Defending our selections: The snap-catchers, three QBs and a specialist…

Yesterday, we defended the selection of our pass catchers on the offensive side of the football, which was comprised of four WRs (2 wide, 2 sots) and a TE. Today, we are focusing on our snap catchers so named because we didn’t want Colin Fratus, our PK/Punter, to feel lonely being featured alone as he was the only Specialist selected to the Middle School, All-State Football team. The QB position requires composure, football IQ, being able to handle the football in the running game, both calling and initiating plays, handling the snap, and, of course, throwing the football both powerfully and accurately. In addition, should the play break down or, sometimes by design, the QB has to be able to take off with the football and get his team seven yards when it needs six. The punter has to handle the snap too, no matter where it is hiked, and has to quickly transition from snap catcher to punter hitting a ball which travels, directionally, where his coverage unit expects and hangs in the air long enough for coverage to arrive. The place kicker has to kick the ball the right direction and at the appropriate height, with the appropriate hang time, for his coverage to get down the field and positioned to limit the return from the opposing player whom, by the way, is often the very best athlete on the other roster. For what place-kickers are most known is being called upon, with the game in question, and having to kick the ball through the uprights, often under a furious rush in an all-out effort to prevent him from getting his kick in route. These players are the glory boys but they also disproportionately get labeled the goat (and not in a good way) should any of their duties be unsuccessful resulting in a loss. Ladies and gentlemen, here are your KPGFootball, Middle School, All-Staters at the below detailed positions…

The QBs…

South Dixie Spartans, Kayden Anderson, 6-2 and 160 pounds, QB;

In a year, 2023, which is not the strongest for QBs, here’s a virtual unknown of whom we have heard may be the top QB in Kentucky’s Class of 2023. Kayden Anderson is a 6-2, 160 pound QB who has a lithe arm which can really stretch a defense. This is a teammate of Jakob Dixon and the combination of Anderson to Dixon has plagued back-fours all over the metropolitan, Louisville area, and beyond. This prospect plays for the South Dixie Spartans, with Jakob Dixon, and the Spartans are proclaimed to be the top, senior division, youth league team in the Commonwealth. The Spartans’ supremacy is a fact about which we lack sufficient information to either admit or deny and are, therefore, in no position to contest. Anderson has the quintessential frame for a big time QB and plays in a city which has routinely produced them. He has long arms and legs and huge feet and hands and looks to possess a frame which will add considerable length in spite of it being plenty long presently. It has been reported to KPGFootball, and confirmed on film provided us, that Anderson can throw a football 60 yards in the air and accurately, a skill which came in handy with a Jakob Dixon, on hand, to go and get it. This kid, upon entering any number of tremendous Louisville area, high school programs, is just going to get better and better as his skill-set refines. One might write this name down and remember it for subsequent years as KPGFootball predicts this won’t be the last time you see this signal-caller featured.

North Oldham Middle School, Cole Hodge, 5-9 and 145 pounds, QB;

At KPGFootball, we want to tell you one thing right off the jump; if you are trying to tell us there is a better football player presently in the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s 7th grade than North Oldham’s Cole Hodge, don’t waste your breath. You’re wrong. There has never been a class, in the history of the Commonwealth, whose number one player was any more definitively clear than Cole Hodge, and yes we know he spent significant part of the season on injured reserve owing to injury. He’s not just the best QB in the 7th grade, but he may be the best QB in the 8th, 9th, and 10th grades too. Cole isn’t even a hold-back player. As far as his being an athlete, Cole is also a star in basketball which gives us a favorable impression of his athleticism and feet. As a basketball player, the 5-9 Hodge made All-State, Division 1, in leading his AAU basketball team to the State Championship this past season. Hodge, in basketball, was named 2nd team, National NYBL AAU Circuit All-American. That particular circuit boasts some of the best players in the nation. What Cole has accomplished, in 2017 as a sixth grader and this summer leading Team Kentucky to an improbable victory in the Future Stars Classic, can neither be discounted nor dismissed. For KPGFootball, it can neither be forgotten.

As a sixth grader, Cole started on the eighth grade varsity team for South Oldham. The same South Oldham which won a conference championship with him under center. Cole led the conference in TD passes thrown with 17, was only picked off 4 times (and three of those occurred after his receiver had tipped the ball), and he completed 45 of 59 pass attempts for 861 yards. So this sixth grader, playing up two whole grades, completed over 76% of his passes attempted with 17 TDs against only 4 picks, three of those being tipped? Had he not been shelved this season, he was well on the way to making all of his sixth grade statistics look silly in comparison.

So how does Hodge compete when pressured, easily one of the most coveted attributes at the position. Well, in leading the varsity 8th grade squad at South Oldham (transferred to North Oldham to play this past season), Hodge completed a 4th down pass to win the Conference Championship on the game’s final drive. That pales in comparison to what he did in theTennessee-Kentucky game this summer. Cole came in to QB Kentucky with the good guys trailing Tennessee 20-7 with a little over 7 minutes remaining in the game. Until Cole Hodge entered the game, on the biggest stage in Kentucky middle school football on which a young man can possibly play, it looked as if the rout was on for Tennessee. Cole led Kentucky back to tie the game, at 28 all, at the end of regulation and then won it in overtime, with a little help from Colin Fratus, 31-28, for one of the most exciting football games I have ever watched. For his efforts, the then rising seventh grader, on a team comprised of rising 8th graders, was the game’s Offensive MVP. Listen to us here at KPGFootball, and listen very closely. Cole Hodge is Kentucky’s very top football player in his Class across the Commonwealth. Period! End of Dictation! If that doesn’t make one an All-Stater, even on a team of all 8th graders save Josuah Keith and you, than KPGFootball doesn’t know what does.

