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Voice of Reason

BluegrassPreps Class 1A Pre-Season Preview

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The King is dead. Long live the King. Well, kind of. It is a realignment year. Don’t rely on past memories when you think about who is in what district, or even who is in what class. That wake up call starts in Class 1A as the three-time defending champion Beechwood Tigers will not be trying to make it four 1A titles in a row. The Tigers moved up to Class 2A in this realignment. Hence, the King is Dead, kind of. In the previous realignment four years ago, it was the Mayfield Cardinals who were ruling 1A and then moved up to 2A. The opening is there. Is there a team that is going to follow Mayfield and Beechwood’s path and become the new King of 1A?


There is a team that jumps off the page as the heir apparent – the Pikeville Panthers. Long Live the King? The roster is there. The recent history of success is there as the Panthers made it to the title game last year and very nearly upset Beechwood. Are the Panthers the new king?


It behooves the Panthers to study history. It may not be that easy. Four years ago in the first year of that realignment, Beechwood had a stacked roster and looked like the team to beat, but the Panthers themselves won that title game before Beechwood ran off the next three. Are there teams out there who can pull off what Pikeville did four years ago and take the heir apparent’s crown away before they even get to wear it? There certainly are.


Leading the way of the threats are the Campbellsville Eagles. The Eagles made it to the semifinals last year and they return a couple of the best players in 1A, WR/RB Malachi Corley and QB Arren Hash. Close behind is Williamsburg led by QB Dalton Ponder, who amassed over 4,000 offensive yards passing and running last year. And let’s not forget perennial contenders Raceland and Paintsville. Finally, realignment takes one away but brings a new kid to the 1A block – the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds are now in the mix in 1A as enrollment numbers dropped them down from 2A.


The bottom four in our preseason Top 10 have had their share of success as well. They all certainly look forward to trying to get over the hump. The Hazard Bulldogs do have a somewhat recent state title ring of their own when they were the spoilers after a realignment, upsetting Mayfield in 2011. More recently, Hazard made it to the title game in 2016 falling one win short of another title. On a lesser scale of success, Crittenden County, Kentucky Country Day and Ludlow have put impressive teams and records out over the past couple of seasons but have not been able to break through to that next level of success.


The preview will also give snapshots of some other teams hoping to break into the Top 15. There are some interesting stories in this group, and some teams that have a chance to leapfrog up the rankings into the Top 10. It is more of a long shot that any of these teams will make that trip to the title game in Lexington, but that is why we play the games. Hope springs anew as the season kickoff grows near. Let’s dive in for a closer look at the prospects for our Top 20.


1. Pikeville (11-3, State Runner-up to Beechwood 21-20)


Top returning/Expected Starters

SR WR/DB Jackson Hensley -235 yards rushing, 15 carries; 829 receiving 39 catches, 16 TDs; 50 tackles

SR WR/DB Seth Pugh – 335 yards, 16 catches, 4 TD’s; 4 INT (1 TD)

JR RB Nate Collins – 26 carries, 221 yards, 3 TDs

SO QB Isaac McNamee – 27/43 465 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT

SR WR/DB Jon Collum – 97 tackles (#1 on team), 3 sacks, 14 TFL

SR LB Kaden Caudill – 86 tackles (#2 on team)

SR LB Connor Wright – 60 tackles (#4 on team), 9.5 TFL

SR DL Matt Compton – 33 tackles, 5 TFL


Top Losses

QB Connor Roberts – 2,148 passing, 27 TD 6 INT; 1,283 rushing/150, 18 TDs; 114 total points

RB Zack Roberts – 673 rushing 10 TDs

WR Christian Billiter – 646 receiving, 8 TDs

WR Kyle Watkins – 552 receiving, 5 TDs


As we look at that list of graduated players, Pikeville lost a lot of firepower. QB Connor Roberts is a huge loss. The Panthers have some big holes to fill in. Despite the losses, Pikeville has a lot of firepower coming back also. Combine that returning firepower with a program that expects to win a state title every year and you have the clear favorite for this year’s title, and the program best positioned to become the next king of 1A.


Leading the way this year for the Panthers is Mr. Everything Jackson Hensley. Hensley gets it done on the field and in the classroom as his commitment to play football at Harvard next year attests. Hensley almost single-handedly kept Pikeville in the title game last year versus Beechwood, and if he had not been injured later in the game, he very well may have put another title on the Panthers resume.


Hensley has plenty of support in this year’s title chase. The defense will be very stout with three of the four leading tacklers returning as listed above. Stepping in to try and fill the big shoes of Connor Roberts is sophomore QB Isaac McNamee. There are high expectations for McNamee. He may not get to Roberts’ level in year one as the varsity starter, but the Panthers program is excited to see what this young man can do leading the powerful Panthers offense. Pikeville is the clear favorite that the rest of 1A is going to be chasing all season.


