There are two picks here which may convince you we have lost our minds but, remember; we really study the status of the rosters going into any season. We assure you we haven’t lost our minds even in picking a team which was 4-7 a year ago to finish 5th. You’ll see…Fletcher W. Long, Senior Scout and Editorial Board Member, KPGFootball
The below teams are teams we believe will challenge for the title this coming Fall. Two of these teams are in the same district, Mayfield and Murray, and we usually don’t rank two teams among our top five from the same district but we did it in 1A so we thought, “what the heck.” Regardless of whom is in whose district, these are the five best teams in 2A entering the ’22 season. We have ranked them in the order we like them.
2A Top 5 preseason:
1. LCA Eagles, Dough Charles 14-1 in ’21, 2A Finalist
Who they will be missing: Xavier Brown, James Hall, Elijah Hammond, Anthony Johns, Wiles Johnson, Frankie Knight, Haynes Lalonde, Chance McGaughey, Mason Moore, Tyler Morris, Dorian Riddick, Ben Royse, Jeffrey Selby, Evan Thompson, Grant Vaught
Top Transfers: Cutter Boley (’24), 6-6, 200-pound QB transfer from LaRue County who has been clocked in the 40 at 4.71 and is the highest rated QB to come out of Kentucky in the last few decades. Boley has offers from Alabama, Michigan, Virginia Tech, UK, Missouri, UT, Pittsburgh, and plenty of others too numerous to list here. We believe there may be a top-flight running back and some linemen on both sides of the scrimmage line added before play opens.
JVontae Emerson (’23), 55-rushes for 500-yards and a pair of scores in ’21. Barring significant transfer which is rumored but on which our commenting would be contrary to magazine police, Emerson will be expected to take over the reins for the departed Xavier Brown and Jeremiah Riffle.
Parker Chaney (’24) is the real deal and will do much better than his 9-receptions for 167-yards and 4-scores he logged a year ago. Defensively, Chaney returns after a year where the safety logged 6-picks to lead the Eagles’ back third.
Will Rich (’24) may be the very best TE in his ’24 graduating class. If it isn’t Will Rich, it may well be Hayes Preston (’25) who is easily among the very best football players in his graduating class and many others too.
Johnny Drake (’23) was a major producer upfront for the Eagles and figures to be going forward too. The DL had 14.5 TFLs and 6-QB sacks in ’21.
Evan Brown (’23) had 4-picks, a pick-six, and a FR for the Eagles in ’21.
LB, Will Orberson (’24) brings back his 3-INTs, 2-pick-sixes, and 1-TFL to the 2nd level for his upcoming Junior season, so keep an eye on him.
KPGFootball Analysis: LCA is in the hunt for the title each year. Not many programs could lose what the Eagles lost and expect to even improve the following year. The Eagles are doing a fantastic job getting kids to college on the college’s dime, which makes the program a popular destination for kids hoping to matriculate next-level.
2. “Mighty” Mayfield Cardinals, Joe Morris, 12-2 in ’21 and lost to Beechwood in the Semis
Who they will be missing: Tre Barnes, Ethan Dowland, Kaleb Butler, Daniel Coles, Kylan Galbreath, Jake Mathis, Ethan Smith, Gabe Spalding, Knox Story, Justin Tyler, Nathan Watkins, Dalan Webb
There were rumors abound that Joe Morris was retiring. He did get inducted into the National High School Football Association’s Hall of Fame in the offseason and congratulations for that. The legendary coach who followed in his father’s footsteps at the helm of “Mighty Mayfield” is back this Fall and that trumps the return of any one player.
Zane Cartwright (’24) completed 127 of his 188 passing attempts for 2,225-yards and 23-TDs against only 3-INTs. Yessir, that is a completion percentage of 67.5%.
Jutarius Starks (’24) is a RB believed by the home folks as very likely to soften the blow of the departure of Kylan Galbreath a year ago. Starks gained 511-yards rushing on 73-carries with 12-rushing TDs as just a sophomore in ’21 and will be the team’s leading returning offensive scorer when the Fall opens. Starks is also pretty good defensively. Starks had 13-TFLs and 7.5 QB-sacks in ’21 to go along with his 57-total tackles making him the leading returning tackler in ’22 as well. We almost forgot that Starks also forced a fumble and recovered 2 a year ago.
Isaac Stevenson (’23) caught 40-balls a year ago for 637-receiving yards and 8-TDs and he figures to fill the voice caused by Daniel Coles’ departure.
Lincoln Suiter (’24) is back to handle the PATs and his conversion rate in ’21 was 92.4%.
Christian King (’25) was a perfect 10 for 10 in PATs himself just in case anything should shelve Suiter.
