We, at Kentucky Prep Gridiron in connection with the Aspirations Fitness Institution, hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving celebration with the family or team, as the case may have presented itself. Now that the holiday is over, it’s back to business. In this piece we will break down the Receivers and the Tight End we selected All-State in both the 2021 and 2020 Classes. Obviously a TE has to be involved in the run game, or else why is he persistently referenced as the sixth offensive lineman, but we feel Receivers have to do more than play the 5-10 times a game they are targeted by the QB. A DB or LB should never be able to tell whether a WR, Slot, or TE is getting the ball from the stance, and whether or not the potential recipient appears to be getting the ball or sitting out the play because screw it, it’s not coming to me. How do they stalk block? Do they get down field and engage the 3rd level of defense? If they are a TE, can they block a DE, or, if the play is to the other side, can they scoop and seal backside? There’s more to playing the position than running around snagging pigskins. Finally, we did look at the WR and TE’s reception numbers. We may have worked harder here than at any other selected position. Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the selection committee, I now publish to you the All-State Receivers and Tight End (drum roll please)…
Class of 2021
Eli Blakey, 6’1″ 160, duPont Manual High School
It isn’t real easy to identify freshmen at the WR position, largely, because freshman don’t get much play at the Varsity level at that particular position. The Crimson Rams struggled this year at the Varsity level finishing its Class 6A, District 3 slate 3-8 overall. Then again, it is still 6A football and it’s not like they don’t play anyone either (Fern Creek, Butler, who ousted Male this year in the Playoffs, PRP, and St. Xavier 2Xs, just to make my point). Eli, after completing the Freshman season where he was a two-way star at WR and FS, came up and played in two regular season games but made the most of the opportunity, catching 5 passes against Louisville Male and Louisville Eastern. So what was the difference between Eli Blakey and another freshman WR? Blakey is an accomplished stalk blocker, route runner, who doesn’t take plays off when not targeted. There is nothing that sticks out on film worse than a young receiver who looks, right from the line of scrimmage, like the ball isn’t coming to him, jogs off the line a few steps and then watches the play. Remember, the camera is rolling for Pete’s sake. If you want to watch the game, buy a ticket.
Dekel Crowdus, 5’9″ 140, Frederick Douglas High School
When the selection committee met, Dekel had a real ardent supporter and fan on the committee. Now the committee faithfully disclosed any consanguine relations between themselves and candidates and, when the relative was taken up, if nominated, the committee member who was related didn’t participate in the selection process for that player. The committee chairman made it really clear that this isn’t little league baseball. We are not rewarding parents for managing in the league or for being on the Board of Directors of the baseball park. The committee took its job seriously in identifying and rewarding only those players who deserved it. I told you all that to tell you this, one on the committee, and he wasn’t, in any way, related to Dekel Crowdus, though Crowdus might be the MVP of the entire Class of 2021. Well, I am not sure of that, and as we relate the seasonal stats of some of the other Freshman All-Staters you will see why. Crowdus was, at least arguably, the best WR in the Commonwealth of Kentucky this year in the Class of 2021, I will grant the committee member that. Dekel, the 5’9” 140 pounder from Frederick Douglas’s 10-3 Class 6A, District 7 ball club caught 28 passes for 333 yards in 12 games with 3 receiving TDs. Additionally, he threw a TD pass. Dekel ran disciplined and hard routes whether the ball was coming his way or not and blocked down field actively and well. MVP of the class, I am not sure. Freshman All-State WR? Hell yes!
Class of 2020
TE Michael Mayer, 6’5″ 215, Covington Catholic High School
Michael Mayer, who started 13 games this year as a sophomore playing for what, next to Louisville Trinity, is regarded as the 2nd best team in Kentucky, regardless of Classification, has everything for which one looks at the Tight End position. Length? Michael is 6’5″ tall, so, check. Frame? Michael weighs in presently at 215 pounds and, at a college training table, with college strength and conditioning resources, and, when he is older, gaining mass and density both of which come along with manhood, he could easily add 40 plus pounds, the right way, and blossom into a fine college TE, so, check. Hands? On the season, Mayer caught 10 passes for 177 yards and 3 TDs, averaging 13.6 yards per reception working the middle of the field for the undefeated Colonels who face South Warren tonight in the Class 5A, Semi-State game in Bowling Green, Kentucky, so, check. Blocks? Mayer also is an active and punishing participant in the ground game as the OL’s sixth member, as evidenced by the 2911 rushing yards Covington Catholic gained this year to go along with the 2,461 it gained through the air via Michael’s brother, AJ, so, check. How good is Mayer? Well good enough to be holding offers right now from two Power 5, FBS schools in UK and Minnesota desiring his services. Mayer doesn’t profess a leader, and his brother is committed to Miami of Ohio, but Mayer has been to UK and has a cousin who played baseball there (Luke Maile played four years of baseball at UK and now plays for the Blue Jays, according to CatsIllustrated.com). At the TE position, Mayer has everything for which one searches. That is why he is on this All-State team.