2. Campbellsville (11-2, Lost in semifinals to Beechwood 48-13)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR WR/RB/DB Malachi Corley – 1,025 yards rushing, 9 TD; 863 yards receiving, 14 TD; 2 INT; 162 points; 94 tackles (#4)

JR QB/DB Arren Hash – 1,915 yards, 30 TD, 10 INT, 116/229 (-17 rushing)

JR WR/RB/DB Reggie Thomas – 177 yards rushing, 4 TD; 275 yards rec, 12 TD; 86 tackles (#7), 4 INT

JR WR/CB Blase Wheatley - 365 yards rec, 8 TD; 87 tackles (#6), 6 INT

SR LB Tyler Gribbins – 98 tackles (#3), 10 TFL


Top Losses

RB Charlie Pettigrew – 718 yards, 11 TD

WR/RB DeaSean VanCleave – 241 yards, 19 catches; 224 yards rushing

LB Tristan Johnson – 134 tackles (#1), 20 TFL, 10.5 sacks

LB Dakota Reardon – 106 tackles, 16 TFL, 11 sacks


Campbellsville has their own Mr. Everything, and the numbers show Malachi Corley has been even more productive than Pikeville’s Hensley. Add in return yards to Corley’s rushing and receiving numbers and he went for over 2,000 yards last year alone for the Eagles. Corley is an unbelievable triple threat running, catching and returning kicks with the speed to go all the way any time he has the ball in his hands.


There is always more than one star on the top-level teams along with many more quality players. For Campbellsville, Jr. QB Arren Hash is that second star player. He has been the starting QB since his freshman year. He likely will be even better this year, and that is a scary thought for the rest of 1A. CB Blase Wheatley was tied for second in 1A in 2018 with 6 interceptions and LB Tyler Gribbins was among the leaders in tackles. The defense returns highly productive returning defenders.


The past three seasons have been a steady climb for the Eagles. This team is ready to take the next step up the ladder and get Campbellsville its first ever championship game appearance. Behind the leadership of Corley and Hash, the Eagles have their eyes set on making history.


3. Williamsburg (9-3, Lost in round 3 to Pikeville 57-16)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR QB Dalton Ponder – 2,954 yards, 35 TD, 8 INT, 179/308; 1,292 yards rushing, 20 TD

S0 RB/LB Marty Gilley – 208 yards, 1 TD

JR WR Gavon Thomas – 854 yards, 42 catches, 10 TD

JR WR Caleb Rose – 814 yards, 51 catches, 8 TD

JR WR Devonte Powell – 455 yards, 31 catches, 4 TD

LB Blaine Sizemore – 78 tackles


Top Losses

RB Kyle Davis – 235 yards

WR Eli Mattingly – 708 yards, 38 catches, 10 TD

LB Hunter Brown – 129 tackles, 20 TFL, 5 sacks


The star leader role is not limited to our first two ranked teams. The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets have their own star leading the way. Coming into last season, the big question was whether Dalton Ponder could fill the void left by QB Alec Poore. Ponder resoundingly answered that question by producing more than 4,000 yards of offense passing and running. There are some strong quarterbacks returning in 1A, but no one else is close to the production of Ponder.


Ponder will certainly miss WR Eli Mattingly but there is a strong returning corps of receivers to throw to. Jr. Gavon Thomas and Jr. Caleb Rose both went for more than 800 yards receiving in 2018. Those two finished at #2 and #3 in 1A receiving last year and are the top two returning receivers in the class. The Yellow Jackets offense will once again be one of the highest scoring in 1A.


Williamsburg’s 53 man roster is one of the largest in 1A. The Yellow Jackets have quantity and quality on that roster. Last year’s blowout loss to Pikeville was a big disappointment that this year’s group will be looking to avenge. If Williamsburg hopes to make that happen, they will need their defense to make a big step forward. The offense should be state title game quality. If the defense can step it up, Williamsburg will be a team no one will want to face at playoff time.


4. Raceland (11-3, Lost in semifinals to Pikeville 38-19)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

JR QB Jacob Heighton – 1,886 yards, 25 TD, 4 INT, 121/195; 470 yards rushing

SR WR/DB Gunnur Lewis – 622 yards, 32 catches, 11 TD; 65 tackles, 5 INT

SR WR/DB Mark Cox – 296 yards, 20 catches, 5 TD

SR WR/DB Jacob Wallace – 259 yards, 15 catches, 3 TD


Top Losses

RB Hunter Lacks – 1,075 yards, 12 TD

RB Judd Adkins – 748 yards, 6 TD; 174 yards receiving, 3 TD

WR Dalton Adkins – 494 yards, 36 catches, 2 TD; 104 tackles (#3)

LB Nolan Smith – 115 tackles (#1), 8 sacks

LB Marty Helms – 105 tackles (#2), 7 sacks

DL Seth Brooks – 91 tackles (#4), 4 sacks

DB Josh Fenney – 83 tackles (#5), 4 sacks


Raceland’s effort for a repeat appearance in the title game fell just short in 2018. It was another outstanding season in Ramland with only a one touchdown loss to rival Ashland, and a one touchdown loss to district rival Paintsville prior to that semifinal game. The Rams turned the tables on Paintsville in round two of the playoffs with a 14-7 win, but could not get past the Pikeville Panthers in the semifinals.


