Today we look at the first of the big boys, Kentucky 4A. The easy money here is just to pick the team which won it all in ’20 and ’21, Boyle County’s Rebels. The Rebels will be right in the thick of it again in ’22, but we like the Flyers from Franklin County to take the crown this coming Fall. They have a loaded roster and this is the year to which the Flyer faithful have been pointing. Should be fun to watch.Fletcher W. Long, KPGFootball Senior Scout and Editorial Board Member
As we continue our march toward opening night, we find ourselves in position to lay out for the reader how we see the 4A classification finishing. Boyle County was no surprise as any one who lives in “Title Town” be they BC or Danville is hardly a surprise any year they get to Kroger Field. As for Johnson Central last year, losing their legendary coach seemed one Hell of obstacle to have to overcome. What will the Eagles do this year?
However, ’22 is the dawn of a new era, especially for Johnson Central. Bourbon County and Hoptown both look the part and no one can question the job David Jones has done in Paris, Kentucky. Franklin County seemed a year away in ’21. Well, it is a year later!
The below is how we see it shaking out this coming Fall in the 4A classification. There are two contenders this year who were way out of the race a season ago. We do have a few old faithfuls smattered in with the surprises.
Number 1. Franklin County, 10-4 in ’21 losing to Johnson Central in the 4A semis;
Gavin Hurst, ’24, at QB completed 100 of his 150-passing attempts for 1,212-yards, 11-TDs, 7-picks, while rushing 72-times for 328-yards and 3-TDs; Hurst will be patrolling the back end for the Flyers’ defense too where he is the “QB” on both sides of the football. Hurst, the DB, had 4-picks, 2-pick sixes, 212-INT return net yards, 24-tackles and 2-TFLs, to make him among the very best DBs in Kentucky’s 4A classification.
Kaden Moorman, ’23, may be among the best RBs in all of 4A. He gained 1,447-yards in ’21 in 177-carries with 27-rushing TDs. Moorman caught 18-passes swinging out of the backfield for 211-yards and another couple TDs and was the club’s leading scorer. Moormanan chipped in 16-tackles during “spot duty” on defense in ’21.
Zach Claudio (’23) returns after having grabbed 51-aerials a year ago from his receiver post for 653-yards receiving and 5-TDs. Claudio was the ball club’s third leading scorer, second if one omits Easton Powell who is the PK. Claudio also played defense a year ago, accounting for 41-stops, 1.5-TFLs, 4-INTs (tied for the club lead), and a FR.
Speaking of Easton Powell (’25), the freshman was the team’s second leading scorer a year ago. He converted 62 of his 63-chances for a PAT and 3 of his 4 FG-attempts.
Leading tackler Brenton Sears ’23 returns. Sears had 130-tackles in ’21 with 9-TFLs, 2.5-sacks, 1-FF, and 1-FR
Rising sophomore Christian Moore (’25) has proven he may be the next big thing for Franklin County at the DE position. Moore had 4.5-sacks and 7-TFLs interspersed among his 27-stops on the year.
Peyton Ledford (’23) returns and he had a huge junior year. Ledford registered 101-tackles with 17-TFLs, 2.5-sacks, while forcing 2-Fumbles a year ago. Ledford also picked a pair of passes in ’21 and, get this, he returned both for scores accumulating 76-INT return yards along the way.
KPGFootball’s analysis: The Flyers have been threatening to win, for the last several years at least, a 4A title. This coming season is one to which the faithful have been pointing. The roster talent is deep, rich, and aged just right for a run. The Flyers were uncommonly good a year ago and made the Semis. We believe they make it a game further in ’22.
No. 2. Boyle County, 14-1 in ’21, Class 4A State Champions;
Sage Dawson (’24) 8-16 for 83-yards and a TD; 28-rushes for 215-yards and 3-TDs
Avery Bodner (’24) had himself a year in ’21. Bodner registered 163-rushes for 1,262-yards and 15-rushing TDs. He was productive swinging out of the backfield in the down field passing game too. Bodner collected 14-receptions for 204-yards and 2-TDs. Bodner is also the leading returning offensive scorer and is pretty good defensively registering 52-Tackles, 8-TFLs, 1-FF, and 2-INTs.
