Players and coaches alike vow the team has ‘unfinished business’ in 2020
Note from Coach Lyon: This article has been put under my by-line but it is the work of our own Fletcher Long who is the Editor now of the Jackson Times-Voice. We thank both Mr. Long and the General Manager of the voice, James D. Fugate, for permitting its being re-published here. By “attached photograph,” as mentioned in the first sentence, it is referencing the picture you can below see with the original article of Coach Kyle Moore taking the temperature of Braxton O’Hara with Jalen Turner looking on from the background.
The attached photograph to this story should disclose a couple things. First of all, the Breathitt Bobcats have finally opened camp in de- fense of its Region-4 Foot- ball Championship in 2019. Secondly, practice in the pandemic-era of high school football will not resemble what you may recall from your playing days, even if those days were just last season.
Coach Moore told the Times-Voice, “…pursuant to the regulations imposed by the KHSAA and adopted by our own school board, we have opened camp. It is go- ing to be different. We will strictly adhere to all imposed protocols to insure both the success of the program and the health of its athletes.”
So, what does all of this mean? Well, for one, tem- peratures will be taken at the beginning of each prac- tice. Individuals tested will include athletes, coaches, and any and all personnel essential to the program.
If the person tested has a temperature of 100° Fahrenheit, or higher, he or she will be sent home. There will be no exceptions.
What can we expect of the team which was 13-1 in 2019, won the Region-4 Championship, the 7th-District championship, and led the State Champions, Somerset, 13-0, on the road be- fore eventually succumbing? Chief among the concerns will be replacing All-State RB, Charles Andrew Collins.
Collins also played LB. He thrived on that side of the ball too. Collins leaves big shoes to fill both places.
We believe the Bobcats will first look to a 1,000-yard rusher from 2018, though he was a QB that year. Braxton O’Hara (below), who is close to 6-4 and weighs 220-pounds, will be a different threat in the backfield than Collins, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be as effective.
We also think Lane Weddle will get carries from Dalton Mann’s old slot and look for rising freshman, Cade Bowling, a KPGFootball MS All-Stater in 2019, to getcarries. He’s a dynamite prospect who will be a fan- tastic back at Breathitt before he’s through, though he won’t be the featured ball-carrier at Breathitt in 2020.
In spite of the losses to graduation, the team has an opportunity to be better in 2020 than it was in 2019. That is saying quite a bit, because the team lost quite a bit of production in addition to the loss of Collins at RB/LB.
In 2020, the Bobcats will be without an All-District LB, LaDaniel Whitaker; an All- District FB/LB, Dalton Manns; an All-District LT/DL, Tim Spencer; An All-District OG, Derrick Newcombe; An All- State Honorable Mention at DE, Caden Hogg; an All-State Honorable Mention corner who also played WR, Bran- don Slaughter; and an All-Dis- trict WR, Jacob Noble. Noble doubled at corner and helped man, along with Slaughter, a third-level which led Ken- tucky with 26-interceptions.
Whether it is better or worse, the 2020 squad will look differently than the run first offense which scored 88-TDs in 2019 in only 415-plays, 308 of which were runs. That difference will be no more obvious than it will be at QB with the play we expect from Jaylen Turner.
Last year, Jaylen Turner was a slot receiver forced into action at QB when the reigning district POY, Braxton O’Hara, was laid-up with a bad back on the road at Mid- dlesboro. Turner, a freakish athlete with incredible height, length, and vertical explosion, showed that, while raw, he could still be very productive.
This year, Turner, who has grown both taller and gained in thickness, isn’t so raw. Braxton O’Hara is also taller and thicker than he was a year ago and Lane Weddle, who looks like he has lived at the gym this offseason according to people “in the know” is back. Weddle is the “one-man- band” of high school football.
Lane Weddle is a returning All-State (Honorable Mention) performer who is a weapon in the downfield passing game, over the middle, throwing the ball, punting or place-kicking. Defensively, Weddle stars at the hybrid safety/linebacker post.
Bryce Hoskins is back after making the KPGFootball, All-State Freshman team in 2019. At 6-5, 258-pounds, this slot/TE is moving better than anyone has before seen.
Hoskins has the frame and the athleticism to be a dif- ference maker across the middle and near the goal- line. He should be an effec- tive blocker in the run game too, not that the “Big Blue Wave” will need much help.
Offensive lines begin at center. Breathitt is l-o-a-d-e-d at offensive center.