Brajone Dabney (’24) had three picks and a pick-six in ’21 making him the top returner in the defensive third level entering Fall.
KPGFootball Analysis: We know some Mayfield fans who would be furious if we were ranking the top 5 teams in the NFL and excluded Mayfield. The Cardinals expect to win and that is just one thing which makes them so darn good and why sites like ours love them so well. As long as Joe Morris is at the helm, this team is a threat to win a title every year.
3. Beechwood Tigers, Noel Rash, 15-0 and 2021 Class 2A State Champions
Who they will be missing: Brody Adams, Collier Barnes, Colin Conroe, Jake Conrad, Avery Cortney, Keaton Durrett, Carson Floyd, Carl Gabbard, Adam Gibbs, Michael Hatfield, Cameron Hergott, Brett Holladay, Tanner Jackson, Parker Mason, Brady Moore, Bryce Shepherd, Jack Sleet, Luke Slusher, Luke Stephenson-Hogan, Austin Suchanek, Colby Vanderpool
Well, former consensus “Mr. Football (2020),” Cameron Hergott, is not returning and that loss alone changes the fortunes of most teams across Kentucky. It is also the reason Hergott is highlighted, both in this section and the one previous. Hergott was a once in a career type player at the QB position who was even more dangerous with his feet than with his arm and he will now spend his Saturday’s toiling away in Roy Kidd stadium for the EKU Colonels. If we are being totally honest, Hergott beat teams as much with his brain as with any other part of his body.
We believe Clay Hayden (’25) will get the first look under center. Hayden completed half his passing attempts a year ago and threw for a pair of scores in mop-up duty which isn’t bad at all for a freshman. People around the Beechwood program are high on his potential.
Mitchell Berger (’23) is back and he had a very good campaign in ’21 considering he only got 67-carries from scrimmage. Berger accumulated 508-yards rushing and rushed for 10-TDs. He also caught 29-passes for another 560-yards with 7-TDs receiving to rank second on the team in offensive scoring a year ago and his added touches this coming season will only solidify him as the “real deal” on the football field.
Xavier Campbell (’24) is one of the most recruited defensive linemen in Kentucky. Campbell had 12-QB sacks in ’21 to go along with 2-FRs both of which were either tied for or held the team lead statistically outright.
Both Liam McCormack (’23) and Carson Craycraft (’23) logged a pair of picks a piece to rank among the team leaders.
Losing PK Jake Conrad will prove difficult. Conrad made 80-PATs in ’21 and was perfect in his FGs attempted (3 for 3). Maybe Mitchell Berger can kick.
KPGFootball Analysis: Frankly, Beechwood being Beechwood is the only reason it is expected they will still challenge for the title in the 2A classification in ’22. Just losing Hergott, and they lost more than just Hergott from off of last season’s title team, would be enough to doom a lot of programs to an “also ran.” However, this is Beechwood we’re writing about and not just some other program.
4. Murray High, Darren Bowling, 8-3 in ’21 losing to Mayfield in the second round
Who they will be missing: Caleb Gill, Tyrone Grogan, Mekhi Hudspeth, Zach Lasater, William Mitchum, Andrew Orr, Rowdy Sokolowski, Taut Vou, Cameron Youngblood
Xavier Biggers (’24) is not only splendid but he may be the best pure football player in the western end of Kentucky. Biggers figures to get the nod to take Rowdy Sokolowski’s place at the helm of Coach Bowling’s split veer offense and Biggers is hardly some scrub. Biggers may have only attempted two passes in ’21, but he did rush for 725-yards on only 71-carries and scored 9-rushing TDs. Biggers led the team with 5-receptions which went for 220-yards with all five of the receptions resulting in TDs. Biggers will be the team’s leading returning offensive scorer when the Tigers take the field in ’22. Defensively, Biggers collected 62-tackles a year ago with a TFL and an INT.
Gage Sokolowski (’23) returns and he had a big ’21 too. The “other Sokolowski” gained 754-yards rushing and scored 6-rushing TDs.
Ben Davis (’24) is back at PK and Davis converted on 84% of his PATs (42 of 50) in ’21.
Collin Wilson (’24), the top third level defender a year ago, returns to add to his pair of INTs he picked in ’21 in spite of his only playing in 5 of the team’s 11 games.
KPGFootball Analysis: One of our favorite lines in the movie “Remember the Titans” is the one where Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is describing his offense. “I run six plays, split veer” he says, “It’s like Novacaine. Just give it time, it always works.” Well guess what offense Darren Bowling runs? You guessed it…split veer. Like Boone before him, Bowling’s plays may all fit on a few sheets of paper but his guys run it to perfection and, once the system is in place, it produces championships. Bowling won two in Louisiana and three in Tennessee before getting the job at Murray High. Believe us when we say this…Coach Bowling and his Tigers will have to be dealt with before this things gets all said and done. Trust us!