Raceland lost their top five tacklers on defense and their two headed running back combo. Prior to last year, the Rams lost seven defensive starters and still produced the #3 scoring defense in 1A in 2018. With a 52-man roster, they have plenty of players to choose from to fill in the gaps and try to repeat that accomplishment in 2019.


Offensively, QB Jacob Heighton had a highly productive 2018 featuring a 25-4 touchdown to interception ratio. WR Gunnur Lewis is a speedy weapon that Heighton will enjoy watching rack up yards after catch. Lewis also is an excellent corner back and was one of the class leaders with 5 interceptions in 2018.


The Rams have been consistently in the Top 10 in 1A and this year is no different. They have core stars to build around and a legacy of winning that bleeds orange. Look for Raceland to be in the top of these rankings all year long and once again at playoff time be right in the mix to get back to the title game.


5. Newport Central Catholic (5-7, Lost in round 2 of 2A to DeSales 21-14)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR QB Paul Kremer – 1,519 yards, 18 TD, 7 INT, 92/175

SR WR/DB Caleb Jefferson – 262 yards, 15 catches, 3 TD


Top Losses

RB Kyle Kelly – 427 yards

RB Hezekiah Miller – 504 yards, 6 TD; 277 yards receiving, 2 TD

WR Aubrey Posey – 729 yards, 35 catches, 9 TD

RB/QB Hunter Cain – 407 yards


Realignment returns an old face to 1A in 2019. Newport Central Catholic was a 1A school prior to the six class system. In fact, the Thoroughbreds won back to back 1A titles in 2005-2006. The move to 2A did not knock the Thoroughbreds off stride either. Their first nine years in 2A, NCC was in the 2A title game seven times, winning two titles. Beechwood may be gone but Beechwood’s former 1A district will still be a force in 1A with NCC stepping in.


The past 3 years have been a struggle by Newport Catholic standards. There was a coaching change prior to last season. It was a transition year to the new coach and system. Now 2019 brings new opportunity for NCC in 1A. The Thoroughbreds for years have scheduled very tough outside their district. This year’s schedule is still challenging but it is a step or two down from previous years. That should help add a couple more wins and still prepare NCC for the playoffs.


Returning starting QB Paul Kremer had a good first season as the starter last year. He should be even better in 2019. WR/DB Caleb Jefferson should be Kremer’s top target. Jefferson is a play maker that opponents will need to pay close attention to. NCC was a top tier passing offense last year and with these two play makers back they should be at the top of the 1A offensive stats in 2019.


Between the recent history and the change in class, the newer coaching staff and exiting standout players, Newport Catholic is perhaps the toughest team in 1A to get a read on. With the toned down schedule there should be a few more out of district wins to help the Thoroughbreds get back to form. Do not underestimate them when playoff time arrives.


6. Paintsville (10-3, Lost in round 3 to Raceland 14-7)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

JR QB Jake Hyden – 1,166 yards, 18 TD, 4 INT, 78/142; 590 yards rushing, 7 TD

SR RB/LB Seth Williams – 347 yards, 3 TD

SR RB/LB John Phelps – 88 yards rushing; 235 yards rec, 2 TD; 61 tackles (#2); 3 INT

SR LB Jaylen Allen – Getting D-1 offers


Top Losses

RB Josh McClurg – 288 yards, 4 TD; 407 yards rec (#1), 7 TD

WR Chris Allen – 454 yards rushing, 4 TD; 175 yards rec,3 TD; 61 tackles (#2)

WR James Allen – 235 yards, 2 TD

LB Christian Keeton – 122 tackles (#1)


In the past four years, the Paintsville Tigers have only lost three regular season games. In two of the past four years, the Tigers were undefeated in the regular season. In three of the past four years, the team that beat Paintsville in the playoffs went to the title game, and in 2015 it was champion Pikeville that knocked Paintsville out of the playoffs. Even more frustrating, Paintsville beat that 2015 state champion Pikeville team in the regular season. Yes, the recent track record that the Tigers will be looking to break out of is falling short in the playoffs after great regular seasons.


There is good cause for optimism in 2019 with QB Jake Hyden returning after a very good 2018 season. LB Jaylyn Allen has multiple D-1 offers. John Phelps will be a two way starter and leader for the Tigers. Hyden won the QB battle over Josh McClurg last year and McClurg decided to pack his bags and try a new team in 2019. Couple that loss with the loss of Chris and James Allen, and Paintsville has a lot of work to stay true to their recent form.


