Our guess…the preseason 5A, Top-five (5), how we see it…@minguabeefjeerky @kyhighs @HopkinsCentral @evans02_mike @_CoachManning @PrepSpin @1776Bank @KyHighFootball

Bowling Green "Senior" High Purples figure to be right in the title hunt again this year

Bowling Green figures to be right in the mix in ’23 like it was in ’22

We have been going over the top-five of each Kentucky classification in expectation of the season opening. We have detailed the first four classifications and, now, it is time to share how we see 5A settling.

Fletcher Long, Scouting Division and Senior Sports Columnist

Last year’s champion, Frederick Douglass, will compete for the 6A crown in ’23. However, Bowling Green (Senior) looks like they will be in the thick as will be Woodford County, Highlands, Southwestern, and Owensboro, the other “Senior High” in the commonwealth.

Here is how we see it and why. Join us as we conclude this series with the 6A classification upcoming.

Class 5A likely champion in ’23: Bowling Green (Sr.) High

Deuce Bailey (’25) is the standard by which dual-threats are judged in Kentucky. Bailey completed over 61% of his 360-passing attempts a year ago, throwing 34-TD’s, and passing for 3,136-yards. He also gained 424-yards rushing on only 71-carries with 3-TD’s. 

The Deuce is loose…

Perhaps Bailey’s most impressive statistic is his leading his team to the title game a year ago.

Javon Huddleston (’24) returns at RB. He gained 1,184-yards and rushed for 16-TD’s on 144-carries. You have to be pretty darn good to average 8.84-yards a carry playing 5A football.

Easton Barlow (’24) returns at WR. Barlow caught 52-passes for 1,008-yards and 12-TD’s in ’22. Trevy Barber (’26) was a freshman a year ago and still caught 47-passes for 737-yards and 9-receiving TD’s.

Grayson Newman (’25) had 126-tackles his sophomore season. Newman also pilfered a couple passes and registered 66-IRNY’s. Wick Dotson picked 5-passes a year ago and he too returns. 

Jordan Green will anchor the defensive front. He had 8-TFL’s and 4-QB sacks to go along with his 2-FF’s and a lone FR. That is making plenty of plus plays from a guy with his hand in the dirt.

The likely runner-up; Woodford County High

Remember when we said Deuce Bailey was the standard by which dual-threats were measured? Well, the same can be said of WoFo’s dual-threat Andrew Nason (’25).

Nason, ’25 QB

In leading WoFo to an 11-2 finish, Nason threw for 1,623-yards and 20-TD’s, rushed for 872-yards with 12-ground scores, and completed over 60% of his passing attempts.

Makhi Smith (’25) was one of Nason’s more reliable targets a year ago. Smith caught 41-passes for 671-yards with 8-TD’s. 

Davion Sturgis (’25) really studded out in ’22. Stugis had 84.5-tackles, 11-TFL’s, 3.5-sacks, 1-FF, 2-FR’s, and one-“Scoop and Score.”

Christian Ponce (’24) had 4.5-sacks and returns as does classmate, Layton Starks and his 4.5-sacks. It is a good thing, as those 9-sacks will help offset the 8-sacks which crossed the graduation stage with the departure of Grant Garrison. 

Mahki Smith (’25) led the team, patrolling the third defensive level, with his 4-INT’s. Jasper Johnson (’25) was “right on his heels” with three (3).

Coming in at No. 3, Is Ft. Thomas Highlands finally back on top?

One has to wonder when Highlands will be back on top? Well the Bluebirds, under Coach Robert Sphire, have been threatening and perhaps this will be the breakthrough year. 

Benke

Brody Benke (’24), a WR by trade, convinced everyone QB was easily in his skill-set. The junior threw for close to 2,200-yards (2,170) and 24-TD’s while completing 58% of his passing attempts (160/277) and turning in a 2.4:1.1 TD:INT ratio (24:11). Benke gained 232-yards on 55-carries and scored 7-TD’s on the ground. 

The Bluebirds will be the first to admit they need to run it better in ’23 than they did in ’24. Getting back the leading rusher, Cameron Giesler (’24), will help that effort exponentially. Giesler gained 641-yards in ’22 and scored 13-TD’s over his 106-rushing attempts.

