ATLCat's Avatar
1. Johnson Central Golden Eagles (4A, 13-2, Class 4A Runner-Up)- The Golden Eagles lost their rubber match with Franklin Simpson and set their eyes on a vastly improved Class 4A. After four straight Finals trips it is hard to ignore a veteran crew for Coach Matney.

2. Corbin Redhounds (4A, 13-2, Class 3A Runner-Up)- It is hard to ever be disappointed with a State Runner-Up finish, but when Corbin dropped their second straight 3A Title game the Redhound faithful were left wanting more. The Hounds move up to 4A and will have some key holes to fill but should still be very stout.

3. Belfry Pirates (3A, 10-3)- For the second consecutive season Belfryís fortunes came to an end in a Regional Finals loss where key injuries played a big role. Belfry must replace their three year starting QB and most of a dominant O-Line, but the Pirates have loads of skill talent and some nice pieces back in the middle of their Defense.

4. Pikeville Panthers (1A, 11-3, Class 1A Runner-Up)- Of the three EKY team who came up shy in the State Finals, perhaps none were more deserving to win than Pikeville. The Panthers gave Beechwood all they wanted but fell just shy, but donít feel too bad as Pikeville returns a loaded roster including Jackson Hensley.

5. Pulaski County Maroons (5A, 11-3)- After a disappointing 2017, Johnny Hinesí Maroons came storming back in 2018 to reach the 5A Semi-Finals. Wiley Cain has left the building at Quarterback, but Pulaskiís new signal caller will be set up for success with Jake Sloan back as their primary receiving threat.

6. Bell County Bobcats (3A, 11-2)- Bell County was undefeated and relatively untouchable in 2018, well, except for their two games against Corbin. The Bobcats say goodbye to the Redhounds as they move up to 4A, and immediately take form as one of the teams to beat in the East. The Bobcats boast perhaps EKYís most explosive player in QB London Stephney and have a veteran squad ready to make waves. Losing their leading rusher though was a late blow of much significance.

7. Ashland Tomcats (3A, 11-2)- Itís a bittersweet Summer for Ashland. On the bright side, the Tomcats move down to 3A and in the process shake free of District foe Johnson Central. On the negative side, not only does Ashland say goodbye to graduating QB Braxton Ratliff, but also to his younger brother who was expected to start. The Tomcats will enjoy their new digs in the smaller Class, but they still have work to do to advance past the Regional Finals.

8. Somerset Briarjumpers (2A, 11-3)- Perhaps no program in EKY History has had as much success without a State Title as Somerset. The Jumpers added to that pedigree with a Semi-Finals push in 2018, but the hope is 2019 is the year they finally get over the hump. The Jumpers will not lack for experience, they return their QB, their top RB, and a star defender. Expect the new turf field at the Briar Patch to serve as a canvas for some strong football.

9. Southwestern Warriors (5A, 10-3)- It hurts when you come up one TD short of a Regional Title. It hurts even worse when it comes to your bitter cross-town rival. It hurts even more when your other crow-town foe also plays on Black Friday as well. Larry French departs Southwestern and in comes Coach Jason Foley. Though the Warriors lose QB Drew Sawyers and WR JP Vaught, the future is still bright.

10. Raceland Rams (1A, 11-3)- The Rams have become one of the most consistent small school programs in Kentucky and 2018 was no exception with a Regional Championship before losing in the Semiís to Pikeville. Raceland returns swiss army knife Gunnur Lewis and QB Jacob Heighton and appear poised for yet another 10+ win season.

11. Williamsburg Yellowjackets (1A, 9-3)- The vast majority of teams in the State of Kentucky failed to reach 4200 yards of total Offense. QB Dalton Ponder hit that mark by himself with nearly 3000 passing yards and almost 1300 rushing yards to go along with an astounding 55 total TDís. Gavon Thomas and Caleb Rose are destined for monster seasons as well. Coach Herron has been eyeing the Title that eluded him and this may be their best chance to get back.

12. Breathitt County Bobcats (2A, 8-4)- Only two years ago Breathitt finished 4-7 with a very non-typical First Round playoff loss. After righting the ship in 2018, this yearís Bobcat team has the potential to do something even more special. It wasnít enough for Breathitt to return QB Braxton OHara and WR Brandyn Slaughter, they added a transfer from one of the Stateís Top RBís CA Collins and also picked up a transfer from Hopkinsville in excellent two-way linemen William Long.

13. Knox Central Panthers (4A, 10-4)- If you were asked to list the EKY team who reached the State Semi-Finals in 2018, one would most likely forget that Knox Central in fact was left standing at the end of November before eventually falling to Johnson Central. The Panthers lost a solid Senior Class, but will build around QB Brady Worley and RB Ethan Mills. The big question Knox Central is on Defense where Tucker Holland and Bevin Campbell appear to be massive holes to fill.

14. North Laurel Jaguars (5A, 4-6)- Was 2018 a forgettable season for the Jaguars? Of course, they finished with a losing record and missed the playoffs. So why are they a Top 15 team in 2019? Simply put, how can they not make major strides after returning essentially their entire roster? The Jags lost three District games by a TD or less and should be able to really make strides with an entire Offense ready to click after playing together for a season.

15. Greenup County Musketeers (3A, 6-5)- Not only did Ashland escape the wrath of Johnson Central, they brought Greenup County with them to Class 3A. Eli Sammons is a physical specimen for a QB and the D1 prospect should enjoy the smaller school competition. The big question for the Musketeers will be replacing Dalton Halstead at RB after he posted a 1700+ yard season.

The Next 10
16. Wayne County Cardinals (4A, 8-4)
17. Montgomery County Indians (5A, 9-3)
18. Russell Red Devils (3A, 8-5)
19. Paintsville Tigers (1A, 10-3)
20. Harlan County Black Bears (5A, 4-7)
21. Lawrence County Bulldogs (3A, 7-5)
22. Hazard Bulldogs (1A, 7-4)
23. Rockcastle County Rockets (3A, 5-6)
24. Perry Central Commodores (5A, 8-3)
25. South Laurel Cardinals (5A, 5-6)

Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year 1A
QB Dalton Ponder, Williamsburg

Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year 1A
DB Gunnur Lewis, Raceland

Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year 2A
RB CA Collins, Breathitt County

Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year 2A
LB Jase Bruner, Somerset

Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year 3A
QB London Stephney, Bell County

Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year 3A
DE Grayson Cook, Belfry

Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year 4A
RB Devin Johnson, Johnson Central

Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year 4A
DE Ethan Wine, Corbin

Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year 5A
WR Jake Sloan, Pulaski County

Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year 5A
LB Austin Barnes, Southwestern

Week 1 Game of the Week:
Greenup County at Raceland- Talk about a tone setter! These two NEKY rivals move their annual meeting up to the first week of the season and for two optimistic programs, neither will want to start the year off on the wrong foot.