The exodus is here/The happy ones are near/Let’s get together, before we get much older…“Baba O’Riley,” Peter Townsend of The Who, recorded and released in 1971.
Dead Period, also known to some in KHSAA circles as Bylaw 24, Summer Sports and Sports Activities, is a real Teenage Wasteland for those of us who cover high school football in Kentucky. I have before written an article about the origins of the bylaw and how it came to pass, so I won’t go into that now, but suffice it to say it is a time of year I dread frankly. The fact there is a movement afoot to make it longer makes me want to vomit. It feels similar to the Biblical story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years before being admitted into the Promise Land. While I may not be able to quite taste the free flow of milk and honey which awaits us upon our successful completion of the figurative wilderness wandering which we, at KPGFootball equate to Kentucky’s Dead Period, the end is near and I feel I can virtually see the other side. What lies on the immediate horizon is a football season full of promise, expectation, hope, optimism, and unbridled excitement. The reason? Every team in Kentucky, as we sit here today, is a State Football Championship contender, at least until the pretenders get separated out, week by week, opponent after opponent, until there are only six remaining in each of Kentucky’s classifications.
So on the crest of the 2018 high school football season, which teams in the respective classifications do we believe will be contending for championships? We will go through each classification and give you ten which we believe have the horses to make it all the way and will list them in the order we see it.
Pikeville High School, No. 1;
Pikeville lost to Raceland last year in the State Semi-finals, but, just barely. The final was 17-14 and it capped off an improbable run. Pikeville ended the regular season 6-4 before reeling off 3 straight against Harlan, Williamsburg, and Hazard. Pikeville was one of the youngest, if not THE VERY YOUNGEST, teams in Kentucky, last year, as it only had three seniors on the roster (Wyatt Battaile, Zach Hamilton, and Jacob Wilkerson). If you look at the team’s yardage production, clearly it was a ground-based attack, as Pikeville ran for 2,531 yards compared with its 1,400 yards gained through the air. Pikeville returns it top three rushers in Zack Roberts (172 carries, 1,285 yards, 12 rushing TDs), QB Connor Roberts (82 carries, 550 yards, 12 rushing TDs), and Jackson Hensley (27 carries, 250 yards, 9 rushing TDs). For a team which scored 408 points on the season, and largely on the ground, isn’t it comforting to know that three players who represent 2,085 of those yards and a combined 33 rushing TDs are returning? Well, it would be to me.
As for passing the football, I would call what Pikeville does strategic, intermittent passing. Pikeville is a long way from airing it out, but when they do throw, it is efficientand effective. Pikeville returns its QB from last year, Connor Roberts, who, in addition to his 550 yards and 12 scores on the ground, was 69 for 119 for 1,066 yards with 14 aerial TDs. I will take 26 TDs from the QB position, how about you? As for interceptions, Roberts was only picked-off 4 times all season long. Roberts’ favorite Target, Jackson Hensley (33 receptions, 495 yards, 4 scores) returns to provide Pikeville its most potent connection of Roberts to Hensley. For any reason, should Roberts be unable to go, remember that Pikeville has the best QB in Kentucky’s 2022 class in 6-3, 210 pound Isaac McNamee. McNamee, who will be a ninth grader starts, day one, at 90 percent of the high schools in Kentucky. That’s how good he is.
Defensively, Pikeville, which surrendered 268 points on the year (not bad for 14 ball games) returns its leading tacklers Kaden Caudill, Brody Birchfield, and Kyle Watkins. They like their football in Pikeville, Kentucky. I suspect the folks around Pikeville will be pleased with how this team’s upcoming season unfolds.
Raceland High School, No. 2 (tie);
There was a saying once about someone who always seems to finish second. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I imagine were Receland to finish runner-up two years in a row, that would be a saying around certain circles you might oft hear uttered. Raceland was 6-4 during the regular season (Hey Pikeville, sound familiar?) before going on a nice play-off run to the State Championship game, where it got completely ravaged. Raceland has graduated 14 seniors from off of that squad.
Last year, Raceland ran the ball for 2,273 yards on the ground. Luckily 1,767 of those yards were gained by, then juniors, Judd Adkins (215, 1001, 18TDs) and Hunter Lacks (140, 766, 5TDs). On the year, Raceland scored 398 points with 240 of those points back again next year in Judd Adkins (132 pts.), Dalton Adkins (48 pts.), Hunter Lacks (30 pts.), and Gunner Lewis (30 pts.). So why aren’t they number one? Let’s talk about QB.
Damon Black is a huge loss for Raceland. On a team which only gained 1,789 yards passing all year, Black was 1,615 of those yards. On the year, Black was 147 for 247 with 13 TDs and 11 interceptions. Now Raceland is high on freshman Jacob Heighton who was 3 for 5, last season in limited varsity run, for 89 yards and a score, but he is an unproven commodity. Unproven commodities don’t value very well in preseason polls. If Heighton performs like many forecast, it may be Raceland’s turn.
Defensively, Raceland will miss seniors Will Hale (88 stops) and Justin Whitmoyer (105 stops). However, plenty of stopping power is back as juniors Dalton Adkins (102 tackles), Seth Brooks (63 tackles), and Nolan Smith (100 tackles) are back for one more shot at the big prize. We believe Raceland and Pikeville will meet, just like last year, in the State Semis with a Championship berth on the line. We believe the outcome will be different in two ways; obviously, we think Pikeville prevails this year, and the winner of this game becomes the bride finally!
Paintsville High School, No. 2 (tie);
Paintsville High School lost last year to Raceland in the Regional final 31-14. That capped off, and kind of put a damper on, an otherwise fantastic season. Paintsville was 11-2, but with the talent it had on hand, it was difficult to see anyone in Class 1A beating them last year. First of all, they have players in Paintsville, Kentucky. Remember Kash Daniels, the 6-1, 235 pound monster from Paintsville who is at UK playing LB? Last year, Paintsville boasted the best DL in Kentucky, regardless of classification in Tyrese Allen. Tyrese is headed to West Virginia to play his college football, spurning offers from Purdue, Memphis, and Cincinnati. That’s a big loss.
Was Tyrese Allen mobile you ask? Well, the DT played RB on offense, how’s that? Allen gained 882 yards and scored 17 rushing TDs and his senior running mate, Dalton Daniels, and his 444 yards from scrimmage and 5 TDs is also departing at the end of this term. Paintsville will have Tanner Smith back and he gained 570 yards last year on 89 carries with 9 rushing TDs. One reason Paintsville could gain 2,672 yards from scrimmage last year, with a DT at TB, is it had the best tackle prospect in the Class of 2021 behind whom to run the ball. AFI-KPG Freshman All-State Offensive Tackle Johnathan Blackburn, and all 6-5, 320 pounds of him, will be back for his sophomore season next year, with a full season of varsity experience under his belt.