Loss of the commonwealth’s most potent third-phase weapon, UK’s Jackson Smith, will hurt. Andrew Carr (’25) was only called upon to attempt one PAT in ’21; but hey, he made it!
Dalton Stone (’23) is a defensive star for the Rebels. Stone registered 93-Tackles, 15-TFLs, 1-Sack, and 2-FRs
Tommy Ziesmer (’23) is considered by many to be the best DE in Kentucky high school football at any level of competition. Ziesmer had 61-Tackles a year ago with 10-TFLs, 10-Sacks, 5-FFs, 1-FR, & 1-Scoop and Score. Zeismer contributed on offense too with his 2-Receptions, 39-yards receiving, and his lone TD.
Cole Sims (’23) coming back is big for the defense. Sims recorded 70-Tackles, 13-TFLs, 7-sacks, 1-FF, 2-FRs, 1-Scoop and Score, 2-INTs, and a “Pick-Six” over the course of the ’21 championship run.
KPGFootball’s analysis: One could pick Boyle County to win the title any preseason and no one would quibble. That is why Danville, Kentucky is referred to as “Title Town.” Justin Haddix is one of the brightest of coaching stars just now hitting stride around Kentucky. The loss of Gillis at QB has to hurt a little. In the end, expect the Rebels to be in this thing to the bitter end.
No. 3 Johnson Central, 12-3, Class 4A finalist losing to Boyle County in the championship game 30-13;
Grant Rice has graduated and he ran the controls of the offense very well, thank you. We aren’t completely sure who inherits the reins to the offensive attack but we will make a guess as we go along here.
Zack McCoart, ’25, was only a freshman a year ago but the Eagles faithful love what he can do. Last year, in addition to completing his only pass, McCoart carried the football 121-times for 1,287-yards and 18-scores leading the team in offensive scoring.
Chase Price (’23) is back for a final tour and the FB gained 834-yards on 112-carries a year ago, scoring over the ground 14-times to give the Eagles one of the most potent ground games in Kentucky. Price may be among the most dynamic defenders returning in addition to his offensive contributions. Price had 8.5-TFLs a year ago to go with his 3-sacks, 3-FRs, and 2-INTs.
Look for Carter Conley (’24) to step up this Fall. Conley was right effective in ’21, gaining 611-yards on only 67-carries, 9 of which went for rushing TDs.
Mason Lawson, ’23, is the “forgotten guy” only playing in 2-games a season ago. Make no mistake about it, this kid is a superstar.
Sawyer Crum handles the PK duties and quite well. He was 55 for 59 a year ago in PATs.
The defense in ’22 may only go as far as players like Jesse McCoy (’23) takes them. McCoy had 60-tackles, 6-TFLs, and 5-Sacks (Tied for the team lead in ’21).
Seth Davis (’25), the heir apparent at QB, played some LBer for the Eagles in ’21 and acquitted himself rather well. Davis scattered 3-TFLs, 2-sacks, and a FR among his 43-tackles over his freshman campaign.
KPGFootball’s analysis: Johnson Central lost Jim Matney last year and man did that ever hurt. The coaching staff righted the ship and took the commonwealth’s premier rushing attack to Kroger Field anyway. The offensive front will have to replace talent, size, and power the likes of Owen LeMaster and Grant Bingham and Mason LeMaster’s loss to the defense will be felt. However, remember this name…Mason Lawson. He’s a 6-2, 200-pound stud who runs a legit 4.6-second 40-yard dash. Oh, Johnson Central will be just fine this coming season and so will Coach Steve Trimble.
4. Corbin, 12-1 in ’21, lost to Johnson Central in Corbin in the Regional Finals;
Cameron Combs ’23 is back at QB. Combs completed 92 of his 157 passing attempts in ’21 throwing for 13-TDs versus only one (1)-pick. Combs, a dual-threat guy, rushed the football 71-times for 563-yards with 9-rushing TDs.
