Ashland Blazer is coming off a Championship in the shortened ’20 football season. As the reigning 3A Champions many people have looked for them to repeat on the eve of the commencement of the ’21 season.
Well, there is a reason we chose to use the word “commencement” in the preceding paragraph. As badly as people want to ignore it, there is such a thing as graduation (never seen a graduation without a “commencement ceremony”).
Sometimes the previous year’s graduation hits a team harder than in other years. Looking at the Ashland Blazer roster, it is clear ’20 was the year toward which the program had been building. They will have to majorly retool in ’21 to approach the same level of success.
Take the offensive backfield for instance. Keontae Pittman (171-carries, 1,557-rushing yards, 24-rushing TDs), JT Garrett (43-carries, 505-rushing yards, 10-rushing TDs), Hunter Gillum (37-carries, 373-rushing yards, 5-rushing TDs), and Caleb Tackett (39-carries, 354-rushing yards, 3-rushing TDs) were all seniors a year ago. Combined they accounted for 290-carries, 2,789-rushing yards, and 42-rushing TDs.
Defensively the losses were equally dramatic. To find a returning defender, one has to dip down last year’s list of top defenders all the way down to the 8th-position on the tackles chart. Defenders 1-7 a year ago were all seniors.
So should the Tomcats just concede? No, we aren’t saying that and neither are they?
They believe in rising senior, Vinnie Palladino, and with good reason. Palladino is a ’22 RB/Athlete who appears poised to assume a much larger role on both sides of the football in ’21.
Palladino is a 5-8, 180-pound ball of muscle and speed who can run up inside for the tough yards and stretch a defense around the edge. His abilities in Track and Field as a sprinter speak to as much.
Last year, Palladino made the most of limited chances in a very crowded backfield. He had 259-yards rushing and 4-rushing TDs in only 33-carries. That computes to 7.85 or so yards per touch and a TD every 8.25 carries.
Sounds to me like more opportunity is all this guy needs. The ’21 season will be his year.
Defensively, Palladino had 11-stops a year ago with a TFL and a FR. His numbers will go way up this coming season on both sides of the scrimmage line.
Zane Christian is the leading returning tackler. He was 8th on last season’s list.
Of course, Christian was way higher than 8th on TFLs (11) and QB-sacks (2). So Christian made the most of his opportunities and played more in the opponent’s offensive backfield than in the 2nd-level of his defense. We call that being a “down-hiller.”
At the next level, we believe Palladino is a RB. We can’t rule out his being a KR/PR either which is why he is being recruited as an athlete.
We don’t see him playing in college, on the defensive side, anywhere aside from corner; which he is fast enough to play. However, most college programs are migrating away from 5-8 corners toward their 6-0 to 6-2 counterparts owing to the ever burgeoning size and length of today’s WRs.
We are confident this prospect will find himself a college home. We are equally confident this guy will tear it up this coming season. Bank on it!
This is HB Lyon reporting for Kentucky Prep Gridiron reminding you that WE’RE JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!
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