As for throwing the football, Jake Hyden returns at QB. Last season, Hyden was 80 for 170 through the air, for 1,464 yards and 13 passing TDs against only 4 interceptions. His favorite targets, James Allen and Chris Allen return. However, Paintsville also benefitted by the addition of QB Josh McClung, who enrolled this Spring and participated in Track & Field for Paintsville. Here’s the rub, as valiantly as Jake Hyden performed last year, it is difficult for him to stave off the charge of transfer. Josh McClurg, who is 6-1 and weighs 185 pounds, runs a 4.5 second, 40 yard dash, runs the pro-agility shuttle (5-10-5) in 4.1 seconds, and has a recorded 35 inch standing vertical leap. The rumor around Paintsville, and this is unsubstantiated, but I am going to lay it out there anyway, is that Hyden has been told that either they will use a two quarterback system and play them both or move the loser of the battle for the starting job to the defensive backfield. As a sophomore at LCA, McClung completed 48 of 68 passes for 449 yards and 5 TDs with only one pick.
Defensively, Paintsville losses Silas Stambaugh, who both led the team in interceptions and was one of the leading tacklers. Chris Allen, who picked-off 3 passes and recovered 3 fumbles is returning as is James Allen, who intercepted one pass and recovered 3 fumbles himself. Still, the defense’s leading tacklers leaving (Stambaugh, Tyrese Allen, Tyler Couch, and Dalton Daniels) seriously effects the ability to get stops. The cupboard isn’t completely bare as Christian Keeton (95 tackles last season) and Jaylyn Allen (53 tackles last season) both return. Paintsville will have a very good team, I just don’t think quite as good as it had last year.
Beechwood High School, No. 4;
How good where the boys from Fort Mitchell, Kentucky last year? Well, they were 13-2, they were Class 1A Football Champions, they won the State Championship game 41-0, and they beat a Corbin team, during the regular season, which went all the way to the Class 3A State Final. I would call that pretty damn good. They lost 14 seniors from off that team, but like we have before discussed, whom those seniors happen to be is more important than their number. Not all seniors are created equal.
Beechwood, who had one of the more balanced attacks in its classification, losses its top rusher, James Davis (22o carries, 1,436 yards, 23 TDs) and its top passer, Brayden Burch (147 for 257, 1,969 yards passing, 23 TDs, against 5 picks). Gone too is the team’s leading receiver in Daniel Mescher (41 receptions, 654 yards receiving, 8 TDs). In losing just Mescher and Davis, Beechwood losses 48% of the team’s total point production last season (James Davis, 144 pts., Daniel Mescher 124 pts.).
Beechwood will have to lean on rising senior, Logan Castleman in the ground game as he gained 427 yards on 66 carries with 10 rushing TDs over his junior season. I have no idea who plays QB. Not only will Castleman have to shoulder more load running the ball but, last season, he was the second leading receiver with 36 receptions for 479 yards and 8 TDs.
I really can’t tell you much about what returns defensively as Beechwood didn’t turn in its defensive statistics to the KHSAA last year. I can tell you in 1A football most your offensive stars are also defensive standouts. Therefore, with the offensive production lost, one can assume a good amount of defensive production is also gone. I know Beechwood is good. I know they will make some noise. I have ranked them third, preseason. The bottom line is, in looking at only what they lost on offense, it will be hard to replace 48% of your points scored, 97% of your passing yards, and 57% of your rushing yards from scrimmage, which is represented just by the few players we have discussed herein. I don’t believe Beechwood repeats, but they will be in the discussion all year.
The rest of the top-ten in the Class: Kentucky Country Day, Hazard, Paris, Campbellsville, Holy Cross, Crittenden County
Mayfield High School; No. 1…
Mayfield, under Joe Morris, has won six State Titles and well over 200 games, with a winning percentage well exceeding 80 percent. I knew Mayfield was for real, last year, when it went on the road and beat Union City High School (Tennessee) 41-0. The Golden Tornado rebounded from that showing to win the Class 2A State Championship in Tennessee, a state thought to play a higher brand of football than its northernly neighbor. Mayfield lost the State Championship to Danville 35-21 last season largely in part to an unbelievable individual performance by a Danville player Dmauriae VanCleave. VanCleave scored 4 TDs and intercepted two passes in the State Title game. VanCleave also had 10 carries for 103 yards and two scores; caught 5 passes for 42 yards and a score; and returned a punt 60 yards for another score. VanCleave is gone and I am not really sure how Danville replaces him, which is why they aren’t ranked any higher than I have them.
Mayfield returns outgoing Junior and rising Senior Kent Trey Matthews. Matthews ran the ball, this past season, 110 times for over 1,000 years and 11 scores. Not only does Matthews return but Travon Halliburton also returns. As a sophomore, Halliburton scored 5 rushing TDs for Mayfield interspersed over his 70 carries for 531 yards. Also back is Connor Guthrie who carried it 62 times last season for 397 yards and 5 scores on the ground. Guthrie also completed 37 in 59 attempts through the air for 626 yards and another 9 TDs passing. Speaking of passers, Jaden Stinsen is back for Coach Morris. Last year as a sophomore, Stinson attempted 183 passes, completing 116, for 2,007 yards and 24 passing TDs against only 5 interceptions. Jordan Harrison and his 31 receptions for 606 yards and 10 scores have departed, as had Jack Murrell and his 27 receptions for 460 yards and 2 scores. However, Kent Trey Matthews and his 34 receptions for 598 yards and 11 scores return as does Daniel Alonzo’s 33 receptions for 388 yards and 3 scores.
Defensively, while DL Austin Ashley’s 2 recovered fumbles are lost to graduation, Mayfield still can rely on DE’s Brady Smith and Quorterrius Cherry and they recovered 4 fumbles between them. Combine that with Alonzo and Guthrie’s 8 interceptions (4 a piece) that has 4 returning defenders who gave the offense, over the course of the season, 12 additional possessions to what they were slated to enjoy. The Defense has to find suitable replacements for DB Denzel Perry and LB Nate Fox and the 3 interceptions, a piece, each of them snagged. All things considered, KPG likes Mayfield to take home the State Title in Class 2A for the first time since 2015.
Christian Academy of Louisville; No. 2…
Christian Academy of Louisville won the State Championship in Class 2A in 2016 but lost a lot of production from off of that particular club. No one, maybe outside of CAL, could have expected they would get as close to repeating last year as they did (lost in the State Semis to Mayfield, at Mayfield 21-14). CAL was a young ball club last year only lost 10 total seniors off an 11-3 team. The Centurions beat Class 5A, South Oldham, in last year’s season opener by two touchdowns and Class 6A Central Hardin 15-0. CAL boasts two of the best freshmen in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and they are twins. Both Brandt and Braden Babin were prominently featured as freshmen in the Centurion game plan and both of them made our AFI-KPG Freshman All-State Football team. Brandt Babin, as a freshman, gained 736 yards in 125 attempts for 11 scores. Also returning for CAL are Harrison Zimmerer, who as a sophomore gained 388 yards rushing with 7 rushing TDs and Milton Wright, who during his Junior season gained 346 yards rushing with 7 rushing TDs. Between the three, CAL returns 25 rushing TDs from the season prior.
