As we continue to feature prominent match-ups occurring in week zero across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and as we march toward the 2018 season opener; today, we have the 2017, Class 4A, State Football Champion, Franklin-Simpson, versus last year’s Regional Champion, and Class 3A semi-finalist, Elizabethtown High School (E-Town). Both teams are highly regarded in their respective classifications, and one of them being from a higher classification is meaningless, as we have before discussed the elite football teams at any classification have shown an ability to play football against any level of competition throughout the Commonwealth. The game will be played in E-Town, Kentucky. Here’s a break down of that match-up and, at the end, the KPGFootball opinion as to whom will win Friday night!
For the visiting Wildcats…
Okay, they graduated 26 Seniors. Okay, they lost many across the defensive front, namely Terry Scarbrough, Dion Pearson, and Trevon Goodnight. However, Franklin-Simpson does return one of the quickest bursts into a defensive 2nd level we saw all year in down-hiller, Tre’ Bass. Bass is a 5-8, 180 pound bolt of lightening who starred for Franklin-Simpson in route to its winning the program’s 2nd State Championship. As any handicapper can tell you, especially in high school football, a stud running back can hide a lot of ailments, and the Wildcats have two. The fact remains, regardless of what has departed and what returns, the Wildcats have an excellent chance of coming out of the West to play for it all for again in 2018, like they did in 2017. As for Bass, I don’t know where we saw a high school running back explode into the second level with the speed and explosion of Franklin-Simpson‘s Tre’ Bass anywhere in Kentucky last season. The 5-8, 180 pound, Rivals’ 5.5 rated, three-star running back has already been offered by Morehead State University and Southeast Missouri State University and there are sure to be many offers yet to come. He is listed as a multi-purpose back and that, judging from his production from last season, would appear entirely appropriate. There may be literally nothing on a football field Bass can’t do with a ball in his hands. The Wildcats also return another 1,000 yard rusher in Carlos McKinney, have an offensive lineman committed to Louisville, in Jack Randolph, and one of Kentucky’s best offensive centers in Shawn Woods to lead the way upfront for the ground-based attack.
For the home-standing Panthers…
E-Town is still E-Town regardless of whom is remaining and who happened to graduate. That aside, this team is not the team which went to Franklin, Kentucky to open the 2017 season, coming out with a 55-23 easy night on the road. Last year, E-Town showed it was an elite team in the 3A classification and frankly, as close of a game as they gave Boyle in the State-Semis (Boyle won 14-7 at E-Town), arguably the 2nd best, Class 3A team in Kentucky. Facts remain, however, that last season was last season and this is next year. Nobody in the top of 3A has been more ravaged by graduation than E-Town. The Panthers lost 18 seniors including, principally, Jay Becherer and his 1029 yards rushing and 15 rushing TDs. In addition to Becherer, the Panthers also lost Donovan Huskey with his 574 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs. The Panthers are not completely devoid of Becherer‘s as Jay’s little brother, Joseph, who is now a junior, returns, as does his 102 tackles he tallied as a sophomore. Maybe even more important to losing all the ground production was the Panthers losing QB, Tyler Durbin. Durbin threw, last year, for over 1,500 yards with 21 TDs against 5 picks. While teams around the classification may be thinking this is an opportune time to jump on the Panthers, their being down and all, we caution all the opportunists out there that KPG knows something many of you don’t. E-Town has a young stud at QB who didn’t get much PT as a freshman, but we saw him in middle school. QB, Clay Games, a former Team Kentucky player, who led TK Stone to the State Middle School Football Championship can spin it, let me assure you. Standing approximately 6-3, he will have no trouble standing tall in the pocket. E-town has another rising sophomore stud to catch Games’ spirals and that is Camden Williams. Get ready E-Town, you will like Games to Williams for the next three seasons. Camden caught 6 passes for 64 yards and a score last year, in limited varsity run, but look for those numbers to sky-rocket. Regardless of what they lost, E-Town is still E-Town!
Matchups to monitor…
How E-Town’s new QB, Clay Games, does under center being rushed by guys who are likely very good football players but couldn’t beat out the likes of Scarbrough, Pearson, and Goodnight, will be worthy of watching. How, and with whom, the Panthers intend to replace Becherer and his rushing and TD production against what will be an untested Wildcat defensive front is also an important match-up going forward. How many players from off a State Championship, middle school, football team in 2016, and who are now entering their sophomore years, are both physically and mentally ready to step into a varsity lineup, as sophomores, to replace the 18 players who graduated last spring will be critical to monitor and will tell us a lot about how E-Town fairs the remainder of 2018. Another interesting match-up will be the Panther front seven against the Wildcat’s wing-T attack and, principally, the two-headed rushing monster known as Bass and McKinney running behind Randolph and one of Kentucky’s best offensive centers in Shawn Woods. Defending the Wing-T takes discipline and a lot of playing your assignment and very little free-lancing. Playing disciplined, assignment, team over individual, football is a hallmark of both programs. I don’t see either of these offenses scoring 55 points like E-Town did in Franklin, Kentucky a year ago but, then again, with as little as we know about the young kids coming up sometimes, anything is possible. Last year, the road team escaped victorious, I believe the same will happen again, though by a much leaner margin.
Look for the visiting Wildcats and defending Class 4A, State Football Champions to come out of E-Town, Kentucky with the victory Friday night though the game will be much closer than last year’s tilt. Both teams lost a lot of seniors, but the players Franklin-Simpson has returning, coupled with what it does schematically, offensively and defensively, lends itself to better be able to plug in new guys and trudge along.
Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of you ballers out there that #WeGotUCovered and to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.
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