High School football season in Kentucky, in earnest, begins today. With the season a little more than a month away, a majority of teams across Kentucky report to begin preparations for their season openers. Are we excited at KPGFootball? Well, as we sit down to compose this article, it is presently 4:33 a.m., CST. We are principally located in the CST zone. So, yes, we would say we are just a wee bit excited! It is the greatest sport in the world.
There are two people just as anxious as we, and probably also up right now and they are the respective head coaches at the two highest regarded teams, at least preseason, in the 4A classification, Craig Clayton at Hopkinsville High School and Jim Matney at Johnson Central. Both of those guys welcome back football players whose absence, last season, dimmed each team’s chances and whose return could summon end of the season glory. The two players featured in this article carried it 7 times for 66 yards, between them, in 2017 with both of their seasons ended by injury. Both of the players will be welcomed back to action in 2018 and both of them, should they come back even close to their pre-injury selves, will figure prominently in his team’s fortunes going forward. You may have forgotten about them, so we thought we would take a little stroll down memory lane, enabling you to get as excited as we.
Welcome back Joe Jackson…
The last time we saw the 6-0, 194 pound, Class of 2019 prospect he had helped lead his team, Johnson Central, to the 2016 4A State Championship as a sophomore. Jackson carried the ball, in 2016, 157 times for 2,049 yards with 31 rushing TDs. He averaged 13.051 yards every time he carried the football. Johnson Central went 14-1 in 2016, losing only to Belfry at home on October 28, 2016…21-16. The Eagles won the State Title over Franklin-Simpson at the end of the year 48-0. Jackson, then a sophomore, was Honorably Mentioned on the AP’s Kentucky All-State Football team for his seasonal efforts.
Jackson, went down in the first game of the year in 2017, after having carried it 7 times for 66 yards. Without Jackson in the lineup, Johnson Central finished the 2017 season 12-3, losing to Belfry, Ashland Blazer, and, of course, Franklin-Simpson in the State Championship Game 35-21. With him in the lineup, as above set forth, they were 14-1 and won it all. Have they missed Joe Jackson? Absolutely. From KPGFootball to Joe Jackson, welcome back to action, we’ve missed watching you play.
Welcome back JaTorian Dillard…
As someone who is daily around the Hopkinsville High School program, the impact of getting back JaTorian Dillard is immeasurable. He’s not the only injured Tiger being welcomed back when practice opens today as Jaime Cooper-Roman and Keone Mumford are also returning from off injury reserve. In 2016, the Class of 2019 prospect carried it 116 times for 827 yards rushing with 13 rushing TDs for a yards per carry average of 7.13. While not as gaudy as Joe Jackson‘s stats, the two of them played in completely different offensive systems with completely different offensive identities.
Johnson Central, for instance, gained 4,530 rushing yards on the year while throwing for 1,402. Hopkinsville‘s spread attack, which went to McCracken County with the departed Marc Clark, on the other hand, gained 1,847 yards rushing, as a team in 2016, and threw it for 2,327 yards. Completely different offensive emphasis between the two schools. For instance, without Jackson in the lineup, Johnson Central‘s season rushing total increased in 2017 to 4,968 yards with senior, Blake Gamble, stepping in and gaining 1,907 yards and scoring 25 rushing TDs in Jackson‘s absence.
Without Dillard, even with the Tigers, under new coach Craig Clayton, being a run-first, play-action offense; the Tigers, who had rushed for 1,847 yards out of the spread, saw its ground production cut nearly in half (952 yards). The Tigers‘ leading rusher in 2017 gained only 390 yards and scored 7 rushing TDs (Mitchell Degenhardt). In Clarc‘s offense, the Tigers ran the ball 267 times over 12 games for 22.25 carries a ball game. Under Clayton in 2017, in 13 games, the Tigers carried the football 337 times, or nearly 26 times a ball game.
In contrast, Johnson Central rushed it from scrimmage 529 times in 2016, or a smidge over 35 times a game; and, without Jackson, ran the ball 680 times from scrimmage, in 2017, or slightly over 45 carries a game. Clayton ran it 337 times for only 952 yards, last year, for 2.825 per attempt. How many more times would the Silver Fox had run the ball had he had Dillard and averaged, per rushing attempt, what the with-Dillard, 2016 Tigers averaged (6.918 yards a carry)? We think a lot more, knowing Coach Clayton as well as we do.
The bottom line…
Entering this season, and looking at both Johnson Central and Hopkinsville going forward, it is hard to measure the impact of getting back two players with the ability and historical production of Joe Jackson and JaTorian Dillard. These kids were both among the best sophomore running backs in Kentucky in 2016, with them poised to do untold amount of damage in 2017 before being derailed by injury. They are players about whom many writers around the Commonwealth of Kentucky may have forgotten but whose return should impact position as we fill out our preseason polls and determine where teams should be ranked by the AP. They are the forgotten men, whom won’t be forgotten long as they re-enter the battle. Welcome back Joe Jackson and JaTorian Dillard; man, have the two of you been sorely missed!
This is Fletcher Long, reporting forKPGFootball reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!
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