Paintsville wasn’t able to make it to the title game the past four years but in 2019 they made sure they would face Beechwood by putting them on the regular season schedule. Looking at the rest of Paintsville’s schedule, they should be able to post another excellent regular season record. The question is will that regular season have them ready to break through that final barrier in 2019 and get to the 1A title game.


7. Hazard (7-4, Lost in round 2 to Williamsburg 45-27)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR RB Trajon Campbell – 473 yards, 7 TD; 4 INT

SR RB/WR Reece Fletcher – 387 yards rushing, 3 TD; 208 yards, 12 catches, 2 TD; 101 tackles (#1), 3 INT

SR LB Mason Collins – 61 tackles


Top Losses

QB Bailey Blair – 1,752 yards, 14 TD, 5 INT; 407 yards rushing, 10 TD

RB Skylar Pelfrey – 1,023 yards, 13 TD

WR Isaiah Stupart – 499 yards, 28 catches, 4 TD; 6 INT

WR Andy Baker – 447 yards, 29 catches, 2 TD; 68 tackles (#2)

WR Kyle Johnson – 297 yards, 15 catches, 4 TD


The losses to graduation are significant. QB Bailey Blair was a very good three year starter who got better every year. RB Skylar Pelfrey went for over 1,000 yards despite missing several games due to injury. Isaiah Stupart was one of the leaders in 1A in the state in interceptions. However, anyone who follows 1A football knows Hazard is a program that always finds a way. There are always Bulldog players in the program pulling hard on that leash to get loose and prove themselves.


One of those new Bulldog starters this year will be JR QB Garrett Miller. He is a big kid with a big arm who has learned watching Blair. Reece Fletcher, Trajon Campbell and Mason Collins are proven starters who will provide senior leadership. There are three returning linemen to anchor the trenches. The Bulldogs have talent and experience.


This year’s Bulldog team has that feel of one of those years when they are going to surprise people. Every few years Hazard comes from the somewhat overlooked ranks and puts together a special season. In 2016, Hazard gave Beechwood everything they could handle in losing 21-14 in the championship game. In 2011, the Bulldogs pulled off the big upset defeating Mayfield 24-6 to win the 1A title. This year’s team has that dark horse feel. If you are looking for a dark horse pick in 2019, Hazard might be your team.


8. Crittenden County (11-2, Lost in round 3 to Campbellsville 26-21)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR QB/DB Hunter Jones – 55 tackles (#6)

JR RB/DB Xander Tabor – 408 yards, 7 TD; 3 INT

JR QB/LB Braxton Winders – 100 tackles (#1)

JR WR/LB Tyler Boone – 94 tackles (#3), 15 TFL

JR RB/LB/NG Lathen Easley – 89 tackles (#4), 14 TFL, 7 sacks


Top Losses

QB Hunter Boone – 2,308 yards, 33 TD, 16 INT, 154/274; 229 yards rushing

RB Devon Nesbitt – 1,457 yards, 23 TD; 281 yards rec

WR Ethan Dossett – 785 yards, 50 catches, 10 TD

WR Branen Lamey – 440 yards, 28 catches, 7 TD

WR Payton Riley – 430 yards, 30 catches, 7 TD

DL Sean O’Leary – 11 sacks, tied for #2 in 1A


Perhaps no team lost as much to graduation in 1A as Crittenden County. QB Hunter Boone, RB Devon Nesbitt and WR Ethan Dossett were multi-year high performing starters who all graduated and are moving on to play in college. Those three along with a strong group of fellow seniors made Sean Thompson’s first year as head coach a successful one.


This year looks like a rebuilding effort but the rebuild comes from a big, deep roster. It is that big roster and the top returning defenders that gets the Rockets this ranking. The heir apparent to Nesbitt at running back is Xander Tabor. Tabor was a productive player in the touches he got in 2018 and won the school’s preseason Ironman competition, which is a mixture of weightlifting, speed and agility the Rockets hold annually. The Rockets defense allowed the fewest points in 1A last year and nearly all the top tacklers return. Defense will win you games and the Rockets will have one of the best defenses in 1A in 2019.


The big challenge for the Rockets in 2019 is replacing all that offensive firepower. Finding a QB to lead the Rockets high powered passing offense is going to be the key. The loss of Jones and their four top receivers creates a lot of productive positions to be filled. The strong defense will give the Rockets time to find the right mix. Look for the offense to improve with experience as the year goes on and be ready to go for another Rockets playoff run.


