Kentucky is about to open its high school football season. One interesting matchup will take place in Manchester, Kentucky where the Leslie County Eagles will come calling on the Clay County Tigers.
We have Leslie County slotted as the 22nd-best team (out of 39) in the 2A classification and the 3rd-best team in District 7. Leslie is the 165th-best football team in Kentucky regardless of classification. We have Clay County slotted as our 20th-best team in the 4A classification and picked to finish 3rd in District 8. Here is how we see this pivotal, early season matchup.
Leslie County in 2019, 5-5; Clay County in 2019, 17-4
Last season, 2019: Leslie County finished 5-5 and 3rd in District 7, getting routed out of the playoffs in the first-round at Middlesboro, a team they had very narrowly lost to in the regular season when the game was at home. Clay County finished 7-3, regular season, before being sent packing in the first round of the playoffs by Harlan County in the 2 versus 3 game. Clay County was 3rd in District 8, a year ago, and has to get through Johnson Central to get out of the second round. As the British would say, “Not very bloody likely.”
Leslie County is a tough team to figure. Individually, it has some of the better talent in the 2A classification and particularly in District 7. Yet, the team seems to struggle to put it all together.
On paper, you would like Leslie County to have a chance to win this game as they return many pieces from a year ago with the exception of Alex Farler’s transfer to 5A Southwestern, which figures to be a huge loss. This year’s senior class has played a ton of football over their careers.
Leslie is “mountain big,” “mountain strong,” and “mountain tough.” If you don’t know what all that means, you don’t follow “mountain football.”
Unfortunately, Leslie may also be “mountain fast,” which tends to be not very fast at all. This doesn’t apply to Trent Asher, of course, as he has shown himself to be one of the faster players in Kentucky.
Leslie County is forecast to be 3-5 in 2020, finish 3rd in Class 2A, District 7, and has a less than 1% probability of winning all 8 of its regular season games.
Clay County is a 4A team which turned in a fine season in 2019. Problem is, they have Letcher Central, Harlan County (the good one in Harlan), and Johnson Central (4A State Champion in 2019) with which to contend just in district play. With Perry County Central hiring legendary coach Mark Dixon to head up the forces, District 8 promises to be even tougher going forward, though that may not take immediate effect.
Clay County is a “mountain team” too, and a Class 4A one at that. We have been over just what that means.
The Tigers lost their starting QB (Ethan Hacker) from a year ago and one of Kentucky’s most prolific backfield producers in Chandler Hibbard. Hibbard gained 1,852-yards on the ground, scored 14-rushing TDs, and carried it 262-times.
Deon McCulley is also among the ranks of the recently departed. He scored 9-rushing TDs in 2019; meaning 23 of the team’s 31-rushing TDs in 2019 crossed the graduation stage last spring.
Clay County is projected to go 5-3 in 2020, finish 3rd in Class 4A, District 8, with a less than 1% probability of winning all 8 of its regular season games.
Top Returning Players:
Preston Spurlock, 6-0, 235-pound, LB/FB;
Zack Parker, 5-11, 170-pounds, QB;
Trent Asher, 5-10, 175-pounds, RB/LB.
Top Returning Players:
Ben Meadow, RB/LB;
Raven Abner, WR;
Dominque Hubbard, WR/DB.
Betting line: Odds-makers would figure to give the visiting Eagles 19-points on the road. We would have to take the Eagles and the points here; however, Clay County still figures to prevail at home.
KPGFootball’s analysis: Were we odds-makers, we would be giving the Eagles 10-points on the road. Here is how we figure it.
According to the Calpreps.com algorithm, Leslie County, on a neutral field, is 19-points shy of being able to give the homesteading Clay County Tigers an even football game. Leslie played Clay Count a year ago in Hyden, Kentucky and lost by 17-points.
Now the Clay County team which unloaded off the bus in Hyden, Kentucky had Ethan Hacker at QB and both Chandler Hibbard and Deon McCulley to whom to hand the football. This doesn’t even account for what was lost on defense.
While we believe Clay County to be better than Leslie, we don’t see Clay County absorbing easily the productivity lost from the Spring’s graduation. With the Covid-19 restrictions on occupancy, none of us know what home-field is going to be worth, point-wise, in 2020.
We will give Clay County a 4-point boost this week for playing at home. We believe Clay County is 6-points better than Leslie on a neutral field provided Leslie arrives for the game with a roster at full strength. With the home-field, we believe Clay County is likely to win by 10-points.
KPGFootball projected final score: Clay County 38, Leslie County 28.
This is Coach HB Lyon, reporting for KPGFootball, and we’re JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!
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