McCracken County didn’t produce the type of offensive fireworks in 2017 to which Coach Marc Clark has become accustomed over the course of his head coaching career. Haven’t talked with him about it, but I would suppose he would be the first to make that admission. Last year, the Class 6A, District 1, football powerhouse scored 395 points over its twelve games for an average of nearly 33 points a night. You may think me crazy to be critical of an offense which put up 33 points a night; but remember, I said Coach Clark was probably unhappy with the production. Sometimes we can be our own toughest critiques.
Clark‘s 2016 Hopkinsville High School team scored 517 points in the same amount of games in finishing 10-2 on the year and his 2015 squad, also 10-2 and also at HHS, scored 454 points. So, the Mustangs offense didn’t perform poorly, just not up to the Clark standard. Defensively, Coach Clark couldn’t have been happy with surrendering 315 points on the year as his 2015 & 2016, Hopkinsville High squads, surrendered 159 points and 110 points respectively; again, with 12 contests composing the body of work.
Now before anyone tells us…but KPGFootball, Elijah Wheat was only a sophomore last season, a fact about which we were aware prior to your telling us, Clark‘s 2015 team was also led by a sophomore QB in 2018’s Jalen Johnson. Wheat may not be Jalen Johnson, but he was pretty efficient last season, in throwing for 1,772 yards on the year with 18 passing TDs offset by his 10 interceptions. Elijah completed 155 of his 260 attempts for a completion percentage of approximately .5962 which, as completion percentages go, was slightly better than Johnson, whose own completion percentages, in 2015 and 2016, hovered closer to 50% than the nearly 60% Wheat achieved in only his sophomore season.
When it comes to targets, the Mustangs lost senior Lawson Parrish to graduation who caught 34 footballs for Wheat,last season, for 389 yards and 3 TDs. Senior Landon Scheer also graduated, taking with him his 33 receptions for 339 yards and 4 TDs but the Mustangs return a real bright spot at the receiver position in fellow Class of 2020 WR, Franklin Hayes who caught 32 footballs in 2017, as a sophomore, for 387 yards and a touchdown.
When looking over the Mustang schedule they open with a Paducah Tilghman team it had to take to overtime in 2017 before escaping with a one-point victory. Then the Mustangs travel to Clarksville, Tennessee to play a Northeast football team which beat them in Paducah last season. What they will face in Clarksville, Tennessee in 2018 is a much better ball-club than the one over which they were favored at home in 2017 and which posted 7 wins, itself, last season.
Northeast has a star at QB in Heath Williams, a 6-1, 195 pound, dual threat QB who threw 236 passes a year ago completing 149 (.631 completion percentage) for 2,372 passing yards in 11 ball games with 29 TDs while being intercepted only 10 times for a 2.9:1 TD:INT ratio and a QB rating of 118.5. In addition to Williams, Northeast also added transfer, Fred Orr, to the roster to play alongside its own 2017 minted, 1,000 yard, plus, ground-pounder, it cultivated even before Orr enrolled.
Orr, playing for Rossview last season in Class 6A (Tennessee), gained 1,420 yards in only 190 rushing attempts with 21 rushing TDs. Orr will join Tyrique Battering-Ram Freeman, who played for Northeast a year ago. The nickname Battering-Ram is a KPGFootball concoction, but seemed appropriate to us. Freeman is a 6-1, 240 pound bruiser who gained 1,098 yards rushing last season. After those two opening games, the Mustangs then face a tough Graves County team on the road before having to play Mayfield. After that, the Mustangs open district play at Davies County which boasts an over 4,000 yard passer who threw for 49 TDs a year ago in Joey Cambron. Davies also has back two receivers in Marquel Tinsley, who caught 76 passes, 22 of which were in the end zone, for 1,447 receiving yards and Blake Baker, on the other side (50 receptions, 15 TDs). If the Mustangs can get out of the gate well enough in a top-laden schedule in 2018, they may be alright. If they don’t…
What makes all these offensive stars, littering the opponent’s rosters, particularly upsetting is McCracken surrendered 2,179 rushing yards, last year, together with over 2,000 yards in the air. This would be pretty scary if everyone defensively was back but McCracken has lost, to graduation, the best linebacker in Western Kentucky, in Skylar Mayes, who will be playing at EIU next season.
So just how good is Elijah Wheat? Well, the 6-0, 175 pounder was solid, if not spectacular, in 2017 as a sophomore and he is playing for both an offensively minded coach who has before developed quarterbacks who played very well for him. One thing is fairly sure, with whom the Mustangs will play this year, Wheat had better be pretty good plus willing to work to get better. He has the right mentor to show him the way.
This is Fletcher Long, reporting for KPGFootball reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!
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