For the Class of 2023, The Next Ten…

Yesterday’s ranking of the top 10 in Kentucky’s Class of 2023 caused exactly what it was supposed to initiate. It resulted in a firestorm of good-natured debate and a lot of Well, what about __________? That is to be expected and we were pleased with the net result. Stimulating discussion about middle and high school football in a Commonwealth perceived by the outside nation as not caring much for either, is a reason we exist. Now, we intend to move to the classes of 2022 and 2021 next, and I don’t know that we will extend the same courtesy as we did to the Class of 2023 to the 21 and 22 prospects in ranking more than 10 (but, then again, I don’t know we won’t either), but what the heck, there are way more than ten noteworthy 2023 football talents, so here’s another ten…

No. 11, Somerset’s Cade Sullivan… 

Sullivan, Wooldridge, Goff

This one here may well have caused the most debate as there were fans of this particular player really upset he wasn’t included in the first ten. No ranking system is fool-proof and this kid here could make a solid argument for being the best football player in the entire class. Cade is a Team Kentucky fixture having played both Future Stars and FBU twice and is one of three or four Kentuckians who garnered an invite to the FBU, Top Gun Elite Showcase. Cade is 5-10 and weighs only 150 pounds but the kid is already squatting more than twice his body weight (315 pounds) and plays both corner and strong safety for Coach G.J. Wooldridge and his State Finalist from last year, North Pulaski Middle School. In addition to what he brings to the table defensively, the 8th grader, who has consistently covered 40 yards in the 4.7s, also aligns in the backfield with Korbyn Goff (No. 6 on the list) and runs the football. Cade is the only person on the list who is a two-way, position player while still handling kicks-off duties. We are told Sullivan regularly kicks the ball inside the opposing 5 yard line. I am told that last year, Sullivan made a 38 yard field goal in live game action. Sullivan is also a stand-out soccer player, which is probably why his weight is only 150 pounds, meaning this is a kid you just can’t run out of gas.

No. 12, Paintsville’s Mason Lawson…

Lawson is a two-time Team Kentucky FBU player who has lead Kentucky to the National Tournament on two occasions and plays running back. As a seventh grader, he led state semi-finalist, Johnson County in both rushing and tackles. The Johnson County 8th grade team is the reigning KYMSFA, Division I, State Football Champion. Lawson is approximately 6-0 and weighs about 160 pounds. His speed and power numbers are unknown but he never seems to get hit and fall backwards, and no one ever seems to catch him from behind, in spite of his playing for probably the best middle school program in Kentucky. Lawson is a star in basketball too, but football is his first love.

No. 13, Louisville’s Josh Johnson…

Johnson would have won the Defensive MVP of the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars classic this past summer had it not been for the incredible effort, and on-field production, of JT Adams (No. 2). I can tell you there was a considerable debate as two which one deserved the honor. Josh is a 6-0, 220 pound defensive end with considerable bend, speed, and quickness and Kaden Briggs (No. 3) and he are the best two DEs in the 2023 class commonwealth-wide. Let me set the scene from this past summer. Tennessee had a superstar QB named Jadyn Davis who was killing KY and whom KY’s defense just couldn’t stop, anymore than the Tennessee defense could stop Cole Hodge in the 4th quarter. Davis tried to come back down the field and take victory from Kentucky, late in the 4th quarter, when this happened…Tennessee still had Davis and Davis had the type of arm, which he had shown us all day, to cover virtually miles in 36 seconds, if he wished. On the second play of his attempted heroics, Davis was under a heavy rush and running for his life, when he got slammed into the turf, by Westport’s Josh Johnson, at Toyota Stadium and, sadly, suffered a broken wrist. Now the game went into overtime but Tennessee would be without its star QB for the game’s pivotal possession. From, And a little child shall lead them, June 17, 2018. The net result, Kentucky goes to overtime, Colin Fratus (No. 7) nails a field goal, Kentucky wins. Josh Johnson has tremendous upside, which is scary because he is damn good right now.

