Ten Freshmen Who Will Play


I remember it like it was yesterday. To be accurate it was only last year. Coach Craig Clayton had just gotten hired at Hoptown High School and he called me as the two of us have gone back quite a ways. Fletcher, listen, I know William is a good player but I don’t play freshman. I said Okay, coach. Clayton went on…I’m serious, I don’t play freshmen, he probably will get some JV run, and he certainly will be a star for the freshman team, but don’t expect him to play Friday night. To which I responded, Yes sir. I want you to know exactly none of this phone call meant anything to me. I knew the status of his roster (apparently better than he at that moment) and I knew if William came into the fall benching more than 250 pounds and squatting more than 405 pounds, Clayton would have to play him. Well, he played 49 quarters of varsity football, made the freshman All-State team, and was nominated for the MaxPreps Freshman All-American team.

There is a lesson to be learned here and it is this…no coach really decides whether or not you will play. That decision is yours. Work hard, train, lift, run, and report to camp whipping everyone’s butt and dare the coach to keep you out of the lineup. He will play you if he has no other choice. Coaches want to win football games. For some of them, winning football games is paramount to their continued employment. If you are among the best they have, you will play, freshman or not. There are no freshman, sophomores, juniors, or seniors on a varsity high school football team, there are only players.

Who will be the Austin Gough, the Justice Thompson, the Darion Dearinger, the Aaron Hash, or the William Long of the 2018 high school football season? We at KPGFootball have an opinion on this and these five we elected to feature in this article, plus the five we listed at the end, are in no particular order. The five incoming freshman, whom we will highlight, will play on Friday nights plus the five at the end of the article, whom we didn’t feature herein, but whom we have before been featured, will also play…

Brandon Hobbs, Louisville Male High School;

Dobbs‘ listed positions are nose, defensive tackle, and defensive end. Now this past summer at the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars Classic, I mostly saw him deployed along the interior as opposed to at end. I would say he played anywhere from a one to three technique from where I was sitting. What I can tell is that he was completely unblock-able and, between Belfry’s Jacoby Thornsbury and him, Tennessee was effectively dissuaded from trying the middle all day long. Any time the ball was run up the middle, Tennessee suffered dire enough consequences to dissuade any further attempts. Not sure of Dobbs‘ exact physical dimensions but I would put him at close to 6-2.5 and in the ball park of 250 pounds. If he moves as well as it appeared from watching him play, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him permanently deployed at DE. Dobbs reminds me of Anderson County’s Darion Dearinger, and that is heady praise indeed.

Dobbs trains with Chris Vaughn with Aspirations Fitness Institute in Louisville and the picture of him to the left of this paragraph shows him standing next to Chris Vaughn, proprietor. Now Vaugh is 6-5 and I would wager Vaughn is in the 260-270 pound range so comparing the two, you get some idea of Dobbs’ physical dimensions. In any event, you, at least get some estimate of his height. Brandon is active with his hands and is excellent moving his feet and gaining both separation and penetration into the backfield causing all kinds of havoc. Brandon has a low get-off  and a quick burst at the snap making him in the OL’s face before the lineman even has a chance to fire off. Once Brandon gets his hands on a lineman, he can either shed, club, rip, or swim his way to making backfield tackles.

I can tell you this, Brandon has won the Defensive MVP in almost everything in which he has ever competed on a football field. For Team Kentucky, this summer in the Future Stars Classic, Dobbs had 12 tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble playing against competition which amounts to a high school varsity game most places. Male is Class 6A school which doesn’t play freshmen, according to them. They will play this one.

Jacoby Thornsbury, Belfry High School;

Thornsbury is from Belfry, Kentucky and is 5-10 inches tall and weighs in at a robust, but powerful, 280 pounds. He played in an All-American game just yesterday. In that game, his stat line was 16 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 forced fumbles. He was even lined up some as a lead blocker out of the backfield. This game must have been sponsored by Bayer aspirin. I know some interior offensive linemen who will be searching the medicine cabinet for some this morning.

Less than a year ago, one of the premier publications covering middle school and youth football nationally, Youth1 published an article on Jacoby. The article has been, for your ease and convenience, linked here. In the article, Youth1 called Thornsbury…a versatile talented football player…[whose] main position is defensive lineman, but he can also contribute as an offensive lineman at the tackle position. The article correctly noted his being a 2X Diamond All-American and a 2X FBU Top Gun selection who also was chosen and participated in the Legends All-American Game and the DMAXX All-American Game.

Needless to say, Jacoby Thornsbury will enter camp this summer one of the more decorated middle school players to come through the commonwealth of Kentucky. That is not to say he doesn’t have anywhere for his game to improve, but anywhere his game may be deficient (like for instance, he isn’t the fastest D-lineman, top-end, I have ever seen), that deficiency is attributable to his being young and will be shortly remedied as he grows, matures, and weight trains as a part of the high school program. Thornsbury would start, day one, for a lot of high schools but he doesn’t attend a lot of high schools, he attends Belfry High School, which is well-stocked on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I don’t care what Belfry has along its lines of scrimmage (which I happen to know is a lot), this kid will play and start by year’s end along the defensive front, probably at nose.