Dakota Patterson ’23 may prove to be just what the doctor ordered with the matriculation across the graduating stage of the triumvirate of Treyveon Longmire, Seth Mills, and Seth Huff. Patterson caught 32-passes for 508-receiving yards and 3-TDs last season, was among the leading offensive scorers.
Jacob Baker, ’23, gives the Redhounds a very steady performer at PK. Baker converted 98.5% of his PATs (66 for 67) and made 9 of 13-attempted FGs, scoring 93-points last season from the all-important third phase of football. A talented PK can keep teams in games and orchestrate deep playoff runs. Baker is better than most and as good as any. Baker was tough on defense too, as he is hardly “just a placekicker.” Baker tied for the club lead in INTs in ’21 (3) to go along with his 34-total stops.
Mikey Neal (’25) was a freshman a season ago. Neal had 112-tackles to lead the ball club and forced 2-fumbles while recovering one.
Brody Wells, ’23, returns and he had 62-tackles, 5-TFLs, 1-sack, 1-FR, and 1-INT in ’21.
Zayne Hammock, ’23, also picked three (3) passes from his LBer post to go along with his 51-stops, 3-TFLs.
Hunter Upchurch, ’24, was among the team leaders in QB-sacks a year ago in only spot-duty. Upchurch should really see his production increase with additional opportunities.
KPGFootball’s analysis: Corbin is a team which just seems primed to make a deep run yearly in the 4A classification. We believed the Redounds were an elite team in the 4A classification much of last season and the perfect regular season and beating the crap out of both Franklin County and Simon Kenton gave us every reason for optimism. Corbin getting smoked by Johnson Central in the Regional Finals was a surprise. Corbin’s rebounding this year and making another deep run wouldn’t be surprising at all. In fact, it would be (by us) expected.
5. (tie) Bourbon County, 5-6 in ’21, lost to Lexington Catholic 33-19 in the first round of the playoffs;
No, you’re reading this correctly and no we haven’t lost our minds. If you haven’t noted the tremendous physical strides this ball club has made since David Jones arrived from Phelps High, then we suppose you haven’t been looking.
Bourbon plays in the toughest district in 4A (District 5, Boyle County, Lexington Catholic, and Anderson County) but the Colonels are beginning to “look the part” like in the Dudley Hilton days. This team has the horses, so to speak!
Clay Estes (’23) is back at QB. Estes completed 101 of his 198-passing attempts for 1,676-yards and 12-aerial TDs against his 3-thrown INTs. Estes was the second leading TD-scorer over the ground in ’21 and ran for over 300-yards in only 82 carries.
Leading rusher Josh Moody, ’23, returns and Moody came perilously close to eclipsing 1,000 yards as a junior (926-yards). Estes also scored 9-TDs rushing.
Cam Santiago (’23) may be the most potent and explosive offensive threat on the squad. Santiago is committed to Kentucky Wesleyan University to continue his football career after high school. Last season, Santiago was among the team leaders in receptions (21), receiving yards (294), and TDs receiving (3) in spite of only playing in eight (8) of the team’s 11 games. Look for his numbers to go way up this coming season.
Cam Ron Goodwin (’23) was a hit machine when last we saw him under the Friday Night Lights. Goodwin forced 9-fumbles (and that number is crazy high), recovering one, and led the defense with 120-Tackles, 8-TFLs, with 4-QB sacks.
DaMarius McKee Ross (’23) led the team a season ago with 5-sacks. Ross also forced a fumble.
Marcus Floyd (’23) corralled the team’s lone pick in ’21 but he also returns in ’22. Floyd will be hunting many more than one-pick.
We love Bo Stinson, ’23, upfront along the OL. The 6-3, 265-pound weight room superstar will certainly play in college but probably inside along the interior as opposed to his OT deployment he enjoys for Bourbon County. Stinson has proven himself both a reliable and capable defensive lineman. Look for him to gain considerably more run on that side of the football this coming season.
KPGFootball’s analysis: Before you laugh at us, yes we remember Bourbon going 5-6 a year ago. However, Bourbon has been toiling away in the classification’s toughest district. Well, this year Lexington Catholic has slipped a tad and Boyle County is Boyle, so yeah, they are going to be a tremendous obstacle; but Coach Jones has assembled one heck of a coaching staff and his athletes really look the part of 4A contenders these days. Remember this…David Jones can flat-out coach! Don’t be surprised to hear Bourbon is rolling once the ’22 season gets here.