9. Kentucky Country Day (6-6, Lost in round 3 to Beechwood 50-6)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SO QB Luke Russo – 1,198 yards, 15 TD, 12 INT, 66/143

SR RB Dorian Heard – 398 yards rushing, 4 TD; 186 yards receiving, 3 TD

SR WR Nick Smith – 490 yards rec, 20 catches, 8 TD

JR Exavier Douglas – 137 tackles (#1 on team), 7 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT

JR Drew Russell – 81 tackles (#2)

JR Jalen Todd – 80 tackles (#3)


Top Losses

RB Blake Caldwell – 986 yards, 5 TD


Kentucky Country Day knows all about rebuilding years. In 2017, the Bearcats went 11-2 and had one of the top three or four teams in 1A with a stacked, talented roster. In 2018, almost every key starter had graduated and KCD had to build from ground zero. A 5-3 start to the year had the Bearcats fans optimistic but KCD lost three of their last four to finish 6-6. Nevertheless, a young team fueled by a strong junior class gained experience and put themselves back into our Top 10 in 2019.


This season is very different than last as there are plenty of returning starters. The Bearcats only lost a couple starters on each side of the ball. They are still young with only five seniors on the roster, but they are experienced. That mix of youth and experience is epitomized by So. QB Luke Russo. Russo got a full season of starting experience last year as a freshman and performed well with almost 1,200 yards passing and 15 touchdown passes. Sr. WR Nick Smith was in the Top 10 receivers in 1A in 2018. Sr. RB Dorian Heard is a strong runner who will bring balance to the offense. The top three tacklers return, including leading tackler Exavier Douglas who was #2 in 1A in tackles.


The Bearcats look to be building toward a deep playoff run like 2017. They might be a year away, but if these young men keep growing anything is possible. There is no Beechwood in their path in the playoffs this year so that provides even more playoff optimism. This ranking might prove to be low but with the youth and 6-6 record last year, the Bearcats will need to earn their way up the rankings from here. They look very capable of doing just that.


10. Ludlow (8-4, Lost in round 2 to Frankfort 60-42)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR QB Ian Vallandingham – 1,037 yards, 11 TD, 10 INT, 95/168; 677 yards rushing, 12 TD

SR RB/LB Cody Kramer – 610 yards, 6 TD; 52 tackles (#3)


Top Losses

RB Sean Stratton – 1,741 yards, 20 TD

WR/CB William Richardson – 384 yards, 31 catches, 7 TD; 67 tackles (#1), 7 TFL (#2)

OL/DL Cody Brownfield – 58 tackles (#2), 13 TFL (#1), 6 sacks (#1)


Rounding out the 1A preseason Top 10 is the Ludlow Panthers. This is a team the Ludlow faithful have been watching have success since their middle school days. The past two years have seen Ludlow move up into the 1A Top 10 rankings. This year’s seniors have been winners their entire football careers. The past two years they have won eight games each year and got a playoff win last year for the first Ludlow playoff win since 2011. Optimism is high in Panther land.


Sr. QB Ian Vallandingham leads the way for the Panthers. He had the unenviable task last year of trying to replace Ludlow’s outstanding QB/RB Justin Blackburn. While Vallandingham didn’t get near Blackburn’s 4,000 combined offensive yards, he put up some very good numbers of his own in his first year starting at QB with over 1,000 yards passing and 677 yards rushing. He very well may improve on those numbers this year. Last year Sean Stratton rushed for over 1,000 yards. Looking to replace that production is Sr. Cody Kramer. Ludlow is excited about his potential.


The Panthers have shown very well in preseason 7 on 7 competitions, including a match-up against new district rival Newport Central Catholic. Ludlow has high hopes that this senior group can bring home Ludlow’s first district title in over twenty years. The Ludlow fans will need to tell us the last time Ludlow won a district title. Newport Central Catholic will be a formidable opponent but the Panthers will be looking forward to that meeting on October 10 with a long sought district title on the line.


11. Bethlehem (4-8, Lost in round 2 to Crittenden County 33-27)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR QB Ryan Mattingly – 1,947 yards, 17 TD, 12 INT, 137/303; (-98 rushing)

SR WR/DB Clay Trusley – 570 yards, 34 catches, 5 TD

SR WR/DB Mason Tucker – 558 yards, 39 catches, 3 TD; 3 INT

SR OL/LB Patrick Alvey – 64 tackles (#2), 9 TFL, 6 sacks

SR C, DT Collin Potter – 40 tackles, 10 TFL, 15 sacks (#1)

SR WR/LB Buddy Ulrich – 61 tackles, 13 TFL

OL/DL Sam Matter – 60 tackles (#4), 14 TFL


Top Losses

RB Ezra Dillard – 1,175 yards, 13 TD; 91 tackles (#1), 14 TFL (#1)


Just missing out on our Top 10 is the Bethlehem Eagles. As you look over that list of returning players, you can see why Bethlehem is expecting this season to be filled with wins. There were only three seniors on last year’s roster so Bethlehem returns virtually everyone, including Sr. QB Ryan Mattingly. Unfortunately, one of last year’s seniors was Ezra Dillard, who was Bethlehem’s best player on both sides of the ball.