CAL’s quarterback, Austin Carr, will return for his senior campaign. As a junior, Carr completed 72 of his 130 passing attempts for 1,124 yards and 11 TDs with only 3 interceptions. Someone going forward on which the CAL community is rightfully high is Grant Russell. Russell played sparingly as a sophomore, but what we did see in limited duty looks right effective as Russell completed 10 of his 12 attempts for 181 yards and 2 scores.
In addition to what Milton Wright accomplished in the ground attack, he also caught 34 balls as a junior for 685 yards and 9 scores. All told, Wright accounted for 110, either running or catching TDs, of the team’s 398 total points scored on the season. As those numbers reflect, CAL was a defensive squad who scored just enough to wind up on the left side of the ledger the vast majority of time. Defensively, the Centurions were stout and there is no reason they won’t be again this season. It really helps when your defense can get your offense extra possessions and Elijah Smith (5 picks) and Milton Wright (4 picks) did just that last year with the tandem securing 9 addition possessions via interceptions. The loss of Senior Defensive lineman Nicholas Olsofka, who had 88 tackles last year from off the defensive front, will hurt but LBs Braden Hafling, Austin Collins, and AFI-KPG Freshman All-Stater Brandt Babin all return to pick up whatever slack there may be.
Saint Francis DeSalles High School; No. 3…
On my honor, whatever that is worth, I promise I didn’t pick this school just because I am Catholic. First of all, DeSalles, for much of last season, looked like the “class” of Class 2A to me. They won their first 12 games before losing in the State Quarters to a CAL team they had beaten pretty soundly during the year. The Colts, coached by Harold Davis, also beat Class 6A Louisville Ballard 37-22, Class 6A, 8 win, Butler County 28-27, and Class 6A North Hardin from Elizabethtown 42-0. Throw in their beating Class 5A Louisville Southern 41-6, and they went 4-0 last year against Classes 5 and 6A. I know what you are going to tell me, but Fletcher, DeSalles graduated 24 Seniors from off of that team, how can you have them in the top 5? As we discussed yesterday, sometimes its not the number you graduate but whom the Seniors were and whom you have left.
The Colts return AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Athlete Jordan Watkins. Watkins, last season gained 751 yards rushing and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Jordan also scored 12 rushing TDs and caught another 3 TD receptions for 15 total TDs scored for the Sophomore. Watkins caught 10 passes for 165 yards in receptions for 16.5 yards per catch. Watkins has been timed at 11 flat in the 100 meters in track so he is a true 4.5 second, 40 kind of guy. Remember, especially in High School football, or really, football at any level, speed both kills and thrills. The Colts will miss departing senior Chase Pfaadt who reliably rolled up 543 yards, last year, in only 101 attempts and 10 TDs.
The Colts return their reliable QB Aaron Pfaadt, Chase’s brother, who, during his Junior season completed 43 of his 96 passes for 634 yards and 6 TDs against 3 picks. The QB of the future, and one who could overtake Pfaadt this season conceivably, is Antoine Johnson. Johnson, over his sophomore season, completed 14 of 25 passes for 141 yards and 3 scores in limited duty. Defensively, the Colts lose all three of its leading tacklers in Omari Milligan, Alex Schneider, and Santonio Hickman, but have no fear, the Colts have up and coming the best DE prospect in the Class of 2020, Commonwealth-wide, in 6-3, 240 pound, AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Demetri Meaty Scott. Still, 24 Seniors is a lot of experience to have to replace. If it weren’t for that, the Colts definitely finish higher in this poll.
Danville High School; No. 4…
Man, is Danville, Kentucky ever going to be out for me. How can I even think of putting a 15-0, defending State Champion in Class 2A, with 11 State Titles on its résumé, number 5 on my preseason poll? I mean, what in the world am I smoking? Well, last season Danville High School was loaded. In my opinion, if they were going to win another title, last year was the year they were going to do it. I suppose the good news is they made it happen while the horses were still in the stable. I know Danville only lost 11 seniors from off its Championship team. Sometimes its not the number of seniors you lose, but who they are, and what they contributed.
First of all, Dmauriae VanCleave, who may have been diminutive but also may have been the fastest football player in Kentucky not playing in Louisville, is gone. What that means his 82 receptions he contributed last season are gone with him, his 1095 receiving yards are gone with him, his 14 touchdown receptions are gone with him, his 762 rushing yards he gained from scrimmage are gone with him, his 11 rushing TDs are gone with him, his 6 interceptions are gone with him, and his special teams TDs he scored (remember the 60 yarder he housed in the State Title game?) are gone with him. If you throw in David Walker and Jaleel Warren, both graduating, that is 158 receptions and 30 touchdown receptions gone, not to mention 2,180 receiving yards out the window. QB Zach Thornton returns but 2,180 of the 2,567 yards he gained throwing the ball is not. In addition, of the 37 TDs he threw last season, the receiver, on 30 of the 37 balls caught for scores, has exhausted his eligibility.
Well, I suppose Danville will have to just run the ball you say. DonLevy Harris graduated taking his 1,138 yards and 14 TDs with him and we have already discussed VanCleave. All told, on the ground, Danville High School is losing 1,900 rushing yards and 25 rushing TDs to go with the 2,180 receiving yards of production gone and the 30 receiving TDs scored last year which won’t be in uniform this next Fall.
Defensively, Danville has to replace VanCleave’s 6 interceptions and DonLeavy Harris’ 117 tackles, but do return Darrian Bell who had 144 stops his sophomore season and Kishown Bartleson who tallied 76 tackles while a junior. Why is Danville not rated higher? They aren’t picked to defend because, while only losing 11 seniors, the eleven they lost represented 85% of its passing production, 81% of its TD receptions, 56% of its point production for the season, and 71% of its ground production. Maybe I am Chicken Little, and maybe the sky really isn’t falling, but I don’t see you replacing that amount of production and defending your State Title. I have ranked Danville number 4 because I believe in Danville High School football, but come on, these other teams can ball a little too. Danville will still be a good football team, just not defending State Champion.