5. Breathitt County, Kyle Moore, 4-7 in ’21 losing to 13-1 Middlesboro, 43-33, in the second round in Middlesboro
Who they will be missing: Connor Deaton, Ethan Gibson, Colton Herald, Braxton O’Hara, Teegan Smith, Jaylen Turner
Tyler Bryant (’24) has a similar frame to Jalen Turner and may throw it better than Jalen did. Bryant doesn’t bring to the table the nearly 1,000 yards rushing Turner was able to contribute, but it isn’t like he is incapable of escaping via land route when called upon.
Austin Sperry (’25) is one of the commonwealth’s best basketball prospects and has a D-1 offer already to prove it. Well, guess what? He is also one of the top receiving prospects in the ’25 class. Sperry caught 37-passes in ’21 as a freshman for 668-yards and 6-scores. The 6’3″ shooting guard has an explosive vertical, is one of the more dynamic dunkers in the eastern end of Kentucky, and runs the sprints (100m, 200m) for the high school track team. Translation…he’s one of the fastest, more vertically explosive, and lengthier WR prospects in Kentucky’s ’25 class. Sperry is far from just a basketball prospect at the D-1 level.
Isaac “Wheels” Turner (24) is a threat with the football in his hands in space and caught 39-passes in ’21 for 503-receiving yards and 4-scores.
Dillon Stacy (’24) led all pass catchers with 7-TDs receiving and he is back in action in ’22.
Bryce Hoskins (’23) is a huge target over the middle at 6-6, 260-pounds and caught 17-passes for 279-yards and 2-scores in ’21 to go along with his contributions as a blocker upfront and his defensive contributions at tackle where we really like him next level.
Braxton Terry (’25) will be back at PK looking to improve on his 19 for 30 performance a year ago and he has plenty of leg to do just that.
Kory Combs (’25) is one of the best at LBer in the ’25 class and will probably help fill the void in the backfield at RB too. Combs had over 130-tackles as a freshman.
Look for Breathitt to be both big and physical along both lines of scrimmage. Evan “Big E” Miller at OC and Jacob Parker (’24) at OG/OT could both be as good as either wants and is willing to work to be along the famed “Big Blue Wave” of an offensive front and just try to run it up the middle on either James Ogans (’24) or Gabe Fugate (’24) along the interior DL. Michael Hudson (’23) at DT is a star in the making around the 2A classification’s 7th district.
Future Star Alert: Class of ’26 Sawyer Hall is coming off a stint starting along the offensive front for Team Kentucky Future Stars (a.k.a. #Brotherhood). The 6-0, 280-pounder is a specimen and tailor-made to play along many offensive fronts “night-one, play-one” for over 95% of the teams in Kentucky fielding varsity football squads. How physically ready is he for the Friday-Night-Lights? How about this…he already bench presses 310-pounds and he hasn’t yet attended a single 9th-grade class. He is a night-one starter for the Bobcats, probably at OG.
KPGFootball Analysis: Being completely honest here, if we knew for sure Breathitt had a home run threat in the offensive backfield aligned at RB the Bobcats might slip up above Murray in this top-five. While 4-7 a year ago, Breathitt has one of the deeper and more talented pack of ’26s hitting any varsity roster across the Bluegrass this coming Fall. In addition to that, Breathitt played the pants off 13-1 Middlesboro twice and had some previously unscheduled matchups with teams because of Covid. One of the losses, in the Honey Bowl, was to a Hazard (1A) team via Covid forfeit in a game the Bobcats didn’t get to play. What we are saying is Breathitt wasn’t really a 4-7 ball club, last year, entering ’21 having won 19 of its previous 22 and 27 of its previous 31 ball games over a three year period. Breathitt has had a great offseason. Breathitt looks more like the Breathitt we are accustomed to seeing along both fronts; and, if a RB emerges, we believe the Bobcats could be both very dangerous and capable of a run.
Looking at the classification as a whole, this isn’t a deep year for 2A. The classification looks top-heavy and past the top two, LCA and Mayfield, it is practically anybody’s guess. Not ranking Owensboro Catholic may be a mistake as they have the coaching to take whatever talent the program can muster and turn it into a deep run every year. Middlesboro lost a ton of its playmakers from a year ago and West Carter hasn’t rebounded from the ton of talent it lost at the close of the ’19-’20 school term but will sooner or later.
At the end of the day, studying the rosters as extensively as we have, this is our best guess at the classification’s best five football teams entering the coming season. We could be right on the money…or,…we shall see!
This is Coach HB Lyon, reporting for KPGFootball, and we’re JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!
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