Charlie Noon will be sorely missed in the receiving corp. However Carson Class (’24) returns as does reliable TE, Luke Scheider. Class is a two-way guy and picked a pair of passes on defense in ’22, retuning one of the two all the way while racking up 88-IRNY’s to also lead the ball club. Not a lot of guys pulling double duty, like Class, in 5A ball at programs like Highlands.

The loss of Davis Burleigh will be felt. Burleigh may have been the KHSAA’s very best PK last season. We believe Logan Nickelman (’25) will get the first shot at the job. He converted 100% of his PAT’s in ’22 though the sample size was small.

Nate Welch will lead the defense. Welch was third on the team in tackles a year ago and threw in 2-TFL’s, a FR, and picked a pass he returned 20-yards. 

No. 4, Southwestern High Warriors (Pulaski County, KY)

Here’s a question for you; when was the last time Jason Foley’s Warriors weren’t in the 5A title hunt? We can’t remember either.

The Warriors were 13-1 a year ago and dropped its semifinal match to a ’22 finalist which figures to challenge for the crown this year too. 

Collin Burton

Roger Oliver has graduated but Collin Burton (’24) was as effective under center for the Warriors in ’22 and Burton still has a final tour left to go. 

Tanner Wright graduated and took his game next level. That said, Christian Walden (’24) returns and he gained 1,157-yards on 130-carries with 15-rushing TD’s sharing the backfield with Wright last year. 

Caiden Cunnagin (’24) will be the leading returning receiver. He caught 26-passes in ’22 and for a team which throws it sparingly that is not a number at which to sneeze. 

Ben Coomer (’25) really had a fine sophomore season. Coomer registered 110-tackles while forcing a fumble, registering a TFL and four (4) QB-sacks. Lukas McKee (’25) makes a fine compliment to Coomer. McKee registered 103-tackles, 5-TFL’s, and three (3) QB-sacks. 

At No. 5, those omnipresent Owensboro Senior High Red Devils!

Owensboro High is one of the winningest programs at the 5A level across Kentucky for a reason. Here recently, it feels as though the semis, at the very least, is some sort of Red Devil birthright. 

The Red Devils lost in the semis in ’22 to the classification’s champion who has since moved up to 6A. There is an argument the Red Devils played them better than Bowling Green in the championship and Owensboro did hold the commonwealth’s most lethal offense to 14-points. 

Ethan “Big E” Gough

Kasey Boone will have to be replaced at QB. It is likely Trevor Delacey (’25) will get an opportunity to shine. 

A couple of years ago many were skeptical of Boone’s ability to thrive at the position and he led the Red Devils on a whale of a two year period of prosperity. Who’s to say Delaney won’t do similarly. 

Deion Winstead (’25) will take over for Kenyatta Carbon as the running game’s first option. Winstead rushed for close to 550-yards (546) on 50-carries with 11- of those finding the end zone. 

Winstead will get to run behind one of the more physically imposing offensive fronts in the western end too. Jak Lindsey, ’24, (6’5,” 300) is a lineman already pledged to play Division-I football on Saturdays next year. He will be a load to handle this year in 5A.

Blake Kimball is a TE/WR prospect drawing a ton of attention. He looks as though he will be a primary target for Delacey this coming Fall.

Defensively, Ethan Gough (’25) has been expected to take over the defense and run the show similarly to how his All-State performing brother, Austin, did a few years prior. Gough has been slowed by injuries but reports out of Owensboro are that he is 100% and ready to play. If the Gough kid is healthy, there isn’t a better linebacker in his class.

Deion Winstead doubles at LB where his exploits are worthy of its own paragraph. Winstead had close to 60-tackles a year ago and led the defense with three (3) INT’s, accumulating 35-IRNY’s and a pick-six, one of the team’s three. 

There is one thing around the KHSAA as sure as death and taxes. That is there will be plenty of athletes in the hallways, and dotting the roster, of the Owensboro (Sr. High) Red Devils. 

There it is folks, the top-5 for 5A. Join us later when we break down the 6A classification.

This is Fletcher W. Long, reporting for KPGFootball, reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!

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About Fletcher Long 1296 Articles
Two-time winner of Kentucky Press Association awards for excellence in writing and reporting news stories while Managing Editor of the Jackson (KY) Times-Voice

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