KPG’s way too early, preseason, Kentucky Class 2A top 5

First of all,  I would like to thank Tommy Wolford for taking time out of his schedule to weigh in on the last two preseason polls we have researched. Tommy and I are buddies and his son Ethan Wolford  is not only on our AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State football team, but, I believe the top of the 2020 Class at his position in the entire Commonwealth. Just so no one blames Tommy, I didn’t go along with how he saw Class 3A as he had Boyle repeating. As for Class 2A, it appears we don’t see eye to eye on this class either. Tommy had it Danville, Mayfield, CAL, DeSalles, and LCA. We agree on which 5, but at the risk of becoming Danville, Kentucky’s public enemy number 1 (I love you guys I really do), here is the order in which I see it…

Mayfield High School; No. 1…

Mayfield, under Joe Morris, has won six State Titles and well over 200 games, with a winning percentage well exceeding 80 percent. I knew Mayfield was for real, last year, when it went on the road and beat Union City High School (Tennessee) 41-0. The Golden Tornado rebounded from that showing to win the Class 2A State Championship in Tennessee, a state thought to play a higher brand of football than its northernly neighbor. Mayfield lost the State Championship to Danville 35-21 last season largely in part to an unbelievable individual performance by a Danville player Dmauriae VanCleave.  VanCleave scored 4 TDs and intercepted two passes in the State Title game. VanCleave also had 10 carries for 103 yards and two scores; caught 5 passes for 42 yards and a score; and returned a punt 60 yards for another score.  VanCleave is gone and I am not really sure how Danville replaces him, which is why they aren’t ranked any higher than I have them.

Mayfield returns outgoing Junior and rising Senior Kent Trey Matthews. Matthews ran the ball, this past season, 110 times for over 1,000 years and 11 scores. Not only does Matthews return but Travon Halliburton also returns. As a sophomore, Halliburton scored 5 rushing TDs for Mayfield interspersed over his 70 carries for 531 yards. Also back is Connor Guthrie who carried it 62 times last season for 397 yards and 5 scores on the ground. Guthrie also completed 37 in 59 attempts through the air for 626 yards and another 9 TDs passing. Speaking of passers, Jaden Stinsen is back for Coach Morris. Last year as a sophomore, Stinson attempted 183 passes, completing 116, for 2,007 yards and 24 passing TDs against only 5 interceptions. Jordan Harrison and his 31 receptions for 606 yards and 10 scores have departed, as had Jack Murrell and his 27 receptions for 460 yards and 2 scores. However, Kent Trey Matthews and his 34 receptions for 598 yards and 11 scores return as does Daniel Alonzo’s 33 receptions for 388 yards and 3 scores.

Defensively, while DL Austin Ashley’s 2 recovered fumbles are lost to graduation, Mayfield still can rely on DE’s Brady Smith and Quorterrius Cherry and they recovered 4 fumbles between them. Combine that with Alonzo and Guthrie’s 8 interceptions (4 a piece) that has 4 returning defenders who gave the offense, over the course of the season, 12 additional possessions to what they were slated to enjoy. The Defense has to find suitable replacements for DB Denzel Perry and LB Nate Fox and the 3 interceptions, a piece, each of them snagged. All things considered, KPG likes Mayfield to take home the State Title in Class 2A for the first time since 2015.

Christian Academy of Louisville; No. 2…

Christian Academy of Louisville won the State Championship in Class 2A in 2016 but lost a lot of production from off of that particular club. No one, maybe outside of CAL, could have expected they would get as close to repeating last year as they did (lost in the State Semis to Mayfield, at Mayfield 21-14). CAL was a young ball club last year only lost 10 total seniors off an 11-3 team. The Centurions beat Class 5A, South Oldham, in last year’s season opener by two touchdowns and Class 6A Central Hardin 15-0. CAL boasts two of the best freshmen in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and they are twins. Both Brandt and Braden Babin were prominently featured as freshmen in the Centurion game plan and both of them made our AFI-KPG Freshman All-State Football team. Brandt Babin, as a freshman, gained 736 yards in 125 attempts for 11 scores. Also returning for CAL are Harrison Zimmerer, who as a sophomore gained 388 yards rushing with 7 rushing TDs and Milton Wright, who during his Junior season gained 346 yards rushing with 7 rushing TDs. Between the three, CAL returns 25 rushing TDs from the season prior.

CAL’s quarterback, Austin Carr, will return for his senior campaign. As a junior, Carr completed 72 of his 130 passing attempts for 1,124 yards and 11 TDs with only 3 interceptions. Someone going forward on which the CAL community is rightfully high is Grant Russell. Russell played sparingly as a sophomore, but what we did see in limited duty looks right effective as Russell completed 10 of his 12 attempts for 181 yards and 2 scores.