Ethan Bednarczyk, 5’9″ 175, South Oldham High School
I, personally nominated Ethan for inclusion on this All-State team and was one of the first in the Commonwealth’s press corp to notice how really special he is. Allow me to take you down memory lane a second. On August 13, 2017, before the season even started for some, I wrote an article entitled, Crestwood Kentucky’s Ethan Bednarczyk…Spelling his name isn’t easy but it’s worth the effort! Yeah, I agree, the title is really clever, but, then again, I am more cleaver than the average bear. I first noticed Ethan back in the middle school playoffs when he was in 8th grade leading the 2015 South Oldham Dragons to one of the finest seasons any team from the Louisville Metropolitan area has ever had at that level. Ethan was a standout on that team. I then saw Bednarczyk on the Kentucky FBU team which played in the Final Four in FBU’s National football championship and enjoyed Ethan’s efforts playing both 7th and 8th grade Team Kentucky Future Stars football. Now, I am a Ricco Hughes fan. When Ricco says a kid can play, I can’t think of a time one of his Future Stars didn’t blossom into the Star he predicted. Maybe that is why Ricco makes his living as a Professional Sports Agent representing Kentuckians playing in the NFL. Ethan hasn’t disappointed. Bednarczyk doesn’t just play Class 5A football but he plays for a team which is loaded. South Oldham followed up Ethan’s freshman year, one in which the South Oldham Dragons made it all the way to the State Semis before losing a shoot-out to Pulaski 62-54 and capping off a 12-2 season, with a trip to the Regional Finals and a match-up with Covington Catholic, whose prowess is above set forth. While they lost to Covington Catholic, the Dragons still managed a 10-2 work slate. I noted in my article on August 13, that Bednarczyk had attended the Best of the Midwest combine, pre-season, and posted a pro-shuttle (5-10-5) of 4.3 and a 9’6″ broad jump (measuring hip explosion). Ethan lead the Dragons, this year, in Receptions, Receiving Yards, TDs, and Yards per Catch, where he averaged 25 yards per. Ethan, at 175 pounds, may be the most explosive athlete in his class. Ethan has been clocked at 4.7 (8th grade time, undoubtedly much faster now), bench presses 300 pounds, Back Squats 425, Power Cleans 250, while broad jumping 9’6.” Those number are very significant and will sell college coaches on this kid as persuasively as it sold the committee and me. The committee felt Bednarczyk reminded us of a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type. In any event, he was a sure All-Stater to us for his production, athleticism, and other intangibles.
Jake Sloan, 6’3″ 190 Pulaski County High School
Pulaski County had a tough year. The Class 5A, District 7 team finished this year 4-7, bowing out to Harlan County in the KHSAA’s first round of the playoffs. There are those who will contend Pulaski won enough last year, 13-3 overall, losing, in the State Championship game, to BGHS 70-22. In any event, the boys from Somerset, Kentucky had the Sun set on it’s return to the Championship in the very first round. Who didn’t have a tough year, in the least, was former Team Kentucky FBU player, Jake Sloan, who stepped right in at Pulaski County, taking over for the departed Jake Johnson. Isn’t it weird the leading receiver seems to always be Christened Jake? Oh well, I digress. The 2017 Jake (Sloan not Johnson), in 11 games, caught 73 passes for 936 yards receiving and 6 TD receptions. At 12.82 yards per reception, roughly, the committee was convinced not all of the 73 pass receptions were caught in the screen game. The film confirmed this for us. Matt Hendricks caught the next highest amount of passes on the team at 51, which means, Sloan and Hendricks were 124 of the 233 passes QB Wiley Cain completed. That correlates to slightly over 53% of Cain’s throws were completed to two receivers and almost 1/3 of Cain’s competed throws were to Sloan. This sophomore receiver has good down field speed and excellent length and is stout enough to put defenders on his back and use his fantastic hands and long arms to high point footballs all while shielding DBs away from the football. Sloan runs disciplined routes and comes off the line of scrimmage hard, whether he is the intended target or not and is active in the down field running game. Jake Sloan was a sure-fire All-State WR in the committee’s opinion and one deservedly on a lot of schools’ radar.
Izayah Cummings, 6’4″ 200, Louisville Male Traditional High School
I will be the first to admit Izayah Cummings’ reception stats don’t leap off the page at you. In 7 games this year, Izayah caught 11 passes for 268 yards and 4 TDs. Now, that is a yards per catch figure of more than 24 yards a reception, which does jump off the page, or it did with this selection committee. The numbers were good enough for Murray State and Cincinnati to pull the trigger on the young sophomore. We have information that other teams have indicated they intend to pull the trigger too when they get to see Izayah in person. The receiver’s coach at Cincinnati is Joker Phillips, by the way, and I am inclined to trust his receiver evaluations. Louisville Male plays football in Kentucky’s highest classification and may have one of the hardest paths in the playoffs to even reach a Championship game in all of the Commonwealth. Cummings’ Male team went 9-3 this year playing the likes of Louisville Trinity, Pleasure Ridge Park, St. Xavier, and Butler. Cummings had to work a little bit to get himself open as the DBs on these teams are also being recruited. Butler beat Male in the playoffs, this year, for the first win Butler has had against Male in some 26 seasons, so the season didn’t end the way the Bulldogs would have liked. Cummings also had another receiver in the rotation with whom to contend for passes in Senior, Ethan Bibb, who caught 57 passes this year. Going forward, we believe Cummings’ production is sure to increase with his being targeted more. Cummings is a disciplined route runner who gives consistent effort, whether the pass is coming to him or not, and who is an active run blocker down the field. His frame is exactly what next level football teams crave as he has the length, height, and frame to cause severe match-up problems with shorter Corners down field and the speed to separate when he gets there. The selection committee is proud to promote Izayah Cummings to this year’s Sophomore All-State Football Team.
Well, I hope this article detailing how the Receivers and our TE were selected from the 2020 & 2021 classes was somewhat illuminating. We will tackle another position grouping sometime this week-end so keep checking. Until then, this is Fletcher Long for Kentucky Prep Gridiron reminding all those playing football tonight to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!