The rest of the top-ten in the Class: Somerset, Glasgow, Lexington Christian, Owensboro Catholic, Prestonberg, Walton-Verona
Boyle County High School Rebels; No. 1
Coach Smith may not be Belfry’s Phillip Haywood, then again who is? However, the reigning Louisville Courier-Journal Coach of the Year is certainly no dog. He has won 6 State Championships himself and, most recently, last year’s convincing win over the Corbin Redhounds. Boyle graduated 19 seniors from off of that team to include the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s finest Offensive Lineman in Will Bramel. Losing linemen of that caliber is hard to measure for the casual fan but it hurts, let me assure you.
The cupboard isn’t exactly bare in Danville, Kentucky. Boyle has Tanner Crawford’s 1,928 yards and 25 rushing TDs returning along with Landen Bartleson, who, by play-off time last year, might have passed Crawford as the Rebels most dynamic run-threat, and who, himself last year, gained 1137 yard rushing with 20 rushing touchdowns. If that name sounds familiar to subscribers here, it certainly should, as he was selected to our AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State football team. Boyle also returns one of the best QBs in Kentucky in AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Stater Reed Lanter who threw for 2597 yards as a sophomore with 28 TDs against only 4 picks.
Lanter has his favorite target returning in AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Stater Reese Smith who provided 1037 receiving yards over his 50 receptions as a sophomore to go along with the 9 interceptions and 40 tackles he had on Defense. Smith was the MVP of last year’s Class 3A, State Championship Game. Defensively, the Rebels lost senior Kaden Gervacio and his 98 tackles from LB but, luckily, sophomore Ezarious Roller, and his 108 tackles from his LB position, are returning! The Rebels could certainly repeat and, upon entering the 4A Classification in 2019, will become immediate heavy-weights in that classification too.
Belfry High School Pirates; No. 2
This was a really hard decision as to whether Belfry would start out number 1 or 2 or would it be defending State Champion Boyle County. In the end, it is hard to bet against the legend Phillip Haywood, Kentucky’s all-time wins leader and the only Kentucky coach to have won a National Coach of the Year award, but Boyle County just had too much talent for me pass on them being in the top spot. By the way, Chuck Smith can coach a little football too if you were to ask many folks.
While Haywood has led Belfry to four consecutive State Championships ending in 2016. Belfry went 11-2 and got smacked by Louisville Central in the State Quarters 61-20, so you know that left a bad taste in every Pirates’ mouth, particularly Phillip Haywood. Belfry graduated only eleven seniors from off that squad, but one of the eleven seniors was RB Tavion Hunter who set the All-time Kentucky, yards-per-carry, rushing record last season gaining 1,285 yards in only 78 carries with 15 rushing TDs. Coach Haywood also has to replace departing senior Derek Wellman who gained 1014 yards with 18 rushing TDs.
Haywood will have a rising junior named Peyton Hensley to carry the load. Hensley gained close to 800 yards from scrimmage last year, as a sophomore, with 11 rushing TDs and QB Kevin Browning also returns after throwing for 730 yards, through the air, as a junior with 11 passing TDs and running for another 425 yards with 8 TDs scored rushing. Paving the way for the backfield, up-front for the Pirates, returns AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Stater Ethan Wolford, who is the best center in Kentucky and Kentucky’s best guard in 2019…Dagen Rash. Both Wolford and Rash anchor what is an elite offensive front perhaps in a class all its own in Kentucky in any classification and each of them holds numerous offers to play college football with offers continuing to be extended to both as of the date of this publication. Rash and Wolford, both, are two of the toughest kids in the entire Commonwealth and comprise the bulk of the regard and esteem in which Haywood’s Hogs are held across Kentucky.
The Defense returns leading tackler Austin Fields (112 total tackles) to go along with AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Staters, Grayson Cook (LB) and Ben Bentley (Safety). In addition to last years stable of super sophomores, Belfry boasted, last year, two of the best freshmen in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in AFI-KPG Freshmen All-Staters, Seth Mounts (OLB) and Isaac Dixon who both starred over the course of their freshman years and should be prominently in the mix, from snap one, this upcoming year. Being honest, Belfry could have gotten the nod here because they have Phillip Haywood and no one else in the Classification does. Though Chuck Smith, the reigning Courier-Journal COY and Boyle HC, is certainly no dog.
Louisville Central Yellow Jackets; No. 3
Marvin Dantzler’s Yellow Jackets eliminated Belfry last year and it was rude and ugly. Central beat Belfry in the Regional Final 61-20 before falling to Corbin in the Semis 21-20 at home to finish 11-3. They only lose 11 Seniors from off that team, including at QB with Rico White departing after throwing for over 1,000 yards last year with 18 passing TDs against only 3 picks and gaining another 371 yards rushing with 9 rushing TDs on the ground. All told, White accounted personally for 27 Yellow Jacket scores. What Central returns, however, is at least as important as what departed, if not more so. The Yellow Jackets return both Takaius Linton (752 yards from scrimmage with 7 rushing TDs) and Mykah Williams, who as a Junior gained a smidge shy of 1,300 yards from scrimmage and crossed the goal-line 16 times running the ball. The Yellow Jackets, defensively return a monster in AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Stater Aiden Moore and his 6-2, 225 pounds of violent impact. This team, if it can get similar play from the QB position it got last year, could really take home the title.
Corbin High School Redhounds; No. 4
Corbin was 13-2 last year and made it to the State Championship Game before being smoked by Boyle 40-21. In addition to winning 13 games, Corbin did something else last year damn few teams did in beating the Tennessee High School Class 3A State Football Champion Alcoa High School on August 25, 2017 in Alcoa, Tennessee. Corbin only lost 8 seniors from off its State Runner-up ball club but the District 8 Champions lost a HUGE one in Cameron Sizemore. How does a team replace a QB who completed 185 of his 272 passes for 2,695 yards and 32 TDs against 7 picks? Not only could Sizemore throw it around the ball park, but he also ran the ball, last year, for an additional 412 yards and scored 5 TDs on the ground. There isn’t another player on the roster who completed more than 9 passes last year, not named Sizemore, and the player who did was Chase Estep. You would have to think the Redhounds would be reticent to move him to QB, he’s the leading receiver on the team. Estep had 51 receptions for 631 yards and 6 scores last year. When Sizemore wasn’t finding Estep, he found Christian Gosselin who also returns after catching 37 passes for 775 yards receiving and 9 scores as a Junior. Question is, who’s throwing Estep and Gosselin the ball next season? If I knew the answer to that, they probably would have been closer to No. 1. Still, Corbin is Corbin, and they have a State Championship middle school team with which to replenish the roster. While that may be of minimal help next year, it does put them on solid footing two years from now and thereafter.