In addition to what Milton Wright accomplished in the ground attack, he also caught 34 balls as a junior for 685 yards and 9 scores. All told, Wright accounted for 110, either running or catching TDs, of the team’s 398 total points scored on the season. As those numbers reflect, CAL was a defensive squad who scored just enough to wind up on the left side of the ledger the vast majority of time. Defensively, the Centurions were stout and there is no reason they won’t be again this season. It really helps when your defense can get your offense extra possessions and Elijah Smith (5 picks) and Milton Wright (4 picks) did just that last year with the tandem securing 9 addition possessions via interceptions. The loss of Senior Defensive lineman Nicholas Olsofka, who had 88 tackles last year from off the defensive front, will hurt but LBs Braden Hafling, Austin Collins, and AFI-KPG Freshman All-Stater Brandt Babin all return to pick up whatever slack there may be.

Lexington Christian Academy, No. 3…

Lexington Christian Academy (LCA) graduated 12 seniors from an 11-3 ball club which got handled last year in the playoffs by Danville 49-7 in the Regional Championship game. The game was played in Danville and the game between the two was closer during the regular season, when played at LCA, with LCA still losing to Danville 44-28 on October 20, 2017. With the firepower Danville had last year, who did play with them. Not too many. LCA lost Senior Logan Nieves who gained 1,008 yards for them last season over 152 rushing attempts and scored 15 rushing TDs. I know that sounds pretty bad. Well there is good news. Dillon Wheatley is back for his Junior year, next season. Last year Wheatley carried it 269 times for 1,747 yards and 31 rushing touchdowns. That number is so astounding I thought using an abbreviation for touchdown (i.e. “TD”) as I am prone to do, would cheapen it somehow so I didn’t. Alright, go ahead and ask me how we missed a sophomore RB who gained 1,747 yards and scored 31 rushing touchdowns on our AFI-KPG All-State football team? The answer…we screwed the pooch. Our bad! Our entire selection committee should be embarrassed. Hey Dillon Wheatley, we’re sorry.

Back to the article, LCA losing Logan Nieves is pretty big. I mean, Nieves not only rushed it 152 times for over 1,000 yards and scored 15 rushing TDs but he played quarterback. Logan, last season, completed 141 of his 211 passing attempts for 2,110 passing yards and 22 TDs against 8 picks. How do you replace a player who accounted for 37 TDs either throwing or running? I would suggest you give it more to Wheatley.

It is probably just as good Nieves is gone anyway as his favorite targets, Drayden Burton (50 receptions for 787 yards and 7 scores) and Caelan Lebryk (46 receptions for 766 yards and 7 scores), went with him. LCA still has a reliable, up and coming, signal caller in Josh McClung to man the QB slot for them and McClung still has Blane Hardin returning to target down field. As a sophomore, McClung completed 48 of 68 passes for 449 yards and 5 TDs with only one pick and Hardin, as a junior, caught 31 passes for 324 yards and 4 scores. If that doesn’t work….give the damn ball to Wheatley!

On defense, LCA returns all of its previous seasons top tacklers. Linebackers Kaleb Bolton (73 stops) and Jayden Barnhardt (65 tackles) return as does Walker Parks, who during his sophomore season, tallied 49 tackles playing along the LCA defensive front. LCA, in either Class 2A or any Classification, for that matter, should be the class of Lexington prep football this upcoming Fall.

Saint Francis DeSalles High School; No. 4…

On my honor, whatever that is worth, I promise I didn’t pick this school just because I am Catholic. First of all, DeSalles, for much of last season, looked like the “class” of Class 2A to me. They won their first 12 games before losing in the State Quarters to a CAL team they had beaten pretty soundly during the year. The Colts, coached by Harold Davis, also beat Class 6A Louisville Ballard 37-22, Class 6A, 8 win, Butler County 28-27, and Class 6A North Hardin from Elizabethtown 42-0. Throw in their beating Class 5A Louisville Southern 41-6, and they went 4-0 last year against Classes 5 and 6A. I know what you are going to tell me, but Fletcher, DeSalles graduated 24 Seniors from off of that team, how can you have them in the top 5? As we discussed yesterday, sometimes its not the number you graduate but whom the Seniors were and whom you have left.

The Colts return AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Athlete Jordan Watkins. Watkins, last season gained 751 yards rushing and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Jordan also scored 12 rushing TDs and caught another 3 TD receptions for 15 total TDs scored for the Sophomore. Watkins caught 10 passes for 165 yards in receptions for 16.5 yards per catch. Watkins has been timed at 11 flat in the 100 meters in track so he is a true 4.5 second, 40 kind of guy. Remember, especially in High School football, or really, football at any level, speed both kills and thrills. The Colts will miss departing senior Chase Pfaadt who reliably rolled up 543 yards, last year, in only 101 attempts and 10 TDs.