Second year coach Bryan Walker has made a lot of changes to the schedule. This year’s schedule is weaker and that should lead to more wins. The big question there is will those wins build confidence for a playoff run, or will the weaker schedule lead to wins but fail to toughen the Eagles up for the playoffs. The weaker schedule will make it difficult for the Eagles to move up much higher in these rankings even if they are posting wins. But when building a program, wins need to come first.


12. Louisville Holy Cross (4-6, Lost in round 1 to Ludlow 45-34)

Top Returning/Expected Starters

JR RB Lex Thomas – 329 yards, 4 TD

SR RB Luke Davis – 160 yards, 4 TD


Top Losses

QB Jaren McDonald – 1,146 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT, 90/172; 383 yards rushing (#1)

WR Gavin Foushee – 507 yards, 4 TD


Holy Cross suffered some big roster losses, including one particular “big” one. Highly recruited So OL Kiyaunta Goodwin made his stay at Holy Cross a one year freshman tour and has moved over to Ballard. That is not the only key loss though. Starting QB Jarren McDonald, who also led the team in rushing, graduated as did top WR Gavin Foushee. Replacing your QB is always a challenge and will be the key item to watch for Holy Cross.

The Cougars do return two very solid backs in Jr. Lex Thomas and Sr. Luke Davis. Nolan Siegrist was a leading lineman who was an impact player on defense. Holy Cross is a solid 1A program who is always competitive. They gave Ludlow a tough game in the playoffs. There are question marks and key players that need to be replaced, but Coach Bronger finds a way to put things together. This is a senior dominated roster that we expect to have surprise potential in the rankings.


13. Frankfort (8-4, Lost in round 3 to Beechwood 49-8)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

JR OT/DE Tayshaun Hamilton – 68 tackles (#4)

JR G/DL Adrian Ruiz – 56 tackles (#6)

JR OL/LB Jyden Graham – 31 tackles

SR WR/DB Ronnie Moore – 5 INT


Top Losses

QB John Tillman – 1,679 yards, 17 TD, 2 INT; 638 yards rushing, 9 TD

RB DaJuan Davis - 1,098 yards, 14 TD; 278 yards receiving, 15 catches

WR Jevon Bush – 798 yards, 27 catches, 9 TD


This is going to be interesting. The Frankfort Panthers are a perennially strong 1A team. Despite low numbers on the roster over the past few years, the “Dirty Thirty” get it done on the football field. Coach Foley knows how to take those low numbers and make a winner. This year is going to be a special challenge. Look at those players that graduated. Basically, every skill player last year was a senior. Tillman, Davis and Bush were outstanding. Coach Foley is going to have to groom some youngsters to fill those skill slots.


What is going to make this interesting is that the strength of the returning players is in the trenches. Tayshaun Hamilton, Adrian Ruiz and Jyden Graham lead a still young, but experienced, core group of linemen. Frankfort always seems to find skill players. Put those new backs behind a strong line, and Frankfort is another team that could surprise despite major losses. Look for the Panthers to go old school Panther style. Line up and grind the ball at you on the ground. Yes, this will be an interesting team to watch grow as the year goes on.


14. Nicholas County (8-4, Lost in round 2 to Paintsville 42-18)

Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR RB Cain Saucedo – 698 yards, 9 TD; 61 tackles (#5)

SR RB Michael Tibbs – 255 yards, 2 TD; 133 yards rec

SR WR/K Tyler Horn – 235 yards, 18 catches

SR OL/DT Ethan Cleaver – 62 tackles (#4)


Top Losses

QB Isaac Fryman – 760 yards, 7 TD, 5 INT, 53/102; 1663 yards rushing, 26 TD; 79 tackles (#3)

WR Billy Willoughby – 328 yards, 12 catches, 3 TD; 190 yards rushing

Justin Estes – 106 tackles (#1)

Dustin Estes – 97 tackles (#2), 12 TFL, 8 sacks


Nicholas County has a big challenge. QB Isaac Fryman was not only their quarterback, he led the Bluejackets in rushing and was their third leading tackler. In addition, the graduation of Justin and Dustin Estes takes away the three leading tacklers for Nicholas County.


Despite those big losses, there are some solid returning players. Leading the key returning players is Cain Saucedo, who was the top running back last year and also a key defensive player. Sr. lineman Ethan Cleaver anchors the trenches for the Bluejackets. Nicholas County has built a solid program that is around the Top 15 level year after year. District 5 looks like the most competitive district in the new alignment featuring four solid programs. There is much to do and overcome, but look for the Bluejackets to battle their way to a district title.


