butler his son Joe, a defensive back, put a vicious tackle on his opponent. Joe didn't get up and was rushed to the hospital with an injury that just about ended his career.

After the end of the game Davis didn't stay around to talk he immediately left for the hospital. Rogers and the assistant coaches took over. That's about as upset as he gets.


As the proposed start of the season moves closer and no person to person contact with players or coaches allowed Davis has used Zoom sitting in an empty coaches office.


He like most coaches won't make predictions about when practice can resume or if there will be a season this fall. DeSales should have a solid nucleus as senior James Johnson who rushed for over 1,000 yards returns. Scroggins the quarterback, fullback Darren Hollenkamp, receiver Chase O'Neal are just some of the standouts. The line is where the Colts will have holes to fill.


Defensively, DeSales will should be solid but holes to fill.


A new punter and place kicker will have to develop.


Another tough road with St. Xavier, Butler, Lexington Catholic, Paducah Tilghman along with District rival Christian Academy are scheduled. 


But for now all Davis and the Colts can do is wait. That's why the grass is cut and more chores await at home.



The start of the season is always special but August 3rd is a day Davis will never forget. It was late one night when the companies at Sixth and Hill Streets answered a call on Seventh Street Road for a fire at a storage facility.


Strawn Nutter, a close friend and Davis were on the call. Nutter died in the fire. Davis goes to the cemetery every year to visit. Several of the firefighters met last year and went together. 

Davis says he will never recover from the incident and it affects his life to this day.



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