The Colts return their reliable QB Aaron Pfaadt, Chase’s brother, who, during his Junior season completed 43 of his 96 passes for 634 yards and 6 TDs against 3 picks. The QB of the future, and one who could overtake Pfaadt this season conceivably, is Antoine Johnson. Johnson, over his sophomore season, completed 14 of 25 passes for 141 yards and 3 scores in limited duty. Defensively, the Colts lose all three of its leading tacklers in Omari Milligan, Alex Schneider, and Santonio Hickman, but have no fear, the Colts have up and coming the best DE prospect in the Class of 2020, Commonwealth-wide, in 6-3, 240 pound, AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Demetri Meaty Scott. Still, 24 Seniors is a lot of experience to have to replace. If it weren’t for that, the Colts definitely finish higher in this poll.

Danville High School; No. 5…

Man, is Danville, Kentucky ever going to be out for me. How can I even think of putting a 15-0, defending State Champion in Class 2A, with 11 State Titles on its résumé, number 5 on my preseason poll? I mean, what in the world am I smoking? Well, last season Danville High School was loaded. In my opinion, if they were going to win another title, last year was the year they were going to do it. I suppose the good news is they made it happen while the horses were still in the stable. I know Danville only lost 11 seniors from off its Championship team. Sometimes its not the number of seniors you lose, but who they are, and what they contributed.

First of all, Dmauriae VanCleave, who may have been diminutive but also may have been the fastest football player in Kentucky not playing in Louisville, is gone. What that means his 82 receptions he contributed last season are gone with him, his 1095 receiving yards are gone with him, his 14 touchdown receptions are gone with him, his 762 rushing yards he gained from scrimmage are gone with him, his 11 rushing TDs are gone with him, his 6 interceptions are gone with him, and his special teams TDs he scored (remember the 60 yarder he housed in the State Title game?) are gone with him. If you throw in David Walker and Jaleel Warren, both graduating, that is 158 receptions and 30 touchdown receptions gone, not to mention 2,180 receiving yards out the window. QB Zach Thornton returns but 2,180 of the 2,567 yards he gained throwing the ball is not. In addition, of the 37 TDs he threw last season, the receiver, on 30 of the 37 balls caught for scores, has exhausted his eligibility.

Well, I suppose Danville will have to just run the ball you say. DonLevy Harris graduated taking his 1,138 yards and 14 TDs with him and we have already discussed VanCleave. All told, on the ground, Danville High School is losing 1,900 rushing yards and 25 rushing TDs to go with the 2,180 receiving yards of production gone and the 30 receiving TDs scored last year which won’t be in uniform this next Fall.

Defensively, Danville has to replace VanCleave’s 6 interceptions and DonLeavy Harris’ 117 tackles, but do return Darrian Bell who had 144 stops his sophomore season and Kishown Bartleson who tallied 76 tackles while a junior. Why is Danville not rated higher? They aren’t picked to defend because, while only losing 11 seniors, the eleven they lost represented 85% of its passing production, 81% of its TD receptions, 56% of its point production for the season,  and 71% of its ground production. Maybe I am Chicken Little, and maybe the sky really isn’t falling, but I don’t see you replacing that amount of production and defending your State Title. I have ranked Danville number 5 because I believe in Danville High School football, but come on, these other teams can ball a little too. Danville will still be a good football team, just not defending State Champion.

Close but no Cigar: Glasgow only graduated 9 seniors off a team who lost to Class 4 A, Allen County-Scottsville, and barely beat Russellville High School, a Class 2A opponent who struggled last year, at least by Russellville standards. However, Glasgow did beat Class 4A, play-off team, Warren East, and barely lost to Class 3A, heavyweight, E-Town 20-12 at home. Danville High School, who was loaded last season (hence the 15-0 record) smoked Glasgow 43-0 in the State Quarters. Why aren’t the Scotties in the top 5? Well, like Forrest Gump might say, the Scotties are like a box of chocolates…you never quite know which version of the Scotties you’re going to get!

This is how we see it at KPG. Take it for whatever you may find it is worth. This has been Fletcher Long reporting for Kentucky Prep Gridiron reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!

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5 comments

  1. I kinda agree with that. After thinking it over last night, I shouldn’t have put Danville at the top. They lost to much. But I usually go with the champs until they prove otherwise. However, I think their a little higher than 5. You might want to drive around Danville for a little while! Lol

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