15. Russellville (5-7, Lost in round 2 to Campbellsville 52-13)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SO QB/WR/LB/DB Lennon Ries – 421 yards rec, 32 catches, 5 TD; 4 INT

SO RB/WR/DB Chevis Elliott – 190 yards rushing, 1 TD; 88 yards receiving, 1 TD


Top Losses

QB Jacob Naylor – 1,357 yards, 15 TD, 10 INT, 97/221; 687 yards rushing (#1), 4 TD

RB/LB Edward Barber – 405 yards, 6 TD; 112 tackles, 22 TFL

WR Ryan Flores – 523 yards, 32 catches, 6 TD

TE/LB Zavius Coleman – 109 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks


The last losing season before last year for Russellville was in 2004. That was former coach John Myers’ first season as head coach. Last year was the first season for current head coach Mikie Benton. Sometimes that first year is a transition year and that was very true for Russellville as they transitioned from Myers’ winged T offense to the spread. Look for year two in the Benton’s spread offense to get Russellville back on the winning track. Panthers fans hope it is the start of another 14 year winning seasons or more like what happened after 2004.


Coach Benton is excited about the potential of So. QB Lennon Ries. He thinks he has the guy with the arm to lead the spread offense for the next three years. The Panthers will still be young but many of those young players now have a year of experience under their belts. Coach Benton has put some tough opponents in front of his young team. They will need to grow up fast to get that new winning seasons streak going. Keep an eye on these young Panthers and QB Ries.


The Good, The Bad and The Maybe

As a new season starts, hopes and dreams are in the minds of coaches, players and teams. If this guy can do this, if we can get that early win, if these young guys come through, ifs abound. Here are the teams that need some of those ifs to come through to make the leap into the top 10. We’ll review this group in alphabetical order.


Bishop Brossart (6-5, Lost in round 1 to Raceland 53-13)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

JR QB Trevor Schadler - 156 yards, 8/18; 153 yards rushing

SR WR Brady Kramer – 239 yards, 15 catches (#2, both)

SR WR/DB Samuel Howard – 66 tackles (#3)

SR WR/DE Grant Haubner – 61 tackles (#4)


Top Losses

QB Tyler McDonald – 1,180 yards, 7 TD, 12 INT, 88/178

RB/LB Nathan Bezold – 423 yards, 4 TD; 294 yards rec, 19 catches; 114 tackles (#1), 8 TFL

RB/DB Adam Orth – 462 yards, 5 TD; 41 tackles

LB Mason Dennis – 92 tackles (#2)


The Good: Three of the top four tacklers on the defense return. A new home field!


The Bad: Arguably the four best players on the roster graduated, including QB McDonald.


The Maybe: Defense wins, so if the defense can build on the returning leaders, the Mustangs might make some noise.


Eminence (7-3, No KHSAA)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR QB Justin Hedges – 1,173 yards, 21 TD, 8 INT; 213 yards rush, 3 TD

SR RB Marshall Metten – 836 yards, 9 TD; 37 tackles (#3)

SR WR Dakadrian Saunders – 523 yards, 30 catches, 8 TD

SR OL/DL Donovan Clark – 63 tackles (#1)


Top Losses

RB Elijah Montero – 1,334 yards, 12 TD; 194 yards rec, 4 TD

WR Braedin Hinkley – 390 yards, 25 catches, 6 TD


The Good: Back playing KHSAA with an accomplished roster.


The Bad: Leading rusher Montero has graduated.


The Maybe: This year’s schedule is a lot different. Can the Warriors win against this schedule?


Fulton County (5-6, Lost in round 1 Bethlehem 21-2)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR QB Jerome Warren – 454 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT, 28/70; 279 yards rushing

SR RB Caleb Kimble – 1,638 yards, 23 TD

JR TE/DE Broc Bridges –58 tackles (#2), 9 TFL

JR C/DT Tyler Love – 58 tackles (#2), 10 TFL

JR DL/OL/K Dylan Hammond – 46 tackles, 4 sacks


Top Losses

RB Christopher Smith – 478 yards, 3 TD

WR George Scott – 249 yards rec, 4 TD

G, LB Mason Eakes – 61 tackles (#1)


The Good: Caleb Kimble is the top returning rusher in 1A. Good group of returning starters.


The Bad: Lost six of their last seven in 2018.


The Maybe: Last season was a huge turnaround. If the Pilots can improve that much again this year, maybe a playoff win?


Lynn Camp (10-2, Lost in round 2 to Pikeville 55-8)

Top Returning/Expected Starters

SO QB Tylen Smith – 1/2 passing, 25 yards

SR RB Chase Brown – 388 yards, 7 TD; 104 yards rec

SR WR Domanick Cook – 149 yards, 5 catches, 3 TD


Top Losses

QB Eric Mitchell – 492 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT; 205 yards rush, 12 TD

RB Dalton Cook – 2,495 yards, 29 TD; 131 yards rec

RB Tracy Fee – 562 yards, 5 TD

David Griffith – 44 tackles (#1)


The Good: This group was part of one of Lynn Camp’s best teams in several years last season so they know how to win.


The Bad: Dalton Cook, the leading rusher in 1A in 2018, graduated along with a strong group of seniors.


The Maybe: Lynn Camp had a deep roster last year. Deep roster numbers with winning in their system often leads to surprise seasons.


