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Class 1A Pre-Season Rankings


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We made it! Baring any last minute twists, football starts this Friday. YES!! It is a different world and a different season. Football articles and coverage on BGP are going to look different also. To get the good talk going, here is a preview and pre-season ranking for 1A.

Football on all levels has become a passing game and class 1A is no different. This could easily be called the year of the quarterback in 1A. There are some really good returning experienced quarterbacks and you will quickly see the trend as you read through the rankings and team summary. Enjoy!

1. Pikeville Panthers (14-0, State Champions) – It should be no surprise seeing Pikeville at number one. The Panthers are now the benchmark program in 1A. However, this team has a lot of question marks. Look at last year’s top producers on both sides of the ball and nearly every one graduated. Pikeville has been in this position before though, and very recently. As the saying goes they don’t rebuild, they reload. One position there are no concerns about is QB. Returning starter JR Isaac McNamee was outstanding as a sophomore. As stated above, there are a number of outstanding returning QB’s in 1A and McNamee is arguably the best of the bunch. Look for SO Carson Wright to take over at RB and JR Zac Lockhart to become McNamee’s top target at WR. Yes, there are question marks but until someone in 1A shows us different, Pikeville is number one.

2. Paintsville Tigers (11-3, State Runner-up) – The new KHSAA RPI and playoff re-seeding set up Paintsville’s rematch with Pikeville in the title game instead of the semi-finals. Unfortunately for Paintsville, despite only losing 9-8 to Pikeville in the regular season, the Tigers were no match for Pikeville in the title game and accepted the runner-up trophy. This year there are legitimate expectations in Paintsville they can get that championship trophy. Paintsville lost two of their top players to graduation but they return nearly all their quality, experienced players. SR QB Jake Hyden, another one of those top returning 1A QB’s, leads the way producing nearly 2,400 yards in the air and on the ground in 2019. Stud RB John Phelps graduated but almost every other top offensive producer from 2019 returns. The same is true on defense as EKU signee Jaylyn Allen graduated but all other leading tacklers from the defense return. With all that returning talent, the Tigers have an argument they should be ranked number one but to be the champ, you have to beat the champ.

3. Kentucky Country Day (13-1, State semifinalist) – Kentucky Country Day rode an undefeated regular season and the new KHSAA RPI system to the top of the rankings in RPI in 2019. It was a great ride for a very young team. The Bearcats only had 4 seniors on their roster last year. The bad news for 2020 is two of those seniors were their two best players, arguably the top RB in 1A last year in Dorian Heard and RB/WR Nick Smith. Nevertheless, with everyone else back including JR QB Luke Russo, the Bearcats are well positioned for another strong season. There will be new young starters running the ball and the Bearcats offense is unusual. There may be some growing pains as the new starters work out the kinks but the Bearcats should be in the mix at the top of 1A all year.

4. Crittenden County (10-3, Regional runner-up) – This may be higher than where others see the 2020 Rockets but the returning production and talent merits this pre-season ranking. A look at the top producers on both sides of the ball in 2019 shows us nearly every one of them are back. SR RB Xander Tabor is the top returning RB in 1A, rushing for over 1,600 yards in 2019. Coach Sean Thompson made a bold move just past the mid-point of 2019 when he switched to freshman Luke Crider at QB. Crider did not throw a lot but he completed nearly 60% of the passes thrown and had a very good TD to INT ratio. That brings Crider into 2020 with valuable experience. The Rockets are loaded. Don’t be surprised if you see them blast their way into the title game in 2020.

5. Hazard (7-5, Round 2 loss to champion Pikeville) – The big news for the Bulldogs is a new head coach. Dan Howard has big shoes to fill replacing Mark Dixon, but Howard should know the Dixon system well after serving as an assistant at Hazard for the past 13 years. That continuity in a successful program that always has talented, committed players will be a big boost in Howard’s first year as head coach. Returning SR QB Garrett Miller will also be a big help in Howard’s first year. Miller had a very solid 2019 and looks to improve on that in 2020. Miller’s top two targets, Andrew Ford and Tyson Turner, return for their junior seasons. Look for a smooth transition for Hazard in 2020 and the potential for the Bulldogs to be in their customary top title contender position by playoff time.

