Defending our selections: Calling the Hogs…

I have entitled this article, written in defense of our offensive linemen selected to the Middle School All-State Football, Calling the Hogs. It dawned on me some readers may be too young to remember and appreciate the reference. I certainly mean no offense; au contraire, I mean it as a high compliment. The Hogs  were the offensive line of the Washington Redskins of the NFL during the 80s and early 90s renowned for controlling the line of scrimmage. Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls, Calling the Hogs. The term was coined by O-Line coach Joe Bugel during the 1982 training camp when he told NFL Hall of Famer, Russ Grimm and Jeff Bostic, himself inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame…Okay, you hogs, let’s get running down there. Source: The History of the Hogs, October 2, 2012. Today is the Middle School All-State offensive line’s turn at the trough. Sooee! 

Letcher Central Middle School, Peyton Sayers, 6-0, 280 pounds: Offensive Guard;

KPGFootball had the opportunity to talk to the Team Kentucky FBU Elite Head Coach just today. Now the rosters of the teams have yet to be announced for the upcoming FBU National Championships (as of the date of our publishing this article) but, without either one of us saying a word, it was pretty clear the coming roster will include both Sayers twins manning the offensive guard slots and Team Kentucky will run the football in the upcoming tournament. These guys are classic meat moving, road grating machines who are the object of an offensive line coach’s dreams at this level of football. They never get featured without the other and, frankly, the two of them are very rarely pictured alone and appear to enjoy each other’s company immensely. Peyton is extraordinary strong for his level of development and wears his 280 pounds very well. What we mean by that, at KPGFootball, is there is nothing soft or sloppy about Peyton Sayers. Sayers is hard, muscled up, and mammoth without looking the least bit like he is fat. Peyton is a flat-back, short-neck kid with a barrel chest and broad shoulders who gets down hill, drive blocking, with ferocity and effectively. Peyton has made every FBU All-American Team and Top Gun Combine in existence and has played for every Team Kentucky from FBU Elite to Future Stars, making him one of the more decorated players to come through the middle school ranks. I know there are some people particularly perplexed their son or player wasn’t listed on this All-State team but any Middle School All-State Football team composed of Kentucky players which doesn’t slot Peyton Sayers, and his brother Mason, at the Guard positions, along its offensive front, is just not very legitimate. This is a selection against which there can be no legitimate argument made.

Letcher Central Middle School, Mason Sayers, 6-0, 280 pounds: Offensive Guard;

Obviously the Sayers twins are identical twins, something KPGFootball first learned covering the Future Stars Classic this past summer. As one would easily imagine, the Sayers twins both played for the 7th grade, Kentucky Future Stars’ team. We remember interviewing Mason Sayers, before the game, and remarking we really couldn’t tell the Sayers twins apart. Mason had a helpful hint. According to Mason Sayers, he’s the good looking one. As someone who, prior to writing for KPGFootball, was an offensive line coach by trade, KPGFootball would maintain both of these mammoth offensive guards are pretty good looking, at least to us. Everything we said about Payton is true of his brother Mason. Mason has made every FBU, All-American team and Top Gun Combine presently in existence. Mason has also played for both Team Kentucky FBU Elite and Team Kentucky Future Stars. Mason’s omission from any list of All-State Middle School Football players seriously undermines the legitimacy of that list, which is why he is on this team. Mason is a down hill, road grater with both a flat back and a short neck. He is also barrel chested with broad shoulders and good reach for a 6 footer. Mason wears his weight very well, playing both ferociously and effectively, especially in the run game and, like his brother, is among the more decorated players to come through Kentucky’s middle school ranks. Mason packs a devastating punch and is able to use his extraordinary strength to gain extension and separation from a defensive lineman Mason is constantly moving somewhere that guy never intended on going. Absolutely no one can seriously question Mason Sayers’ inclusion on this team at the position for which both his brother and he were selected.

