On Aug. 5, three weeks before their season-opener, the Trinity (Ky.) Shamrocks held their annual green-and-white scrimmage. It's the same game played by countless programs nationwide, a glorified practice to gauge incoming talent. It's a way simulate game action, to test new additions to the playbook. In the course of a season, it means next to nothing.
This time, it was telling. Midway through the scrimmage, the defense called a safety blitz. As backup quarterback Blake Boughy prepared to give the ball to his running back, senior Adam Reynolds exploded through the line of scrimmage, snatching the ball out of Boughy's hands. He sprinted 15 yards to the end zone before anyone realized what had happened.
"I've never seen anything like that," said Bob Beatty, Trinity's 12th-year coach. "Everybody just kind of stood with their mouths open."
Over the next five months, the Shamrocks would evoke similar reactions. They went 14-0 to finish as SI.com's top-ranked high school team.
Their dominance was total. En route to a Kentucky Class 6A title -- Trinity's seventh consecutive crown and ninth since Beatty took over in 2000 -- it outscored opponents 697-116, outgaining them 6,397-2,822. It never trailed in the second half, and trailed just 12 minutes the entire year. However improbably, it improved in the playoffs: Trinity won five outings by an average of 50 points -- and set a new state record by putting up 62 in the final against Scott County (Ky.).
That's not a knock on its competition. Trinity foes went a combined 97-56, including two teams -- Indianapolis Central (Ind.) and St. Xavier (Ohio) -- that reached their respective state semifinals (Indianapolis Central won the Indiana Class 4A title).
"We had powerhouses nationally across the board," said quarterback Travis Wright. "Every week was a constant grind for us this year."
It didn't show. Led by the dynamic junior trio of Wright, running back Dalyn Dawkins (the nephew of Broncos cornerback Brian Dawkins) and wide receiver James Quick, the 'Rocks ripped through overmatched defenses in 2011. Wright notched a 70 percent completion percentage, and Dawkins rushed for 1,901 yards and 32 touchdowns. The aptly named Quick, a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder with offers to Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn, among others, reeled in 82 catches for 1,434 yards and 19 scores.
Despite their gaudy stats, Wright -- in typical quarterback fashion -- gave all the credit to his offensive line.
"A couple plays this season, if I wouldn't have had that half a second that I had to get the ball off, who knows what the outcome would've been," he said. "Our offensive line is definitely the reason we were so aggressive."
There was also their training regimen, a plan that would rival many BCS programs. The Shamrocks began weightlifting and speed drills as early as January, upping their commitment as the season wore on. During game weeks, players completed three and a half hours of football-related activities on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, switching between on-field, film room and weightlifting sessions without break.
It didn't impede academics: Not one varsity starter missed time due to grade probation and Joey Shaw, a senior wideout, scored a perfect 36 on his ACT.
"The biggest thing these kids take from us is you have to punch the clock," said Beatty. "That's where you win games, and they understand that."
Finally, there was Beatty's impact, an influence that can't be overlooked. The coach and his staff spent nearly nine hours analyzing film on Saturdays, tirelessly preparing for the upcoming week's matchup. Their strategy was simple: Get the ball in the hands of playmakers, and let natural athletic ability do the rest.
"I'm very adamant that we don't need super complicated game plans," he said. "Let them not have to think. Any time people are thinking too much, it slows them down."
It worked brilliantly. Trinity scored 33 touchdown of 35 yards or longer -- 16 coming in the playoffs.
In fact, the only thing that slowed the Shamrocks this season was a proposed national championship, of which rumors surfaced following their Kentucky triumph on Dec. 2. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that the athletic department was in contact with New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep, another undefeated (11-0) power ranked among the nation's elite. Talks escalated as high as ESPN, though the game was denied by the Kentucky and New Jersey governing bodies.
That doesn't mean the 'Rocks weren't up for the challenge. Wright -- speaking on behalf of the team -- fully embraced the idea.
"That would've been a great experience for all of us," he said. "I've never really heard of a national championship in high school played like that. I was hoping it would happen."
For good reason. As the chart below demonstrates, Trinity was simply dominant this season.
In a few weeks, the process will begin anew. This season's heroics will fade, and Beatty and Co. will turn their attention to 2012. Following the team banquet on Jan. 15, weightlifting and speed drills resume. With Wright, Dawkins and Quick all returning, expectations will be enormous.
But know this: Around Louisville -- and the nation -- Trinity's 2011 campaign won't soon be forgotten. From the green-and-white scrimmage to the Kentucky Class 6A championship, the Shamrocks proved they're not just any high school team. They're the best.
"A lot of high school teams can put four of five different players on the field," Beatty said. "I felt like we could put 30."