6. Newport Central Catholic (10-3, Regional runner-up) – Each of the teams ranked above the Thoroughbreds returns their productive, experienced QB. No such luck for Newport Central Catholic with the graduation of athletic QB Paul Kremer. Also graduated is a crew of very talented receivers and the leading tacklers on the defense. That is a lot to replace. The good news for the ‘Breds is their top two RB’s, Jahmir Ackerson and Joey Runyon, are back. Look for the ‘Breds to go to a run dominated attack early in the season and see how the new starters evolve as the season goes on.

7. Raceland (7-5, Round 2 loss to Paintsville) – The Rams had an up and down season in 2019. Losing their offensive leader, QB Jake Heighton, in week two was too much of a blow for the Rams to overcome. Heighton is back for his senior season and he should again be one of the best QB’s in 1A. However, most of his supporting cast is going to be new. There are a lot of pieces to put together for 2020 but the Rams are filled with confidence in their program and the results over the years show that confidence is well founded. Look for the Rams to build momentum as the season goes on and be in their customary challenger position by season’s end.

8. Williamsburg (10-3, Regional runner-up) – The Yellow Jackets were a stinger away from upsetting state runner-up Paintsville in their 2019 regional championship game, losing 36-34. Williamsburg is all about their QB and they lost a great one in Dalton Ponder, the most productive player in 1A in 2019. Coach Herron has a formula though and it is a proven one. Bring in a young new QB to replace the productive senior, coach him up, plug him in and start ringing the Yellow Jackets offense register. It looks like the next QB will be Sydney Bowen, who got playing time as a freshman in 2019 at QB, RB and on special teams. Bowen will have a proven target he can look to, SR WR Gavon Thomas, who is the top returning WR in 1A. The Williamsburg formula should be percolating by playoff time.

9. Louisville Holy Cross (11-3, State semi-finalist) – Legendary head coach Bob Bronger retired after 4 decades in coaching, highlighted by a 1991 victory over Trinity. He is replaced by offensive assistant Eric Dick. Experienced SR QB Chaz Geraghty will be a valuable leader for Coach Dick in his first season. Geraghty was not only effective as a passer, he was also the team’s number two rusher in 2019. The Cougars were a senior led team in 2019. Geraghty’s leadership and experience are going to be much needed to get the 2020 Cougars onto that winning track.

10. Bethlehem (8-3, round 2 loss to Holy Cross) – A tough call for the number 10 slot in these pre-season rankings. With graduations it is often difficult to get a good pre-season feel for teams. Even more so this year with no scrimmages due to virus concerns. Bethlehem is an up and coming program with some nice returning young performers. Even though they lose QB Ryan Mattingly, the returning pieces and program momentum get the Eagles the final slot in our top ten ranking. Keep an eye on SO RB Zane Wickliffe who rushed for 908 yards averaging 8.1 yards per carry as a freshman in 2019.

Five other teams to keep an eye on (alphabetical order): Bishop Brossart, Campbellsville, Eminence, Frankfort, Ludlow.

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17 minutes ago, Purple88 said:

Great work VOR!

I'm pulling for Crittenden County.

It sure sets up the potential mammoth commute for a team from Eastern KY to go to Crittenden Co or vice-versa.

 That brings up a very interesting question that I had not even thought about till your post. Is it possible the KHSAA will change their playoff re-seeding to limit travel for teams with the virus issues going on?

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22 minutes ago, Voice of Reason said:

 That brings up a very interesting question that I had not even thought about till your post. Is it possible the KHSAA will change their playoff re-seeding to limit travel for teams with the virus issues going on?

I think that is a possibility, but may play out in how the games go in the first part of the season.

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