Class of 2021, William Long (5-11, 265-pounds), a two-time, first-team, All-State performer (AP) at the cen- ter position enters the year the highest rated offensivelineman in Kentucky playing below the 4A-classification. Long is Kentucky’s highest regarded offensive center according to Bluegrass Rivals.
He has some big-time talent returning around him too. KPGFootball, All-State sophomores, Teegan Smith (6-3, 275) and Connor Deaton (6-8, 340) return and will be juniors in 2020. Both these boys have played a lot of football and have plenty of seasoning. Their abilities are through the roof.
There are ample candidates vying to join one of Ken- tucky’s premier units. We believe sophomores, Evan Mill- er (6-3, 305), James “Swamp Dawg” Ogans (5-11, 315), and Dillon Spencer, (6-0, 280), along with junior, Colton Herald (5-10, 245) and senior Jake Strong (6-6-275), will be competing this entire camp to earn the right to start along Breathitt’s Big-Blue Wave.
Look for former Kentucky Future Star and member of the Kentucky FBU Elite Team, Jason Perry to push to get in the Friday-night lineup. He’s 6-2, 250-pounds and, strength-wise, he’s grown.
If Perry can improve his feet and agility, plus master the guard position, somewhere he’s not accustomed to playing (played MLB for Team Kentucky), he has the obvious physical gifts to get a lot of playing time. Perry has played a ton of football for a kid entering 9th-grade. It is hard not to either notice or reward with playing time guys who look like Perry and work as hard as he obviously does.
Defensively, the team should be pretty stout along the line of scrimmage, much like it is on offense. While being the definitive center in Kentucky high schoolfootball, there are over two- dozen college programs re- cruiting William Long to play NG-DT. The message…the 2019 Jackson Times-Voice Defensive Player of the Year in the 7th-district (2A) is far from a liability on the defen- sive side. In fact, he is a bone fide defensive superstar.
If Colton Herald continues to come on, like he did the end of 2019, the team could slide Herald down to inside technique and stand William Long up behind him at MLB. We believe you will see some combination of Teegan Smith/ Jason Perry/Colton Herald/ Jake Strong at the posts left open by Spencer and Hogg’s graduating, if Long plays MLB.
The Perry kid has played a ton of LB, and in big-time games and situations, so look for him to push for playing time either at one of the tackle slots or LB. We also believe Braxton O’Hara and Ethan Gipson can man the outside posts along the second level with Lane Weddle and Jaylen Turner at the safeties, and Blake Ritchie at a corner.
Now we know we are missing a corner. Hold on to your seats.
We think Austin Sperry, who is a ranked basketball pros- pect entering the ninth grade and super long and athletic, would be more than an ample candidate to play both WR and somewhere in the defensive 3rd-level next year. We believe Blake Ritchie is likely to be similarly deployed.
We think the team will be favored to win each of its reg- ular season games and has a strong chance of repeating as district and regional champions. The team will be fairly well balanced offensively, and Turner will look like a different player than the Turner you remember from 2019. Turner was pretty darn good in 2019 (KPGFootball, Sophomore All-Stater, but at safety).
Having a healthy Braxton O’Hara, not perpetually fighting his back, will be key to seeing him regain his 2018-form. With O’Hara restored to health, Breathitt will boast a ground attack which may rival what it did on the ground in 2019.
That attack will be aided with the passing threat posed by Turner, Turner’s long, tall, and athletic targets both down-field and over the middle, and Turner’s ability to pull it down and take-off. If you can check all of that, you must still be very concerned with what the versatile Mr. Weddle will do with the football once it’s in his hands.
Breathitt will be in position to repeat much of what it did offensively in 2019. The only difference will be more of a 50/50 ground to air ratio than when Collins was in the backfield and Turner was still trying to “find his way.”
We believe Breathitt will have one of the finer first two defensive levels anywhere in Kentucky with a third level which already showed what it could do last season. With the key components to both lines of scrimmage older, more experienced, stronger, and much more explosive, and with the tall, long, and explosive playmakers the Bobcats boast, across the board; well, 2020 looks like it will be quite a lot of fun.
We hope you’ll join us on the Riverbank for the fireworks!
This article, which appeared in print in the very fine newspaper, the Jackson Times-Voice, appears here with the express permission of its author, Fletcher Whaley Long, who is a member of the editorial board of KPGFootball. Thanks for the contribution. HB Lyon.