Christian County Middle School, Joshuah Keith, 5-6 and 125 pounds, QB;

Joshuah Keith with NFL’s Keith Tandy

In 2017, when I watched the then sixth grade, Joshuah Keith, at the reigns of the Christian County Middle School, varsity squad, playing my team from Hopkinsville Middle School, I thought of the line from the movie Rudy. The 11 year old QB (at that time), starting on a football team with a majority of 14 year old players on both teams was the 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, feel-good, underdog story whom nearly lead his team down the field to tie, and possibly beat HMS. At the time, HMS had won14 of its past 16 football games and was the defending Region I Champion and State Semi-finalist. That night in Hopkinsville, HMS barely escaped with its life, 12-6, by intercepting a Keith pass after the sixth grader had led his team down into the HMS red zone to potentially send us home talking about what ifs. His play on the last drive, especially from someone who looked so small in stature on the field, was a stunning exhibition of poise, ability, and talent from a kid who has been exceedingly well coached, and a kid I will have wanted no part of trying to beat upon his actual enrollment in a Middle School. As our Defensive Coordinator, Carl Banks, would say after we had barely won, that Keith kid is the real deal.

That night in Hopkinsville, we rushed that kid, we blitzed that kid, we sent our over six foot tall ends at the kid instructing them to get their hands high up in the air, maybe he will misfire. Joshuah, who attended the Andre Roberts Pro-Camp in 2017, and who is the son of Todd County Central’s, HS, head coach, Darrel Keith, does everything well. He makes his drops well, sets his feet well, stands tall (as he can) to deliver the ball well, and gets the ball out quickly and from the appropriate slot. He killed in the 7th grade games when in 6th grade as he QB’d both squads that season. This past year, Joshuah Keith QB’d Coach Damien Leavell’s CCMS squad to an 8-2 record and a 4 seed in the Region 1, Division 1, KYMSFA playoffs. In leading CCMS to such a great season he completely turned around the 1-7 record the team posted the year prior.

Legendary Coach Woody Hayes once said…The five big mistakes in football are the fumble, the interception, the penalty, the badly called play, the blocked punt-and most of these originate with the quarterback. Find a mistake-proof quarterback and you have this game won. From my vantage point, after having watched Keith mature and take top honors the Summer leading up to the 2018 football season at Coach Dustin Lopez’s junior football clinic at HHS, Joshuah, who may have made just one mistake all night in the game against HMS in 2017, is a QB, going forward, for whom mistakes (as he matures physically) will become less and less frequent. This is a 7th grade QB I have personally seen throw a HS football nearly 50 yards in the air. Just like in the movie Rudy, if Joshuah Keith’s performances last year at CCMS, and all summer long at every combine and event he attended, taken together with what he did quarterbacking CCMS’s varsity squad this past year though only still a seventh grader, didn’t enforce for Joshuah the famous dialogue from the movie Rudy that…In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen, then I just don’t know what to tell him. Before I forget, if you are wondering just how good Joshuah is, well Murray State University thought he was pretty good. He was awarded their Top Gun Award at its football camp for all players aged 7th through 12th grade during the Summer of 2018. The committee felt this kid, in addition to Cole Hodge, was a sure-fire Middle School All-Stater in spite of his being a 7th grader.

The Specialist…

Bowling Green Junior High School, Colin Fratus, 5-7 and 140 pounds, Punter-PK;

Colin Fratus from Bowling Green Junior High School has been chosen as the nation’s top place kicker in the Class of 2023 by the National Football Foundation’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Academy. In recognition of his selection Fratus will play in the Hall of Fame 8th grade game in Canton, Ohio on August 3, 2018. We first featured Fratus, together with some other top performers in an article entitled …And a little child shall lead them. In that article, linked herein, we described how, in overtime of the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars’ 7th grade game (for players entering 8th grade) Kentucky‘s first possession in the overtime stalled out at the 10 yard line. Kentucky called on Colin Fratus, who had converted every PAT on the day (without which we wouldn’t have been in overtime in the first place). Fratus calmly trotted out onto the field and drove a stake through Tennessee‘s heart by nailing a 30 yard field goal out of a bad snap, but brilliant placement, to provide the ultimate margin, thus sealing the Kentucky victory 31-28. We thought, and noted in the article, Fratus could well have been offensive MVP of the game, but for the heroics of (then) 6th grade quarterback, Cole Hodge. Of all the selections to the Middle School All-State Football team this selection here is the one, and maybe the only one, for which there really can be no debate. Colin Fratus is the best place-kicker/punter in Kentucky in his class, just like Boyle County’s Jackson Smith was the finest place-kicker/punter in the class which preceded him. We can argue back and forth about whether Joe Blow from Northern Kentucky is better than one of our other position players on this All-State team. We have chose whom we have chosen and stand by every selection, but the argument can be made our list of All-Staters is woefully deficient and should have included additional players of whom we, simply, just never learned. At this position, we have gotten this selection right and on that there can be no legitimate argument made. Sorry.

Well folks, there it is. For the reasons above we believed these four players to be very deserving of this recognition. I am sure these may not be the best four snap-catchers in middle school football from across Kentucky at their respective positions 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 as we will defend whom we selected to the team at the RB position.

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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