The rest of the top-ten in the Class: Caldwell County, LaRue County, Union County, Paducah Tilghman, Pike County Central, Lexington Catholic
Hopkinsville High School; No. 1
Well, this should piss off everybody in the Tiger program. I mean, what am I thinking putting the target on the Tiger’s back like this? I am sorry, I just can’t help how I honestly feel. In the interest of full disclosure, it is my alma mater and my son plays for them so, maybe, you should take this prediction with a grain of salt. Regardless, here is my defense of my selection. First of all, HHS returns a Sophomore All-Stater at QB (Jay Bland) who threw, last year, for 2,200 yards and 22 TDs against 10 picks. Sophomore Reece Jesse is 6-3, with a 77 inch wing span and upper-level vertical explosion to be one edge target, with excellent hands, length, and good speed. The Tigers benefit from a BIG TIME WR transfer from 5A named Ellis Dunn, to split out opposite Jesse, and the 6-0, 185 pound wide receiver, who caught over 40 passes at Christian County last year is the best receiver in Western Kentucky not named Marquel Tinsley.
The Tigers have also had a transfer from Trigg County named Tayshawn Barker who gives them an elite level speed/athletic guy to use in multiple places on both sides of the ball and an elite punt/kick-off returner too. The Tigers welcome back a 1,500 yard, career, ground gainer who missed his entire Junior season, and whose absence may have cost the Tigers a State Title last year. His name is Ja’Torian Dillard and he was picked the pre-season District Player of the Year only to go down with season ending injury in the preseason. Dillard is a D-1 RB with more speed, instinct, and moves than anything they had at RB last year.
The Tigers have a Sophomore All-Stater at corner (JeVan Leavell), a Sophomore All-Stater to play either along the front or at LB (Denarius Barnes), a Freshman All-Stater along its interior OL (William Long), an All-WKC performer at tackle (Blake Schutt), and an all-KNE, 2nd teamer, who played guard last year (Seth Henderson) but is likely headed to defense owing to the offensive line being so loaded with both size and talent. The expected offensive line of Schutt, Mumford, Long, Parham, and Mallory average 278 pounds with all five being powerful, explosive, and able to get downfield and block multiple levels.
The Tigers, along with Dillard, also get back both Jaime Cooper-Roman, who was leading them in tackles before going down with injury in the 4th game of the year not to return, and Keane Mumford, the 6-2, 265 pound, left-guard who was starting at LT when he went down with injury the 2nd game of the year, also, not to return. Assuming the Tigers will have all hands on deck, they will be tough in Class 4A.
Johnson Central; No. 2
Well, it was hard not to put Johnson Central the top ranked team. I mean they won it all in 2016 and played for it all last year. Franklin-Simpson beat them 35-21 in the Championship Game which wasn’t that close as Johnson Central was down 35-7 and scored a couple of cosmetic touchdowns late. Still, the boys from Paintsville, Kentucky are always tough and they only graduated 9 players from off a 12-3 team. Johnson Central has Sophomore All-State LB, Devin Johnson, 5’11” 200, and Freshman All-State DE Zack Russell, both back and ready for more action as the Golden Eagles will count, heavily, on those two to anchor its defense. Freshman All-State, OL, Cameron Willis, is a key cog around whom to build an offensive front together with his former teammate on Kentucky Future Stars Hunter Scott, who is massive and ready to contribute at 6-1, 290 pounds. With incoming freshmen as good as Owen LeMaster, who is probably the top guard in all of Kentucky’s 2022 class, and versatile players like Ryley Preece, who may be the best two-way player in Kentucky’s 4A classification, it just seems the talent never stops pouring into the Eagles’ roster.
Franklin-Simpson; No. 3
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 I 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 and a stud running back can hide a lot of ailments, ask anyone. I believe Franklin-Simpson will come out of its side to face Hopkinsville for the Regional Championship in the State Quarters again this year. I don’t believe the Regional Championship will net the same result as last year. Whomever comes out of this game victorious, just like last year, has a good chance to be your State Champion in Class 4A.
Knox Central; No. 4
Knox Central was one of the youngest teams in the Commonwealth of Kentucky last year, having only 6 Seniors on its entire roster. That means they had a lot of underclassmen get a lot of playing time. One of those is returning Freshman All-State RB Ethan Mills. Mills entered last season, third team, behind both Donovan Arthur and Jermel Carton but, when Arthur went down in the first series of the Letcher Central game, Mills stepped in to help Carton shoulder the load the rest of the year. Playing in 12 games, Mills carried the ball 91 times for 644 yards while having to share carries with Jermel Carton. Carton’s 1,263 yards from scrimmage are gone, leaving much of the team’s future ground production falling squarely on Mills. In addition to his yards from scrimmage, Mills also scored 9 rushing TDs during his freshman season, a number sure to increase with the added work-load. Still, only losing 6 seniors and having a stud returning at RB, from an 8-4, Class 4A, football team which narrowly lost to Western 12-3 in the KHSAA 2nd round of the playoffs, is not that bad of a position in which to find oneself. I haven’t talked to anyone at Panther Nation to give me their official position, but I think the Panthers have to like where they are sitting entering this next season. I would if I were they.
The rest of the top-ten in the Class: Logan County, Taylor County, Madisonville North-Hopkins, Warren East, Collins, Western
Bowling Green High School Purples, No. 1;
This feels like such a copout. I mean for the past decade or so Bowling Green High School has been the favorite to win the classification in football. It is similar to picking an, in his prime, Tiger Woods at Master’s time. Historically, not a brave pick. However, every championship won at BGHS in football, except 1, was won with Kevin Wallace at the helm. Wallace has taken his talents to Louisville, Kentucky to help St. Xavier solve the Trinity riddle. Recently, the Purples hired Defensive Coordinator, Mark Spader, to fill Wallace’s shoes. There are some across the Commonwealth who have expressed being underwhelmed by the hire. In Spader’s other head coaching stint, he was 10-20 while at Warren East before leaving to become an assistant with Wallace at Bowling Green HS. I would remind people the last time BGHS elevated an assistant, who before coming on BGHS’s staff, had a poor head coaching record compiled at Warren East (Kevin Wallace) it worked out pretty well for the Purples.
Bowling Green lost in the Regional Finals to a South Warren team it had annihilated just a few weeks earlier in the regular season. Coach Spader won’t have Ziyon Kenner around on whom to lean as he is taking his 56 receptions for 801 yards and 9 receiving TDs and 108 total points scored to Clarksville, Tennessee to join Will Healy’s juggernaut. Also departing is the top-rated linebacker in Kentucky, Justice Dingle, who tallied 109 tackles last season and decided to become a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer…
What the Purples do return is a starting QB in Beau Buchanan for completed 162 of his 251 passing attempts for 2,287 yards and 25 passing TDs against only 3 interceptions. Buchanan lost the running talents of Dazhon Blakely but still has AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Stater Vito Tisdale and Jayvon Collins to run the football for him. With Kenner and Nash Hightower both departing, there is a question as to whom will step up and catch Buchanan’s passes next season. However, with one of the top middle school programs in Kentucky over the past 5 years, there will be someone, and he will very likely be talented. In Bowling Green they re-load, not re-build.