Will Darragh, South Oldham High School;

During his 8th grade year, Darragh led the Dragons to a 9-2 record and a Mid-Bluegrass Conference Championship. Darragh rushed for 801 yards, averaging 7.92 yards every time it was handed to him with 13 rushing TDs. Darragh also logged 9 receptions, 3 of which for TDs, for another 175 yards receiving. Darragh averaged 19.44 yards per reception. It hurt him playing for his Dad and his Dad wanting to avoid the appearance of favoring his son. I included Darragh’s offensive stats because I wanted to accentuate the fact the kid has elite speed with his dimensions because like Austin Gough before him, Darragh will start, day one, at South Oldham at linebacker. Darrah had an unbelievable combine in Louisville this for Future Stars where the 6-0, 185 pound linebacker/running back, who is 14 years old, ran the 40 in 4.84 and shuttled (5-10-5) 4.63. Darragh has just started lifting to get ready for high school football where he is benching 185, squatting 275, pulling 315 (deadlift), and power cleaning 185 (explosive). Since running a 4.84 outside on grass in wet and soggy conditions, the kid has run a 4.72 40 yard dash on turf.

We interviewed his linebacker coach from Kentucky Future Stars’, 8th grade staff.  He had lots to say about Will Darragh. He stuck out. Darragh had the top numbers at the combine for a linebacker, he’s a larger version of Ben Vaughn from E-Town. Reminds me of the Gough kid from last year, excellently compares. His numbers for an 8th grader and his size were really phenomenal. I can not stress this enough…he was the class of the combine at his position, number one. Now Darragh is coming off getting his shoulder scoped which has slowed his progression somewhat, and I know South Oldham is a top Class 5A school, but this kid will not be kept out of the lineup. If you are a starting linebacker for the Dragons, look to your left and then your right because one of you is headed for the pine.

Vinny Johnson, WR, Louisville Male;

I have waxed eloquently before about the eye of Kentucky Future Stars’ Director Ricco Hughes when it comes to football talent. It is the keenest eye in Kentucky in my opinion, and I believe to be in possession of a pretty keen eye myself. Simply put, I haven’t seen a Future Star selected by Hughes yet who didn’t round into a present star. So you can imagine how quickly I started investigating a player when, out of the blue, and without any solicitation from me, I got a text message from Director Hughes which read gotta a kid you need to write about named Vinny Anthony, bad dude!!! I am not used to Ricco so vigorously advocating a prospect like that. Yeah, I have gotten a few the kid’s a player, or he’s pretty good, but bad dude!!!? Is he really worth three exclamations? After having seen him all summer, he’s probably worth four.

Here is what jumped out at me…Vinny is a player with really good size and the speed to gain separation once he hits the defensive back four. Vinny recently attended the FBU Regional Camp in Nashville, Tennessee where he scored an invite to Top Gun, after running a FAT (fully automated timed) 4.7 second forty yard dash. A fully automated 4.7 flat is really fast. That would probably make his hand-timed 40 yard dash in the high 4.5s to low 4.6s. Vinny has played a lot of big time football. In seventh grade he played for Team Kentucky Future Stars and played on the prestigious Team Kentucky FBU both as a seventh grader and eighth grader.

KPGFootball believes Vinny, a.k.a. Vincel Jr., to be Kentucky’s top WR prospect in the Class of 2022. He will attend school at Louisville Male and like we said above in the segment about Brandon Hobbs, Male is a program which claims to not play freshmen. He won’t break the varsity lineup as fast as Hobbs, but he will play on Friday nights.

Owen LeMaster, OG, Johnson Central High School;

I can give you four words for why Johnson County Middle School bullied its way to to a State Championship last season and why the football fortunes at Johnson Central High School are always so rosy. Players like Owen LeMaster. LeMaster played on both sides of the ball, at offensive guard and defensive tackle, for JCMS. However, we here at KPG Football believe he will play at offensive guard for the Eagles. LeMaster, at 6-0 and 240 pounds, is, along with Jacoby Thornsbury, one of the more decorated football players on the Kentucky’s class of 2022 roster. Owen is a Diamond Sports and a National Undergraduate Combine All-American to go along with numerous appearances on Team Kentucky’s FBU team and Team Kentucky Future Stars.

Now Owen plays for one of the premier, if not the premier, program in Kentucky’s 4A classification right now in Johnson Central. I have them preseason ranked number 2 and their being ranked behind Hopkinsville High School may be the result of my being a big, ole, homer. The boys from Johnson County are loaded. If there is one place you would expect it to be hard to get playing time for a program like that it would be along the line of scrimmage. If Owen LeMaster were a run of the mill rising 9th grader, he chances of playing would be bleak, if not zero. This summer at the Team Kentucky Future Stars’ camp LeMaster was described to me as looking like a grown man practicing with boys and that is why he will play. He isn’t the run of the mill rising 9th grader.

Owen LeMaster is 2022’s William Long. William Long got on the field for Hopkinsville High School because of his Herculean strength. LeMaster shares in that particular attribute and it will get him on the field on Friday nights sometime during the upcoming season. LeMaster will be awarded a letter by year’s end.

Five more Friday Nighters:

  1. Isaac MacNamee, Pikeville High School; QB
  2. Preston Agee, Campbell County High School, QB;
  3. Ben Vaughn, Taylor County, LB
  4. DeDrick D-shock Hamilton, Louisville Ballard, WR
  5. Landon Nokes, Eastern High School, OL/DL

This is Fletcher Long, reporting forKPGFootball reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!

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About Fletcher Long 1459 Articles
Two-time winner of Kentucky Press Association awards for excellence in writing and reporting news stories while Managing Editor of the Jackson (KY) Times-Voice

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