Preseason Breakdown: @BellCoFootball (Featured Photo: Jay Compton GM/Editor Sun-Courier)

It would be easy to believe the Bell County Bobcats would be reeling in 2020. After all, how many programs could withstand the loss of a QB signed and headed to play football in the FBS (Navy), much less one who accounted for 1,642-yards passing, 1,244-yards rushing and 36-TDs (passing and rushing) on the year. Stephney led his team in scoring. He also led his team to the Class 3A Title Game and a 14-1 record.

He’s gone now. Is there enough left to compete at the same or similar level?

Before we answer, we were the publication which first published Danville would have trouble surviving life without Dmauriae VanCleave. We believed this in spite his being one of only a handful of seniors graduating from off of the Admirals’ 2017 Championship Team.

Man-o-man did you guys ride us about that prediction back then. Remember?

We believed this because some losses are easier to absorb than others. Sometimes losing a VanCleave (Danville) or a Wandale Robinson (Western) can change your whole outlook the next year. The lower the classification in which a team competes the more that appears so.

Going into 2020, the Bobcats scheduled foes will be sad to hear there is plenty left in the cupboard for Coach Dudley Hilton’s charges. The most important returner being Coach Hilton himself.

Coach Hilton, with his 14-1 in the books in 2019, is now (assuming our math is correct) 394-123 over his 41-years of coaching. He has been to the Championship game 4-times, winning 3 and losing this last one to Belfry. Hilton is Kentucky’s 2nd-All-Time winningest football coach. Any team coached by Dudley Hilton has a chance to win, each and every year, each and every week.

Coach Hilton isn’t alone in the returning stars category. Bell County’s leading rusher from a year ago returns in RB, Brandon Baker. Baker is 6-2, 175-pounds and had a splendid sophomore campaign as the team’s primary ball-carrier not named, “Stephney.”

Baker, pictured to the upper-right, rushed for 1,418-yards in 2019 on only 156-carries. He had 17-rushing TDs and was the team’s 2nd leading scorer. Baker is a Class of 2022-guy.

The team’s leading receiver is also returning in Jason Jones. Jones, Class of 2021, collected 48-aerials in 2019 for nearly 1,000-yards receiving (968). He also had 13-TDs, all of which is right impressive for a receiver on a “Mountain team.” Mountain teams are more prone to producing austere rushing statistics than passing or receiving stats, at least historically.

Defensively, the picture is certain pretty rosy as all “big-timers” statistically, except Stephney, return in 2020. The leading tackler in 2019 was Hunter Bailey (2021). Yep, he’s back!

Hunter, pictured to the right, is one of Kentucky’s very best at the LB-position throughout the commonwealth in one of Kentucky’s deepest position groups (’21 LBs). Bailey comes off a 133-tackle effort in 2019 with 6-TFLs, 1-sack, a FF, and a FR. Interestingly, this kid also runs the 40 in 4.68-seconds, has scored a 27 on his ACT, and is 6-1 and weighs a thickly muscled, 210-pounds.

His classroom performance, coupled with his on-field play, puts him in line for some interesting opportunities in football at the next level. He’s flying a little under the radar. Let’s see if that is still true when this article gets distributed.

Another stalwart on Defense returns in No. 44, Cage Baker. Baker is a 6-6, 240-pound DE/TE combo who had 4-sacks to be second on the team in that category in 2019. Tyson Thomas lead the team in sacks to go along with his 100-tackles in 2019 and his 17-TFLs. Thompson is 5-10, 200-pounds and both Baker and he are 2021’s.

Last, but certainly not least, we have Jonathan Lankford (2021) returning in the defensive 3rd-level. This kid may have been the defense’s version of London Stephney, even though Stephney did play defense.

Lankford had 7-picks last season. In addition, he tallied 177-return-yards and a couple pick-sixes among those 7-opportunities. Lankford also tallied 57-tackles (really good from the defense’s 3rd-level), 2-TFLs, a QB-Sack, while both forcing and recovering a fumble.

So, you see, all of you who hoped Bell County would be down in 2020, we are afraid you may be a wee-bit disappointed. Will they win it all in 2020? The answer is, they could. They certainly are a threat to make the deciding game again in 2020.

The problem is, standing in its way, is a Belfry team which has a coach which has won more than Hilton, in Phillip Haywood, with a roster returning just as many of its top performers. Now both teams lose considerable talent at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, and face rebuilding years in the Fall of 2021. However, I suppose we will just have to wait until next season to fret about that.

This is Coach HB Lyon, reporting for KPGFootball, and we’re JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!

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