No. 14, Paintsville’s Harris Phelps…

Harris Phelps is a RB/DB who is a 2-time member of Team Kentucky’s FBU National Tournament team. His oldest brother Kent Phelps, is presently a running back on one of the most storied and successful programs in the FCS, Wofford College. Another older brother, John Phelps, presently plays at Paintsville High School, a team we at KPGFootball have ranked number 2, preseason, in its classification. Brother John averaged 7.345 yards an attempt running the ball for Paintsville’s 11-2, 2017 team while only a sophomore. To say football is in the genes around the Phelps household seems rather obvious. Our people in Paintsville tell us Harris Phelps may be the best of the three, and that is really saying a mouth full. As you are well aware, a problem we are ardently trying to solve is there is very little information about young, up and coming, football players anywhere within the public record. I can’t give you any size nor speed numbers on Phelps, but what I can do is link his highlights. I believe if you watch these highlights, you will agree with me that, however big he turns out being, is big enough, and, however fast he can presently run, is more than plenty. Phelps routinely pulls away from third level defenders attempting to give chase.

No. 15, Louisville’s Jakob Dixon…

Now, if you think it is hard to get information about players who play in middle school in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, you should try to find information about kids playing in one of Louisville’s Youth Leagues. Jakob is a guy who was set to play for Team Kentucky Future Stars this past summer but other commitments, and rolling an ankle, derailed those plans. Dixon plays for the South Dixie Spartans whom people in Louisville claim to be the top senior youth team in Kentucky. I am not meaning to put a qualifier on the claim. KPGFootball doesn’t cover senior youth football and doesn’t really know what the senior youth division is, so we are in no position to either confirm or deny the claim of several readers that the South Dixie Spartans reign supreme. Perhaps they do. We get asked all the time how that brand of football compares with the KYMSFA teams whom competed across the Commonwealth. For instance, would the South Dixie Spartans be able to play with Johnson County, the reigning KYMSFA, Division I, State Football Champions. The answer to that is, we don’t have a clue. What we do know is that each year the Kentucky Future Stars has numerous roster members from off of those league teams and they are often among the very finest athletes on the field. Dixon is a guy who, if more was known about both league play and its players across Kentucky, he might well be ranked in the top five or so prospects in his class. He certainly has the frame at 6-3 and weighing 160 pounds. He certainly has the speed as he was timed in the 40 yard dash, over a year ago, at 4.6 seconds. Louisville has an open enrollment system so it is unclear where Dixon will play in high school. Dixon’s father has told us Jakob is interested in attending either Holy Cross, Saint Francis DeSales, or Louisville Male. Any of the three would be delighted, I am sure.

No. 16, Hazard, Elijah Gayheart…

Gayheart, at our Mountain All-State combine, ran the 40 yard dash in 4.92 seconds. At 5-8 and weighing 135 pounds, that is moving what amounts to pretty short, stout legs very quickly. I would say the average 40 time for a star, first-team, running-back, entering the 8th grade is between 5.2 and 5.6 seconds. I told you that for you to fully appreciate the significance of a running back, entering the 8th grade, already clipping 5 flat. It is significant. One of the combine tests which gauges athleticism, coordination, and spacial quickness/change of direction speed is what we call the pro-agility shuttle (5-10-5). A rising eighth grader completing this below 5.5 seconds is considered agile as a cat. You can imagine the buzz which went through the combine when it was announced Gayheart had completed the same in 4.58 seconds. I have before said, in writing about other middle school prospects, that an L-cone drill completed in under 9 seconds for a middle school athlete is a sign of upper-level coordination and change of direction speed and quickness. Gayheart’s L-cone task was completed in 6.9 seconds.

What is the sum-total of Gayheart‘s performance on these tasks? The sum total indicates Elijah Gayheart could start at many high schools, right now, playing either running back or corner. It means he is a physical mis-match for players at his grade level. It means he is a candidate for inclusion on any Team Kentucky for which he auditions and firmly on our Middle School, All-State Watch-list. I almost forgot to mention, he also repped the middle school, bench press rep weight of 115 pounds, 9 times (approximate, one-rep, bench press of 150 pounds). Ten reps at that weight is the level at which middle school coaches start promoting their linemen as having elite strength. This guy is a running back/corner with whom to reckon, we reckon.