On defense, which is Spader’s specialty, the Purples return the best secondary in Kentucky with Juniors Davis Tomblinson and Jaylen Wardlow having another year of eligibility left and the highest rated DB in Kentucky, Vito Tisdale, having two. The trio gained for their offense, last season, an extra 10 possessions by way of interception. The Purples also return 4 of its 5 top tacklers in rising seniors William Gray, Miles Smith, and Ethan Klein together with rising junior, Evan Spader, who like his daddy was before him, is quite good at football.
Still, it is hard to accurately measure the impact of the school’s all-time head ball coach leaving, but with what is returning, if there is a decline, it won’t be immediate. I am picking Bowling Green to win it all in 5A this year as I believe Spader will answer all questions more than satsifactorily about the wisdom of his selection to guide the Purples’ fortunes.
Covington Catholic High School, No. 2;
I will be roasted for this pick. I have heard from everyone consulted how Covington Catholic is a machine, how they are unbeatable, and how Noah Powers will make everyone forget the name AJ Mayer. Yeah, I know they were 15-0 last year and outscored their opponents 679-116 and won the Championship game last year 49-13 over Madison Southern. I watched it. I also know Covington Catholic has one of the better feeder systems in the Commonwealth of Kentucky pumping players yearly into its roster. Let’s hope so, because they really lost a lot. I mean A LOT!
Now, Case McGinness, who from his RB position scored 158 of the team’s 679 points himself, is back for his senior year. During the junior campaign, McGinness ran the ball 200 times and gained 1,418 yards with 22 rushing TDs. McGinness will likely have to shoulder the whole load this year as AJ Mayer’s 451 rushing yards and 14 rushing scores have departed as has Grant Dyer’s 282 rushing yards and 4 scores. The running game with McGinness being back, is, principally, why Covington Catholic comes in at No. 2.
Passing is another story. Catholic relied heavily on its aerial attack last season as the best QB in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, AJ Mayer, is taking his 3,114 passing yards with 40 passing TDs against only 3 interceptions to play at Miami of Ohio. The second highest passer on last year’s roster was Caleb Jacob who threw for only 13 more yards, last year, than I did; and I am sitting on zilch. Covington Catholic sings the praises of Noah Powers, the sophomore, and say that, while shorter than Mayer, he is an excellent passer and a tremendous athlete. I suppose we shall see. He didn’t throw a varsity ball last season.
Powers will have some receivers to target as Jack Coldiron will return for his senior year. As a junior, Coldiron caught 28 passes, 11 of which were touchdowns. Malachi Pike, Mayer’s favorite target from a year ago (41 receptions, 695 yards receiving, 9 TD receptions), has exhausted his eligibility. Covington Catholic, provided they find someone to throw it to him, does have the top TE prospect in Kentucky in AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Stater Michael Mayer. Michael Mayer, who started 13 games last season as a sophomore, is 6-5 and weighs around 215 and has the length and frame to hold a lot more weight. While he only caught 10 passes last year for 177 yards and 3 TDs, he did average 13.6 yards per receptions and he was an active and punishing blocker in a ground attack which saw Covington Catholic gain around 3,000 yards rushing on the year.
How good is Michael Mayer as a TE? Well good enough to be holding offers right now from two Power 5, FBS schools in UK and Minnesota. As for athletic pedigree, in addition to AJ, Michael has a cousin, Luke Maile, who played four years of baseball at UK and now plays for the Toronto Blue Jays.
On defense, Covington Catholic losses seniors Adam Schneider, Luke Lenihan, and Tanner Bayer who had 11 picks between the three. They also lose two of its three top tacklers in Kameron Butler (82 tackles) and Grant Dyer (55 tackles) but return Jacob Shriver who had 70 stops last season.
I know they are a machine and all, but with what they lost, I just can’t see them being as good as last year and they will enter every game with a target on their backs. They smacked a lot of opponents in the mouth last year and a lot of them will be searching for payback. Whether they get revenge or beat down even worse this year will rely on what kind of quarterback play they get this upcoming season. If it even approaches what they got last year from AJ Mayer, they will repeat. If not…
South Warren High School, No. 3;
There is a huge question to be answered here for Coach Brandon Smith’s Spartans. Where is Gavin Spurrier playing QB next year…Bowling Green, Kentucky or Pullman, Washington? I have heard both answered to my inquiries depending on whom I ask. Now, Gavin Spurrier’s grandfather is the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier; himself a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, back in the day. For what Gavin lacked in aesthetic beauty at the position last year, the gangly 6-6 inch QB, made up for in smarts and moxie!
South Warren went 11-3 last year, losing to Covington Catholic in the State Semis. That really is not an ill-reflection on the Spartans as no-one, other than Louisville Trinity, was beating Covington Catholic last year. Gavin completed 175 of his 286 passing attempts for 21 touchdowns, through the air, suffering 8 interceptions. Watching him play more than once, I was impressed with the decisions he made with the football and the football IQ he exhibited running the offense more than anything mechanical I saw him perform. He was like having a coach on the field which is a hard commodity to replace. Now he is slated to be back for his senior year. If he is, South may be better than where I have them ranked here, if he isn’t, they may be fighting to finish over .500.
Running the football, the Spartans lose Christian Winn’s 916 yards from scrimmage and 14 rushing touchdowns. They also lose Tryce Jackson who gained 320 yards last season himself. Two of Spurrier’s top three favorite targets are gone in Marcus Elmore (37 receptions for 558 yards and 2 scores) and Cody Eblen (30 receptions for 488 yards, 6 scores) but Spurrier, should he be around, will have returning probably his favorite target, last season, in Clayton Bush. Bush caught 37 balls for 616 yards and 7 scores for Spurrier as a junior.
Now, the Spartans weren’t bad offensively, last year, scoring a little over 30 points a game, or 424 total points over 14 games played. However, Winn, Eblen, and Jackson scored 191 of the 424 points between the three. With their departure, the Spartans lose a little over 45% of last year’s total team, point production. If for any reason Gavin Spurrier’s 42 points he scored (not counting the 21 TD passes he threw) are also gone, the Spartans would lose 55% of its previous season’s point production.
Defensively, the Spartans graduate Greg Byrd who intercepted 10 passes and recovered a fumble but do return both Tre Teague and Tryce Jackson who accounted for 7 extra offensive possessions between the two by either fumble recovery or interception. What has to be encouraging is that Pete Cross, who along with VanHooser at Caldwell, were the best HS LBs I saw play last year not named Dingle, is back along with his 118 tackles he had a year ago. Cross will still have the benefit of the opponent’s focus on the Rivals, Midwest Region, top rated DT, and Notre Dame commitment, Jacob Lacy being in front of him garnering the attention. Lacey’s 51 tackles a year ago don’t even begin to encapsulate his impact for the Spartan defense. Juniors Tre Teague (97 tackles) and Clayton Bush (63 tackles) are also returning. The Defense, the strength of the team last season (allowing 16 points per contest with only 1500 yards rushing and 1,823 yards through the air given up over 14 games), looks to be even stouter next year with most its weapons returning both a year more experienced and a year more mature.