5. (tie) Hoptown High, 7-5 in ’21 losing to Logan County in the second round;
Marc Clark is back at the controls of the Tiger program. Last time he patrolled that particular sideline, Clark led the team to a 20-4, two-year run in ’15 & ’16.
Clark had righted the ship before the return of Craig Clayton. Now that Clayton has retired, can he keep the momentum tracking in an upward direction? We believe Clark both can and will!
Zach Moss (’24) certainly looks the part of a big time QB at the 4A level. Of course, he should; the 6-3, 205-pound baseball superstar has already signed with UK to play college baseball in the SEC. That figures to comprise quite an athlete to trigger any offense in any classification.
Who is going to pick up the yards at RB this coming Fall is the only nagging question for a team which, with a more definitive answer, probably makes this list considerably higher than the present tie for fifth (5th). Daisjaun Mercer (’23) is a “Mr. Football” candidate and has already committed to play Division I, FBS football for Miami University (OH). Mercer is so dangerous with the ball in his hands on either side of the scrimmage line.
Mercer gained over 100-yards a season ago in only 8-rushing attempts, caught 44-passes for 1,127-yards receiving with 13-TDs, led the team in offensive scoring. Mercer defensively, where he is projected to play collegiately, registered 51-tackles with 5-TFLs while picking six (6)-passes; 2 of which he returned to pay dirt with 117-INT return yards.
Mercer is within easy striking distance of the career mark for INTs at Hoptown. That is a mouthful as HHS is a school which has produced some pretty stellar athletic talent through the years.
We love CJ Stallworth (’23) at DE in addition to what he brings to the table playing along the offensive line, where he is equally stellar. Last year, in only spot-defensive duty, Stallworth had 7-TFLs and 7-QB sacks.
Jaron Mills (’23) certainly looks the part physically. He plays the part under the lights well too. Mills had 80-tackles a year ago with 12-TFLs, 2-sacks, and a FR.
We talked about an OL up above in discussing Bo Stinson. Hoptown’s OC, Guy Blythe (’23) is as good as it gets at that position. The 6-0, 275-pounder may be the most powerful and explosive athlete playing football in Kentucky today. Blythe makes the reads a coach wants to see from that slot and rarely misses a run or protection call. Blythe is one heck of a corner stone around which to build an offensive front.
Look out for diminutive Trushaun Matt (’23). While small, he is very dangerous in space offensively and will knock your block clean off your shoulders when called upon to patrol the 3rd-level for the Tiger defense.
At the end of the day, studying the rosters as extensively as we have, this is our best guess at the classification’s best five (or six) football teams entering the coming season. There are some other teams which could well have been included here.
KPGFootball’s analysis: Those of you wanting to be critical of this pick, have any of you ever entered the locker room at Hopkinsville High School and really looked at their players? Talk about your frames…these cats look as good coming off the team bus as any roster in the classification. Daisjean Mercer may be the best athlete and football player in Kentucky and there is no reason to believe Coach Marc Clark will struggle to make a fine QB out of a D-1, FBS, Power-5 baseball commitment pledged to UK like Zach Moss. You will hear the names Guy Blythe, CJ Stallworth, and Jaron Mills this season as all three of these guys are good enough to play on Saturdays. In Clark’s last two seasons in Hopkinsville his teams went 20-4 (’15 & ’16). He should be able to pick up where he left off the last time.
Others of note…
Logan County has plenty of line of scrimmage talent returning and Hopkins County Central boasts some of the best football players it has ever included on any previous roster since that school opened its doors. Letcher Central has things going its way and Mark Dixon’s hire at Perry County Central is beginning to pay dividends as that team just keeps improving incrementally every season.
All of the above aside, these teams we have above detailed seem to be a cut above the other teams competing at the 4A classification. Are we right or are we delusional? We shall see!
This is Coach HB Lyon, reporting for KPGFootball, and we’re JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!
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