No. 17, Phelps’ Cory Turnmire…

Turnmire brothers, Cory and Brandon

Now, I am not indicting the local journalists in and around the Phelps, Kentucky area for not covering KPGFootball’s Mountain All-State Combine performance of Cory Turnmire, Class of 2023, who is entering the 8th grade at Phelps Junior High. I really didn’t invite any of the local press as DavidandDarrylSports.com and KPGFootball were both there and I felt that more than enough. This type of event is right across the middle of the plate of what KPGFootball covers anyway and DavidandDarrylSports.com is the top coverage for football in that area both in print and over various social media platforms. I can tell you that Cory Turnmire was awarded Top Honors at the combine for his performance as an 8th grade RB because his feats of speed, agility, power, explosion, and quickness were newsworthy to KPGFootball. Cory is listed as a running back and he ran a 40 yard dash in 5.3 seconds. This is an upper level 40 time for an 8th grade running back, particularly where he has just finished the 7th grade. That time will only go down as he lengthens, gains in strength, and matures. His pro-agility (5-10-5) time of 4.71 seconds shows a spacial quickness which will lend itself to the shake and bake ability to make tacklers miss him in space. His L-cone drill, completed in 8.5 seconds, is an elite time for an athlete, his age, as anything south of 9 seconds is considered upper-level, change of direction, quickness and speed for a middle school athlete. Turnmire’s older bother (Brandon) is a football star and grabbing offers out of Phelps High School as we speak. The same will be true of Cory when it is his time.

No. 18, Louisville’s Kayden Anderson…

In a year, 2023, which is not the strongest for QBs, here’s a virtual unknown who we have heard may be the top QB in Kentucky’s rising 8th grade and who is also a virtual unknown. Kayden Anderson is a 6-2, 160 QB who has a lithe arm which can really stretch a defense. This is a teammate of Dixon (No. 15) and the combination of Anderson to Dixon has plagued back-fours all over the metropolitan, Louisville area and beyond. As before discussed, this prospect plays for the South Dixie Spartans who are alleged to be the top, senior division, youth league team in the Commonwealth, 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 considerably 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.

No. 19, Hopkinsville’s Damichael Hall…

This next kid is both a complete unknown and quite a find even if we say so ourselves. Damichael Hall is a 13 year old, 8th grader at the Hopkinsville Middle School. This kid is 5-10, 160 pounds right now and growing every single day. He is a long-armed, long-legged frame, with huge feet and hands for his age, and is incredibly strong, particularly for a young man who hasn’t been strength training yet owing to his age. The Tigers have him, right now, at both free and strong safety, but we believe he ends up at linebacker before it is said and done. His estimated 40 time is in the 4.8s and he trains with Marcus Gildersleeve, who coached at the D-I level for twelve years, with many of those years being the recruiting coordinator. Marcus, who started in the Sugar Bowl (National Championship Game) for Frank Beamers’ Hokies from Virginia Tech is someone whose opinion is valued at KPGFootball. Coach Sleeve, as he is known, says this kid is the real deal. That advocation got him on this list ahead of a lot of better known, more ballyhooed players.

No. 20, Hopkinsville’s Jacob Beale…

Okay, the picture is a year old, and kids at this stage of development change rapidly and radically, but you’ll get an accurate picture before we’re done anyway. Jacob Beale’s father David was one of Hoptown High School’s best safeties before matriculating to Murray State University and becoming an All-conference caliber player collegiately. Jacob’s older brother Ben, was the team captain on a 10-2 Hopkinsville Tiger team his senior year. Both of those Beale’s wore the number 15 for Hoptown. Unfortunately, for Jacob, Ben, and David, that tradition will have to change. In the aftermath of Ben’s playing days, the Tigers elected to retire the number 15 owing to its having been also worn by HHS’ only Mr. Kentucky Football, and college star in his own right, Mr. Curtis Pulley. Oh well, so much for the Beale family’s tradition of David’s sons wearing David’s number. What Jacob has inherited, much more importantly than his father and brother’s number is his father and brother’s ability to play the game of football. As a 7th grader in 2017, Beale started on the 8th grade team as a TE/Slot guy. He has now been moved to QB because he is one of the team’s best athletes and that is where he is most needed in 2018. Jacob is one of the strongest kids on the team, runs well, and has a long frame which looks to KPGFootball as if he will get both longer and taller. Beale has been learning the QB trade from two of the best coaches in the area for QBs in John Faulk (Pulley’s QB Coach in HS) and Blake Ladson. Beale is a hitter (LB defensively) with a nose for the football who is so athletic he can virtually play anywhere. He will be a great QB for HMS in 2018. What he will play at HHS? That is anyone’s guess but he’ll be on the field, on that KPGFootball is willing to wager quite a lot!

Well, on my 50th birthday, I elected to give myself a present and give the Kentucky middle school football fans out there another 10 fantastic players in the Kentucky Class of 2023. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I had fun composing it. This should get the debate rolling around the Commonwealth as middle school teams are on the brink of kicking off their seasons all over the Bluegrass. We all be excited to see how it all fleshes out and hope you will continue to read the site and enjoy it with us.

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of you ballers out there to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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