Owensboro (Senior) High School, No. 4;
The Red Devils performed terribly last year, much worse than expected. That is the bad news. The good news, next year should be much better. Owensboro Middle School had a two year run where it didn’t lose a single game in football. The players on those teams beat Brentwood Academy in Nashville and had Bowling Green Middle School on a running clock early in the second quarter in a year BGMS played for the Division I Championship, losing in overtime to Newburg Middle. The players on those teams will be sophomores and juniors in HS next season. It is time for them to emerge, and if they do, Owensboro is going to be TOUGH!
Here’s what we know about some of the young talent which has already emerged. The Red Devils boast one of the best athletes in Kentucky in AFI-KPG Sophomore All-StaterImonte Monte Owseley. While a sophomore, Monte ran the ball 58 times gaining 685 yards with 11 rushing TDs. That is averaging nearly 12 yards a carry, scoring a rushing TD every 5.27 times he was handed the ball. Monte caught 13 passes for 301 yards receiving for over 23 yards per reception with 5 receiving TDs. On defense Owsley intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, and recorded 19 tackles.
The worst part is opponents of OHS have two more years of dealing with that crap. Owsley has a registered 40 yard dash of well under 4.4 seconds and, at the SIU HS Boys Indoor Invitational his freshman year, he turned in a 7.12 60 meter time participating for Owensboro’s Track Team. According to KYTracXC, the 60 meter to 40 yard conversion is to take the 60m time and multiply by .6096 to identify the time it would take to run 40 yards. Under the accepted formula, Owsley’s forty time, when a freshman, was 4.34. Monte Owsley may be the fastest football player in Kentucky not named Rondale Moore. Ezekiel Brown returns at QB but, truthfully, was more effective running the ball than throwing it. Brown gained 497 yards running with 8 rushing TDs last year on 66 carries but only threw it 58 times, completing 24, for 492 yards passing with 5 TDs against 4 interceptions. Owensboro will miss Josh Cowherd but still have Owsley’s 86 points and Brown’s 48 back on which to fall.
Now, I have just learned some information which is a game changer. I have heard from two reliable sources Will Warren, from Owensboro Catholic, who was starting over Drew Hartz before being concussed, has transferred to Owensboro Senior to play QB. This would move Ezekiel Brown to RB with Owsley. I have also heard the Red Devils are going to transition to the Spread offense. This would give OHS the type of two-pronged, offensive balance which would make them Class 5A Championship contenders. Hartz, who started out second team to Will Warren at Catholic last year, completed 117 passes of his 198 attempts for 1,805 yards with 26 TDs against 8 picks. With the 6-2, 210 pound Warren already enrolled at OHS, provided he gets clearance from the KHSAA to play QB, and if they change offensively and install the Spread, with the weapons they can put on the field at RB, then Owensboro Senior High becomes, at best, the favorite and, at least, a serious contender for the 5A State Championship.
Defensively, Owensboro should be particularly good. The Red Devils return the best LB in his class in Western Kentucky and, some would say, anywhere in Kentucky in the 2021 graduating class. AFI-KPG Freshman All-Stater Austin Gough returns for a sophomore campaign after tallying 92 tackles as a freshman. Playing along side him is a rising junior who should have made the AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State team, and in many years would have. LB Trace Grenier, as a sophomore, collected 70 tackles and will return to provide the defense with the best tandem of LBs in the classification. Also coming back for a senior year where we hope he isn’t nagged with injury like he was in his junior campaign is super-star, 0-3 technique, Diamond Glover. Glover is compact, bottom heavy, and one of the most physically stout players any team in Kentucky can boast.
To return to the type of football we expect to see from OHS, Owensboro has to develop a passing attack to balance out what it does well offensively, and that is run the football. I believe OHS has addressed this through the Warren transfer, provided he gets cleared to play. If some of the young talent comes along, as it should, and should Owensboro develop an effective passing attack, these guys could win it all. Like some say of South Oldham, this team is still considered by some to be a year away.
The rest of the top-ten in the Class: South Oldham, Southwestern, Anderson County, Doss, Apollo, Madison Southern
Louisville Trinity High School, No. 1;
It would be easy to say that Trinity has lost too much to repeat, as I did with every other defending champion in every other classification of football. I mean, they had 19 seniors on last year’s teams. Among the seniors was a quarterback, in Nick Bohn, who completed 242 of his 302 passing attempts for 3,135 yards and 37 TDs against only 5 interceptions; a receiver in Rondale Moore who had 99 receptions for 1,347 yards and 15 scores; another receiver in Nick Strothman who caught 60 balls for 694 yards and 23 TD receptions, and that is just on offense. The defense lost AJ McDuffie at End; OLB, Ethan Hull; LB, Nick Cardozi; Nose Guard, Cody Auxier; and Safety, Santana Jones, just to name a few. Now, the Varsity defense should benefit from an influx of talent from its rising sophomore ranks as the Shamrocks will add AFI-KPG Freshman All-Staters Alton Jefferson, who should seamlessly plug into Auxier’s NG slot, with All-Staters Christopher Forehand Jr. and Roman White plugging into the back four. In addition to the new influx of talent, Jacob Dingle is back at safety for the Shamrocks next year. Dingle is widely considered the No. 1 Safety in Kentucky and has numerous D-1, Power 5 offers. Word out of Louisville is he is a heavy Purdue lean. Dingle’s dad played in the NFL so the apple didn’t fall far from the tree here.
Last year, Trinity scored 622 points and only allowed 141 on its way to a 15-0 record and a Championship. For them to get back, they have to find someone to trigger the offense in the absence of Bohn. Into that role steps rising junior, Seth Jutz. Jutz is a bone fidesuperstar of whom you haven’t heard much, buried behind Nick Bohn, but the kid is fantastic. Although Jutz, as a sophomore, was only 1-2 for 36 yards and 1 score in little, to almost no, varsity run, Jutz was a three year member of Team Kentucky Future Stars and beat out Beau Allen for the starting QB slot in the 2016 Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars, 8th grade game played at WKU. Beau Allen is an AFI-KPG Sophomore All-Stater at QB for Lexington Catholic and has already been offered by UK, so, be rest assured, starting over Beau Allen was a significant accomplishment. Director of Kentucky Future Stars, and professional sports agent, Ricco Hughes, said about Jutz that…Jutz’s knowledge of the game is exceptional and his toughness is off the charts. Jutz is very mobile and has a next-level frame and skill set at the QB position. There is literally no one in Kentucky better able to make that assessment than Ricco Hughes.
