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BluegrassPreps.com Mr. Football Watchlist (10/11)

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Small Schools Powered By Big Talent

One resides in the Cincinnati metro area, with the hustle and bustle of the city just a short drive away. The other hails from the mountains, where time seems to move a little slower.

Beechwood and Pikeville are linked through a decades long, intermittent rivalry and pursuit of gridiron glory that has often run parallel to one another. They now dwell in different classes, assuring they won't cross paths this year. But the two small school juggernauts are linked here in the watchlist, via two of the state's best running backs, one of whom showcases a dexterity of skill seldom seen.

The likes of Mitchell Berger don't come around often: A versatile running back who doubles as a game changing linebacker and triples as a special teams weapon with a right leg that doesn't miss. Berger resides at the crossroads where natural ability meets work ethic. He makes it all look so easy, but if you've played the game, you know it's not. Try averaging nearly a first down every time you run the ball. Now try making one on one tackles in space. Then put the ball through the uprights or pin your opponent inside the five yard line. And do it all in the same game, week after week. Run, catch, kick, block, and tackle. That's a football player in the purest form. Covington Holy Cross got a brief look at that form last week and Berger's seven carries were probably seven more than the Indians would have liked to see. Those minimal touches yielded 115 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers steamrolled their way to a 55-3 win in their district opener.

If Beechwood is the steamroller of 2A, Pikeville is a locomotive in our smallest class, roaring down the tracks and powered by coal. Not coal mined from an EKY coal field, but instead a Birchfield. 

Supplemental artillery has emerged in the Pikeville weapons cache, but Blake Birchfield is still the straw that stirs the drink. He was their horse for fifteen weeks last year, and he'll be that dude again as the Panthers drive for another ring. The watchlist hasn't seen a running back this year that runs behind their pads and falls forward for more yardage better than Birchfield does. And he's got a deceptive extra gear in the open field. Ask LCA.  

Like his Beechwood counterpart, he wasn't called upon to shoulder a heavy workload this week as the Panthers also wade into district play. Two touchdowns and 80 yards against Sayre count as an off night, but the 'on switch' is always within reach. Again, ask LCA.

Beechwood and Pikeville are favored to finish their seasons in Lexington again this year. The fevered push for a state title and the reliance on Berger and Birchfield will keep their names on the tip of the watchlist's tongue till the clock strikes midnight on the 2022 season. 


Pulaski County Has A Godby Complex

A "God complex" is characterized as possessing an inflated sense of self importance and infallibility. A "Godby complex" is characterized as the unshakable belief that your receiver, the triple crown leader, is the best in the state. Pulaski County is inflicted with the latter. Chandler Godby added to his statewide lead in receptions, yards, and touchdowns with an 11/145/4 line against North Laurel. The cherry on top was an interception to stall some burgeoning Jaguar momentum. He's got a ways to go, but the single season receiving touchdown record is something to keep a watch on. He's currently eight shy of the mark with three more games assured. Beating Southwestern to avoid Woodford County in the second round would open up the potential for a couple of extra games.

All of those catches, yards, and scores don't just appear out of thin air. Brysen Dugger is the trigger man for Pulaski County, feeding him the ball. And Godby is well fed. Dugger also stands atop the state leaderboard in multiple categories. No one has thrown for more yards and touchdowns this season and he ranks second in completion percentage (74%) among QBs with at least 100 attempts. All of those numbers were bolstered by his stat line against North Laurel: 25/29 for 361 yards and 5 touchdowns.


Odds And Ends

- 'Catholic Week' is usually an opportunity for Boyle County to demonstrate its mastery of arch rival Lexington Catholic, but Week 8 didn't go according to plan for the Rebels. The Knights mounted a fourth quarter comeback to steal the game and usurp 4A's #1 ranking. It was not for a lack of effort from Tommy Ziesmer, who registered seven tackles and a pair of sacks in defeat.

- As the numbers finally start to roll in in a timely fashion, we can officially welcome Saadiq Clements into the fold. It's been said before, but it bears repeating: He. Is. A. Grown. Man. The most menacing, physical presence we've seen in the trenches this year. He recorded two sacks against Apollo, vaulting him to the statewide lead with 15.5 on the season, which includes a season high five against Paducah Tilghman a couple of weeks ago. 

- The Birds have taken flight offensively, with Charlie Noon scoring at least one touchdown in each of the last six weeks. He took a screen 36 yards for a touchdown against Boone County last week and had another long reception that nearly went for six. Highlands has scored fifty or more points in four straight games, its longest such streak in ten years.


Players Highlighted This Week

Mitchell Berger (RB/LB/K/P, Beechwood)

Season to date: 101 rushes for 963 yards and 19 touchdowns | 17 receptions for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns | 1 forced fumble and 2 recovered | 17/17 on extra points | 1/1 on field goals


Blake Birchfield (RB, Pikeville)

Season to date: 120 carries for 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns | 1 interception


Chandler Godby (WR/DB, Pulaski County)

Season to date: 67 receptions for 1,186 yards and 20 touchdowns | 2 interceptions, including 1 pick-six | 1 kick return touchdown

Highlights: vs. North Laurel


Brysen Dugger (QB, Pulaski County)

Season to date: 142/192 for 2,090 yards and 29 touchdowns with 3 interceptions | 6 rushing touchdowns


Tommy Ziesmer (Edge, Boyle County)

Season to date: 34 tackles | 10 tackles for loss | 4 sacks | 2 forced fumbles


Saadiq Clements (DL, Henderson County)

Season to date: 28 tackles | 9 tackles for loss | 15.5 sacks | statistics possibly incomplete

Highlights: vs. Apollo


Charlie Noon (ATH, Highlands)

Season to date: 38 receptions for 599 yards and 7 touchdowns | 165 rushing yards | 1 kick return touchdown

Highlights: vs. Boone County

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