Every year, leading into the beginning of the season, we pick the best five teams in each of the KHSAA’s six (6) classifications. That is breaking down 30-teams, no easy task for anyone.
The below is how we see 1A shaking out among its five (5) best teams. It will be interesting to check this at the end of the year and see how we fared.
No. 1, Pikeville Panthers;
QB Isaac Duty returns after throwing for over 1,500-yards as a sophomore and being picked only once while throwing 21-TD’s. Duty also ran for 4-TD’s. Blake Caudill will try to step into departed Blake Birchfield’s shoes (2,031-yards rushing and 35 rushing TD’s) which won’t be easy. Tayvian Boykins (’24) was among Duty’s favorite targets a year ago and caught 30-passes. He’s back for his senior year. Jacob Rogers returns to handle the place-kicking. He converted 64 PAT’s a year ago and was money on 2/3rd’s of his three point attempts. Defensively, Brenden Anthony returns for his junior season having 120-stops as a sophomore. Anthony (’25) also recorded 13-TFL’s and 3-QB-sacks. We don’t usually comment much on transfers but our sources tell us Isiah Stanley (’25) has moved from Belfry to Pikeville. If so, the 6’4,” 200-pound OLB will make Panther fans less cognizant of losing some of its better defenders off of last year’s squad.
No. 2, Raceland Rams;
Coach Salmons’ squad made it to Kroger Field a year ago before bowing out to eventual champion, Pikeville. The Rams return the most polished throwing QB in the classification in Logan Lundy. Lundy (’24) threw for close to 2,400-yards and 35-TD’s a year ago against only 8-picks. Lundy wasn’t bad with his feet, gaining close to 450-yards on the ground and 7-ground scores. Noah Wallace (’24) was the leading rusher and the 900-yard ground gainer returns for his senior year. Isaac Browning (’24) wasn’t exactly a dog in ’22, gaining 666-yards himself with 9-ground scores to Wallace’s 12. Twenty-one (21) rushing scores between the two isn’t too shabby. Wallace, also a LBer was the team’s leading tackler and he registered 7-tackles behind the line, recovered a fumble and picked three (3) passes. Cameron Bell (’24) is also back and he led the team with 4.5-sacks a year ago to go along with his 6-TFL’s.
No. 3, Hazard Bulldogs;
The Bulldogs were 8-5 in ’22 and lost by a mere three (3) points in the Regional Final to state finalist Raceland. Max Pelfry is among the very best athletes in the mountains. He threw for 1,821-yards and 21-TD’s a year ago as only a sophomore. Pelfry also was the ball club’s second leading rusher. Max Johnson is going to be a big loss. That said, the Bulldogs always have a bevy of talented athletes restocking the cupboard from its middle school ranks. Memphis Blankenship (’25) was among the better defenders in his graduating class, particularly in the mountains, and he had 88-stops a year ago as only a sophomore. Classmate, Gaige Logan contributed 66-registered stops, 2-FF’s, and a FR. Keep a close eye on young Maddox Bryant as he is one of ’27’s top young players and someone we think will hit the field early and often in ’23.
No. 4, Holy Cross (Louisville) Cougars;
Holy Cross is coming off a 10-win campaign and a trip to the semi-finals where the Cougars were rudely upended by Raceland. The Cougars have been teetering on the edge of competing for a 1A title for several years and seem to almost always be in contention. Joey Foushee returns from a year which would see him corral 37-aerials if we can find someone to get the ball to him in the absence of Chris Perry who depleted his eligibility. Jamie Jones looks to get first dibs. Jamari Pennebaker will be a sophomore and he had a productive year as a freshman. He will be the top returning rusher and will have to pick up the slack left from Ballard and Perry graduating. Jayse Hardesty may be the most versatile athlete on the entire team. Hardesty is a RB, WR, DB, PK, P and will be the team’s leading returning scorer.
No. 5, Middlesboro High School Yellow-Jackets;
Middlesboro moves down from 2A and is not too far removed from a 13-1 finish at that level a couple years ago. Middlesboro is coached by a legend a fact which was well demonstrated in its game with Williamsburg, one of the better, traditional teams at the 1A level. The Yellow Jackets have amply shown it will be a tough match once it settles into the 1A class. Middlesboro won 7-games a year ago, in 2A, and return a “Mr. Football” candidate in Cayden Grigsby (’24) at QB. Grisgby, in ’22, threw for close to 1,500-yards and rushed for nearly 1,100. He scored 34-TD’s total, 17-by land and 17-by air. These guys will be tough and Grigsby will be a real problem for the classification to have to contain.
There it is folks, the top-5 for 1A. Join us tomorrow as we break down the 2A classification.
This is Fletcher W. Long, reporting for KPGFootball, reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!
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