Jutz returns a full accoutrement of runners behind him as Trinity’s top ground gainers all return in Luke McGuire and Gereimah Smith. McGuire and Smith scored 19 rushing TDs between them last season. Jutz will also have a reliable target returning in rising junior, Ryan Miller. As a sophomore, last year, Miller caught 31 passes for 515 yards and 4 scores. The fact he played at Trinity, at all, as a sophomore, should tell you he is good. The fact he caught 31 footballs for 515 receiving yards and 4 TDs should tell you he is great. It’s not like Trinity’s QBs, last season, lacked targets. Departing seniors, Rondale Moore and Nick Strothman, caught 159 footballs, between the two, for over 2,000 yards receiving and 37 TDs. Like I above said, Trinity re-loads, not re-builds. They will defend their State Championship in this classification.
Louisville Saint Xavier, No. 2;
Saint X hired, this offseason, David Wallace out of Bowling Green High School to coach its football team. As I understand it, he was brought in to implement a more modern passing attack and to solve the Trinity riddle. The riddle being….how to beat them. Saint X was State Runner-up and finished the year 12-3, with two of its losses being to Trinity. QB, Jack Albers has exhausted his eligibility and that is a shame. Last season, Albers passed for 1,848 yards while picking up another 656 on the ground. He threw 15 aerial scores against 4 interceptions and ran for 14 TDs on the ground. He scored 120 points himself over the course of the season. That is a lot of production out of one position to have to replace.
In steps the best QB in Kentucky of whom you probably haven’t heard. Welcome to the party, Keegan Sullivan. Sullivan, as a Junior, only completed 17 of 26 passes for 246 yards and 5 scores while throwing one pick. However, I am told he threw 37 TD passes on the JV squad, two years ago, and many around Saint X believed he should have been starting over Albers. I got to talk to Sullivan’s Sevens coach (7 on 7), Glenn Bednarczyk, and he told me…He’s the best QB I’ve ever seen in reading through his progressions. He’s the top 2019 QB in the Commonwealth. Bednarczyk added that…I know there are a few 2020 QB’s that would have a say about who’s, ultimately #1, but Keegan is the best QB in his class, particularly for an unknown.
You might wonder, if he is so good, why did it take him till his senior year to see the field? That isn’t uncommon at places like Saint X and Trinity, to be honest with you. That’s the nature of the beast. Saint X lost both its leading receivers in William Crum and Benjamin Mueller and three of its top four point scorers in Albers, Benjamin Mueller, and Dominic Allgeier. However, leading rusher Anthony Moretti is back (140 carries for 937 yards and 14 rushing TDs) and so are the 78 points he put on the board for his team last season.
Top pass defenders William Carlin (3 interceptions) and Samuel Boarman (2 picks) both return along with two of Saint X’s top four tacklers in Quinn Owen (91 stops) and Samuel Boarman (56 stops). If Keegan is as advertised, Trinity and Saint X will replay in 2018, the 2017, Class 6A, Championship Game.
Scott County High School, No. 3;
Scott County, last season, finished the year 11-3 and lost in the State Semi-finals to Saint X (48-35) in a close game with not much defense played. Last year, Scott County had the most potent ground game in all of Kentucky, gaining 4,389 yards. Don’t you just love a team who can pound the rock? I sure do. Now, Brice Fryman who gained 1,692 yards in 142 carries and scored 15 rushing TDs is gone. In high school football, that type of production is hard to replace. However, Fryman might not have been the best RB on the team last season.
Austin Barnett returns next season and, over his junior year, he gained 1,310 yards in 212 carries with a whopping 22 rushing TDs. Combine Barnett with the return of Payton Brown’s 552 yards in 69 carries and 8 scores and throw-in Bronson Brown, who gained 179 yards in 13 carries with 2 scores, and Scott County, losing Fryman, still returns 2,041 yards and 32 rushing TDs. Lots of teams would love that amount of ground production.
With the loss of Josh Davis, and his 1,578 yards passing and 15 passing TDs, there is some concern at the QB position. Cade McKee will hope to fill that role but his body of work as a sophomore, 2-5 for 13 yards, leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Should he be able to throw it, however, rising Senior, Glen Covington, who plays on both sides of the ball (3 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries) can surely catch it as he showed us his junior season (48 receptions for 852 yards and 9 TD catches). Top point talliers, Barnett (126), P. Brown (48), and Covington (62) are all back for another go around the ball park as well as the defense’s top four tacklers (Berk Watts 100, Bryan Hudson 45, and Matt Fannin 38, and Bronson Brown 35). Bottom line…this team played 14 games, last year, for a reason; they were legitimate contenders. They will be again in 2018.
Simon Kenton High School, No. 4;
Simon Kenton lost last year to Trinity in the Regional Finals (State Quarters) 49-17. They ran for 2,538 yards, from scrimmage last year, and return the leading rusher, who, last season, was only a sophomore in Austin Hammack. Hammack gained 804 yards with 10 scores. Jon Sargent added 481 yards on the ground with an additional 10 scores. Matt Shearer and his 2,532 passing yards and 33 aerial TDs with 7 picks will be difficult production to replace. If that weren’t true, Simon Kenton might have ranked even higher, preseason, than where I have them. Simon Kenton is excited about Caleb Farfsing and believe he can fit the bill, in spite of his only completing 10 of 18 passes, last season, for 80 yards and one score. I don’t know to whom Farfsing will throw the ball, as all three leading receivers from a year ago departed in Fisher Hayden, Sam Murray, and Calvin Rump.
So why the optimism? Well, like I have said over the course of breaking down the different classifications many times before, a great running back hides a lot of ailments. We believe the return of Austin Hammack, who will be a junior, and the chance he improves on the 66 points he produced for last year’s offense is reason enough for optimism. We also believe the defense will be sufficiently stingy. Simon Kenton returns four rising seniors, JJ Courtney, Brady Nipper, Bryson Pernell, and Justin Sabie, who each contributed two recovered fumbles last season earning, for the offense, 8 additional possessions. Add all of that with the return of three of its top four tacklers (Bryson Pernell 95, Clay Cogswell 75, and JJ Courtney 82) and the mix seems to insure Simon Kenton will be able to shorten games, control clock, and come out on top the vast majority of the time.
Hey, Simon Kenton didn’t win 11 of 13 of its games last season for nothing. They will be very formidable again this coming year.
The rest of the top-ten in the Class: Frederick Douglass, Butler, Male, Central Hardin, Tates Creek, DuPont Manual
Well, this and a quarter may not buy you a cup of coffee but this is what we think, for whatever that is worth. It appears we have made it through another Dead Period. Now it’s time to come out the other side and get busy.
This is Fletcher Long, reporting for KPGFootball reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!
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