Knox County Middle School, Bracken Castle, 6-2, 265 pounds: Offensive Center;

Bracken Castle is a 6-2, 265 pound offensive center with a 6-8 wing-span already. His incredible length, coupled with the fact his dad was a basketball player and is in the neighborhood of 6-5 himself, will make it difficult to not move him to left tackle as he continues to develop. Bracken has been lifting with a weight trainer and is already bench pressing 190 pounds and back squatting 280 pounds, both of which are remarkable numbers for a young man with his length. Now, most coaches will tell you the offensive center is the most cerebral position on an offensive front. He has to make the same pre-snap reads as the QB, make the run blocking calls and call out the protection schemes should the team be passing the football. Centers, much like QBs, can also check the offense out of plays which have  been called, but can’t really be run, against the defensive alignment the line found when coming to the line of scrimmage. At KPGFootball, we have never known a dumb center, at least not one who plays the position at an All-State level. We were able to have an exchange with Shelia Terrell who is an Assistant Principal at Knox County Middle School. What she told us about Bracken fits in well with his ability to play center. She told KPGFootball that Bracken is an all-around great kid. He’s a very good student, witty, and full of personality. He is always well mannered, respectful, and so kind to everyone. We hate to take issue with Mrs. Terrell but canvasing the nose-guards and shaded, inside techniques whom played Knox County Middle this year left us with the impression not everyone thought Bracken to be too kind. I am sure she meant off the field. We have before said that football teams are built from the line of scrimmage out, and the offensive center is the corner-stone of any line of scrimmage. Bracken has played for both Team Kentucky Future Stars and the Team Kentucky FBU Elite team and has developed both a strong hand punch and a quick-twitch launch from out of his stance and into engagement. He demonstrates a strong core with his ability to play with a low hip level enabling his maintaining good pad leverage as he drives into opposing first level defenders. KPGFootball is high on Bracken Castle and believes Ladd and he to be the best two offensive centers in Kentucky’s 2023 class.

Trigg County Middle School, Matt Alex Ladd, 5-11, 250 pounds: Offensive Center;

Matt Alex Ladd, we believe, has found a home at offensive center. KPGFootball expects Castle will play offensive center on into high school and throughout his career. Ladd has more of an offensive center’s build whereas Castle is very likely to wind up at Tackle before it is all done. While center is an oft-overlooked position on any football team, you may notice KPGFootball thinks it significantly important enough to warrant putting two of them on its All-State Football team. With teams seemingly always aligned in the Spread, and working from the shotgun, it is curious the position gets so commonly overlooked. Can’t run any offense without the snap. Matt Ladd, who played for Team Kentucky Future Stars this summer is 5-11 and already weighs a substantial, but not sloppy, 250 plus pounds. Judging by the length of his arms and the size of his hands and feet, we would wager, a significant amount, Castle isn’t done growing, though exactly how much taller he gets is something on which KPGFootball wouldn’t dare to speculate. Castle will be mammoth. Now, Trigg County has a penchant for developing some accomplished power lifters and Ladd is already inscribing his name to that list. Ladd, this summer between his 7th and 8th grade years, squatted over 300 pounds, indicating to KPGFootball both good hips and good core strength. We have no idea what his strength levels are presently but KPGFootball believes he has continued to lift during the season and may well be significantly stronger than he was this summer. We see evidence of his core strength and good hips in his stance, where his hips are low, and he demonstrates the ability to transition from stance to engagement in a fluid and seamless manner. Oh yeah, his shotgun snap, which he has years of experience doing, is money. Ladd is a guy who, undoubtedly, has continued to train, lift, and work on his strength, power, and explosion since the Future Stars’ game. There is no telling where he is physically right now. Ladd is a worthy take on this All-State team as he has the ability to play anywhere, along the interior offensive front, and was a beast for the Trigg County Wildcats this season. Trigg County Middle School has enjoyed great success the last two years in football at the middle school level and has fielded probably its two most formidable teams in program history both this and last year. Ladd’s play and Trigg County Middle School football’s emergence aren’t, at all, unrelated. Having the cornerstone of your offensive front manned by an All-Stater will generally do that for any program.

