It is almost spring practice time, which is approaching literally right around the corner, and I thought to myself wouldn’t it be fun to publish a Class 4A, pre-season, top 5 football poll with about 5 more who almost made it. I may end up doing this for all of Kentucky’s classifications. Well anyway, for what it is worth, here is our way too early prognosis:
Hopkinsville High School; No. 1
Well, this should piss off everybody in the Tiger program. I mean, what am I thinking putting the target on the Tiger’s back like this? I am sorry, I just can’t help how I honestly feel. In the interest of full disclosure, it is my alma mater and my son plays for them so, maybe, you should take this prediction with a grain of salt. Regardless, here is my defense of my selection. First of all, HHS returns a Sophomore All-Stater at QB (Jay Bland) who threw, last year, for 2,200 yards and 22 TDs against 10 picks. He did this with, basically, only having one legitimate target to stretch the field for him in Senior, Gavin Marschand. Sophomores Reece Jesse and Lane Rushing are 6-2+, edge targets, with excellent hands, length, and good speed. I hear the Tigers are getting a BIG TIME WR transfer from 5A and, if that materializes, the Tigers down-field passing attack is going to be unlike anything seen around Western-Kentucky in years. The Tigers also return a 1,500 yard, career, ground gainer who missed his entire Junior season, and whose absence may have cost the Tigers a State Title last year. His name is Ja’Torian Dillard and he was picked the pre-season District Player of the Year only to go down with season ending injury in the preseason. Dillard is a D-1 RB with more speed, instinct, and moves than anything they had at RB last year. The Tigers have a Sophomore All-Stater at corner (JeVan Leavell), a Sophomore All-Stater at LB (Denarius Barnes), a Freshman All-Stater along its interior OL (William Long), an All-WKC performer at tackle (Blake Schutt), and an all-KNE, 2nd teamer, at Guard (Seth Henderson). The Tigers, along with Dillard, also get back both Jaime Cooper-Roman, who was leading them in tackles before going down with injury in the 4th game of the year not to return, and Keane Mumford, the 6-2, 255 pound, OL who was starting at LT when he went down with injury the 2nd game of the year, also, not to return. Assuming the Tigers will have all hands on deck, they will be tough in Class 4A.
Johnson Central; No. 2
Well, it was hard not to put Johnson Central the top ranked team. I mean they won it all in 2016 and played for it all last year. Franklin-Simpson beat them 35-21 in the Championship Game which wasn’t that close as Johnson Central was down 35-7 and scored a couple of cosmetic touchdowns late. Still, the boys from Paintsville, Kentucky are always tough and they only graduated 9 players from off a 12-3 team. Johnson Central has Sophomore All-State LB, Devin Johnson, 5’11” 200, and Freshman All-State DE Zack Russell, both back and ready for more action as the Golden Eagles will count, heavily, on those two to anchor its defense. Freshman All-State, OL, Cameron Willis, is a key cog around whom to build an offensive front together with his former teammate on Kentucky Future Stars Hunter Scott, who is massive and ready to contribute at 6-1, 290 pounds.
Madisonville North-Hopkins; No. 3
Madisonville North-Hopkins, only graduated 11 seniors from off a 7-5 team which got embarrassed by Franklin-Simpson in the playoffs’ 2nd round. That kind of beat down is hard to live down. It doesn’t hurt that North-Hopkins returns two 1,000 yard individual ground gainers in Sophomore All-Stater, Jeremiah Hightower, and Junior, now rising Senior, Aaron Miller. North-Hopkins also returns one of the best DL prospects in all of Kentucky’s 2020 Class, in Sophomore All-State DE/OL prospect, Jordan Vaughn. Vaughn, a two-way nightmare to counter, is listed at 6-5, 245. I would wager his actual weight is more in the 255-265 range. He is really good and where he plays in college, and on what side of the line, may be undetermined; but the fact he is a Saturday player is a no-doubter. Of course don’t forget Sophomore All-State DL, Blake Moody, making North-Hopkins’ rising Junior class as good as anyones in the entire Commonwealth. North-Hopkins would easily win most Districts or Regions in Class 4A, they just have the misfortune of playing in one which has become quite tough.
Knox Central; No. 4
Knox Central was one of the youngest teams in the Commonwealth of Kentucky last year, having only 6 Seniors on its entire roster. That means they had a lot of underclassmen get a lot of playing time. One of those is returning Freshman All-State RB Ethan Mills. Mills entered last season, third team, behind both Donovan Arthur and Jermel Carton but, when Arthur went down in the first series of the Letcher Central game, Mills stepped in to help Carton shoulder the load the rest of the year. Playing in 12 games, Mills carried the ball 91 times for 644 yards while having to share carries with Jermel Carton. Carton’s 1,263 yards from scrimmage are gone, leaving much of the team’s future ground production falling squarely on Mills. In addition to his yards from scrimmage, Mills also scored 9 rushing TDs during his freshman season, a number sure to increase with the added work-load. Still, only losing 6 seniors and having a stud returning at RB, from an 8-4, Class 4A, football team which narrowly lost to Western 12-3 in the KHSAA 2nd round of the playoffs, is not that bad of a position in which to find oneself. I haven’t talked to anyone at Panther Nation to give me their official position, but I think the Panthers have to like where they are sitting entering this next season. I would if I were they.
Franklin-Simpson; No. 5
Okay, they graduated 26 Seniors. Okay, they lost many across the defensive front, namely Terry Scarbrough, Dion Pearson, and Trevon Goodnight. However, Franklin-Simpson does return one of the quickest bursts into a defensive 2nd level I saw all year in down-hiller, Tre’ Bass. Bass is a 5-8, 180 pound bolt of lightening who starred for Franklin-Simpson in route to its winning the program’s 2nd State Championship and a stud running back can hide a lot of ailments, ask anyone. I believe Franklin-Simpson will come out of its side to face Hopkinsville for the Regional Championship in the State Quarters again this year. I don’t believe the Regional Championship will net the same result as last year. Whomever comes out of this game victorious, just like last year, has a good chance to be your State Champion in Class 4A.
Nearly making the top-5
Logan County; lost 15 seniors from off an 11-1 football team which lost to HHS in the 2nd round last year. Logan County returns QB Tyler Ezell, super-star DL, Caden McKinnis, 6-2, 255, Sophomore All-State RB Gary Hardy, and All-State Freshman LB, Zack Yates. Anyone hoping last year was a fluke will be disappointed. Logan is for real.
Wayne County; Wayne County graduated 20 seniors from off a 12-2 ball club who made it all the way to the State Semis.
Collins High School; Collins graduated 17 seniors from off an 11-3 ball club which gave Franklin-Simpson fits, through the air, prior to bowing out of the State Semi-final game.
Ashland Blazer; One of the youngest teams in the Commonwealth last season, lost only 6 seniors from off a 10-3 football team. Will be good again and may well advance to the Semis.
Louisville Western; They are always tough and turned it on in the play-offs last season after a rather pedestrian, regular season performance. Still, hard to replace 28 seniors from off an 8-5 ball club without there being some fall-off.
Well, this is what I think as I pour over the data. Of course this, and about a dollar, might buy you a cup of coffee, depending on where you get your coffee.
This is Fletcher Long reporting for Kentucky Prep Gridiron reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!
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