Paris (5-6, Lost in round 2 to Raceland 49-19)


Top Returning/Expected Starters

SR RB Matthew Barber - 205 yards, 2 TD

SR RB/WR Jamaun Clark – 643 yards, 5 TD; 167 yards rec, 12 catches (#1 both)


Top Losses

QB Alec Park – 597 yards, 4 TD, 12 INT, 25/82

C/LB Jackson Livingood – 138 tackles, 31 TFL

OT/DT Michael Jackson – 80 tackles, 17 TFL

RB/DB Adam Renfro – 62 tackles, 22 TFL, 10 sacks


The Good: Two top notch returning backs. Matthew Barber, if healthy, is arguably the fastest player in 1A.


The Bad: Currently, only 14 players showing on the roster.


The Maybe: If Barber is healthy and a few more players show up, the offense will put up some points.


Pineville (4-7, Lost in round 1 to Pikeville 49-16)

Top Returning/Expected Starters

SO Hayden Callebs – 14/34 passing, 185 yards; 279 yards rushing

SR RB Colby Frazier – 1532 yards, 20 TD for Bell County

SR WR Landon Couch – 215 yards, 10 catches, 5 TD

SO Devon Morris – 285 yards rushing, 4 TD; 192 yards rec, 12 catches


Top Losses

QB Garland Ellis – 586 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT

RB Matt Golden – 1507 yards, 16 TD; 181 yards rec

Lee Cox – 110 tackles


The Good: New head coach and some new players bolstering the roster.


The Bad: Like Fulton County, bad ending to last season losing their final 6 in a row.


The Maybe: If Frazier is eligible, he could make a big impact.


1A Re-Alignment


Below are the new 1A districts after re-alignment. The only team shift is Beechwood up to 2A and Newport Central Catholic down to 1A.


District 1 – Caverna, Crittenden County, Fulton County, Russellville


District 2 – Bethlehem, Campbellsville, Fort Knox, Holy Cross (Louisville)


District 3 – Berea, Eminence, Frankfort, Kentucky Country Day


District 4 – Bellevue, Dayton, Ludlow, Newport Central Catholic


District 5 – Bishop Brossart, Bracken County, Nicholas County, Paris


District 6 – Betsy Layne, Fairview, Paintsville, Raceland


District 7 – Hazard, Jenkins, Phelps, Pikeville


District 8 – Harlan, Lynn Camp, Pineville, Williamsburg

Edited by Voice of Reason

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Class 1A is going to be fun to keep track of with all the changes. And, this preview sets things up nicely. Great job @Voice of Reason.

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Tremendous work! Pulling for Campbellsville to have a great year!

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Great work, VoR!


I knew Raceland lost a lot on defense, but I didn't realize just how much production was lost until I saw it all laid out in this preview. That's 500 tackles and 23 sacks gone. They looked really good in their two scrimmages, but the run defense has a lot to replace.

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Tremendous work! Pulling for Campbellsville to have a great year!


The talent is there for Campbellsville to have a huge year, but with only 25 players listed on their roster, they are at a distinct numbers disadvantage relative to the other top teams in 1A. Their stars are going to have to do work and stay healthy.

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The talent is there for Campbellsville to have a huge year, but with only 25 players listed on their roster, they are at a distinct numbers disadvantage relative to the other top teams in 1A. Their stars are going to have to do work and stay healthy.

That's going to be a big problem for them. If you are starting the season with a healthy 25 players, it is very much in realm of possibilities to only have 15 able to play at some points in the season. I can't see a team going very far with those numbers.

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That's going to be a big problem for them. If you are starting the season with a healthy 25 players, it is very much in realm of possibilities to only have 15 able to play at some points in the season. I can't see a team going very far with those numbers.


That would be sad indeed!

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Campbellsville has 11 seniors, 8 juniors, 3 sophomores, and 3 freshman.

I don't see how they can continue to have a team very much longer at this rate. That really is sad.

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I wonder what impact Taylor County's success is having on Campellsville?


The same question applies to Russellville and Logan County.

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Any chance Fort Knox makes any moves? They finished regular season 4-6 and trailed Russellville 21-14 going into the 4th qtr in the playoffs. I saw on the KHSAA site they have 47 players out this year.

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Any chance Fort Knox makes any moves? They finished regular season 4-6 and trailed Russellville 21-14 going into the 4th qtr in the playoffs. I saw on the KHSAA site they have 47 players out this year.


Definitely a lot of positive things happening there. They are in a competitive district so that is a challenge. They play at Paris this Friday. That is a good game for 1A fans to pay attention to as both teams have question marks.

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Campbellsville has 11 seniors, 8 juniors, 3 sophomores, and 3 freshman.

I don't see how they can continue to have a team very much longer at this rate. That really is sad.


Then come on over to the Ville and we’ll show you how we do it... We take who we got, and they get coached up... we might not be back to back Region Champs every year, but we’ll show up on Friday night... Lights come on, Let’s play Ball...

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