Logan County Middle School, Keyton Jenkins, 5-10, 245 pounds: Tackle;

KPGFootball has seen some pretty good offensive tackles play at the middle school level. We have been covering Team Kentucky football for several years. We really can’t say we have ever seen two tackles any more devastating at the middle school level than Keyton Jenkins and his teammate Isaac Poe. I can sum up Keyton Jenkins in one anecdote. Logan County High School has been built into a Class 4A power by its dynamic, young head coach, Todd Adler. Adler, before taking over the high school program, was the middle school head coach at Logan County Middle. Adler’s high school team has only won 21 of its past 23 football games with a date upcoming, this Friday night, with last year’s Class 4A Football Champion, Franklin-Simpson in the KHSAA playoffs. Hoptown was hosting Logan County a month or so ago in a game Adler would win 10-6. Prior to the game, KPGFootball started talking to Adler about Keyton Jenkins. Now, there is a rule we have never seen, but which there appears to be no doubt exists, which prohibits a middle school athlete from playing a contact sport where any of the participants are more than two grade levels ahead of the middle school participant. We joked with Adler that there was no way he could look us in the eye and tell us Keyton Jenkins wouldn’t start, right now, for his high school team, if that rule didn’t exist, even though he’s an eighth grader. Sure, there are teams in Kentucky for whom an 8th grader could likely start but they aren’t highly ranked, Class 4A teams whom have won 21 of its past 23 games. In response, Adler told us he didn’t think Jenkins would start for him at tackle…but conceded he would likely start at offensive guard….right now…for Logan County High School. That is how good this kid is…he’s good enough to start along the offensive front for Logan County High School, even though an eighth grader, and even though Logan enters its game, Friday night, with a 10-1 record after going 11-1 in 2017. Keyton has played for Team Kentucky FBU Elite and has a look in his eye which is the look of a grown man, way more than the look one would expect from a middle school boy. The fact Keyton Jenkins is one of the top tackles, in his class in Kentucky, is one about which there can be no legitimate dispute, and that is why he’s on our All-State Football team.

Logan County Middle School, Isaac Poe, 6-2, 260 pounds: Tackle;

Here’s a scary thought for anyone hoping there will be a drop off in talent on the Logan County High School team after superstar Caden McKinnis leaves. Logan doesn’t just have Keyton Jenkins to plug into a lineup as early as next year, but Logan also has Isaac Poe, who may even have more upside at the tackle position. Poe’s dad, KPGFootball hears, is in the neighborhood of 6-7 and Poe already is 6-2 with the length and frame to get much more lengthy. Isaac Poe comprised, along with Keyton Jenkins, the most formidable pair of book-end tackles we saw this year on one team. No wonder Logan County Middle School had such a good year running the football. We were at a Logan County Middle School football game this year where we witnessed Logan County rush the football for some 250 yards just running off tackle. That is a ton of ground gains for a middle school team playing four, eight minute quarters. Isaac is a late bloomer, with the present length and frame to start getting offers from colleges immediately, owing to the fact there appears no question he will get much bigger. Poe’s frame is right imposing presently though he isn’t as far along, in the area of physical prowess, as Keyton Jenkins (but what 8th grader really is?). When it is all said and done, Isaac Poe is a name which you will hear many more times, going forward, in this young man’s football career.

Belfry Middle School, Brayden Spears, 6-2, 215 pounds: Tackle;

Braden Spears is a 6-2, 215 pounder who is extra-long in his extremities indicating to KPGFootball he is still growing and has quite a bit left before he fully fills out his frame. Now, a lot of kids who are the size of Brayden in middle school suffer from an awkwardness, a slow-footedness, and a lack of agility/coordination which tends to naturally manifest in young players who have grown too big, too fast. Brayden isn’t physically uncoordinated, slow, or awkward at all. In fact, most describe him as having well above average speed and really good feet containing loads of quickness, agility, and coordination. Spears played both OL and DL at Belfry Middle School and can play either side of the ball equally well. Any list of middle school All-Staters, to be a legitimate list, has to have some players from one of Kentucky’s premier middle school programs, Belfry Middle School. I mean a hulking superstar lineman from the mountains, where have we ever before heard of that (Cole Bentley, Rayquan Horton, Ethan Wolford, Dagen Rash, etc.)? Braden is a guy who has a lot of room on his frame for growth and gain. He will get taller, he will get thicker, but for right now, Spears is already one of Kentucky’s premier middle school tackles. It will be fun to watch him develop going forward.

Well folks, there it is. For the reasons above we believed these seven players to be very deserving of this recognition. I am sure these may not be the best seven offensive linemen in middle school football from across Kentucky but we are equally sure they are among them. All of these players have distinguished themselves both on the field of play and in the class room. Join us next time as we continue defending the selections of our All-State offense.

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of the ballers out there that #WeGotUCovered and to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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