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BluegrassPreps.com 2023 Pre-Season Mr. Football Watchlist

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Christian Academy Quarterbacks Break First From The Gate To Headline The State's Mr. Football Field

Faith is an institutional cornerstone of the Christian Academies in Louisville and Lexington. While fostering faith in God may serve as the ultimate mission at CAL and LCA, the sermons delivered inside the walls of the watchlist serve another purpose. And as their congregations convene under the Friday night lights, coaches Doug Charles and Hunter Cantwell will rest their faith in the divine talents of Cutter Boley and Cole Hodge, respectively. 

As pre-season hype goes, a Mr. Football resumé is as strong as a player's junior campaign and collegiate prospects. Hodge holds the advantage in the former. Boley, the latter. But both ace every test with flying colors.

2022 Comparison: The most complete on-field body of work resides in Louisville, where Hodge led the state in touchdown passes (48) and completion percentage (72.8) while piloting a scintillating Centurions offense to a pristine 15-0 season. He amassed 3,660 yards of total offense and 57 combined touchdowns, showcasing the superior wheels with over 700 yards and nine scores coming courtesy of his lower half. His 12:1 touchdown to interception ratio was one of the more impressive statistical feats of last season.

Boley is no slouch in the stat sheets, leading the Commonwealth in passing yardage (3,901) and tying for fourth in touchdown tosses (36) last year, while adding another six scores via the run. He weathered the storm of LCA's early schedule to make a playoff push before being upended in the semifinals by Mayfield. 

Replicating - and perhaps surpassing - that offensive production is easily within reach, as both quarterbacks will have an abundance of returning skill people - and maybe a new addition or two - at their disposal.

College prospects: Boley is one of the more sought after quarterbacks in the country. In May, the four star prospect shunned a list of college blue bloods in favor of bluegrass.

Hodge, too, is a future FBS quarterback, choosing East Carolina over Appalachian State, Marshall, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan. 

Hodge puts up a fight, but Boley wins decisively here. 

The likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Oregon, and Auburn were all in hot pursuit before his commitment to the Wildcats. He may be UK's most hyped quarterback recruit since Tim Couch.

Mark your calendar: CAL hosts LCA on September 8th in a game dripping with Mr. Football implications. Maybe the biggest head to head quarterback matchup since the Brohm vs. Bush spectacle in 2002.

The bottom line: There are not a lot of holes to poke here. They each look the part, especially the 6'5" Boley. If both meet expectations this year, the Mr. Football pursuit could quickly evolve into a two horse race, if it's not already.


Cutter Boley (Lexington Christian Academy)

2022: 254/400 for 3,901 yards with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions | 6 rushing touchdowns

Highlights: Jr. Season


Cole Hodge (QB, Christian Academy of Louisville)

2022: 169/232 for 2,949 yards with 48 touchdowns and 4 interceptions | 711 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns 

Highlights: Jr. Season



That term is usually reserved for players that exist on the fringes of the watchlist, but it feels appropriate for any and all names from here down, reflecting the gap between Boley, Hodge, and everyone else.

Any argument for Boley standing alone shouldn't be dismissed, but Hodge's accomplishments earn him co-favorite status in here. Their resumés are a cut above, leaving the rest of the field in the dust as we begin the chase.

The following are thoroughbreds of a darker shade, pursuing our leaders from distances of varying degrees. The 'Golden Triangle' is well represented, accompanied by a tiger on the prowl in bourbon country and the stark silhouette of a red bird soaring in the west.


Northern Kentucky

Aba Selm (OL/DL, Simon Kenton)

2022: All-BGP and All-State First Team Offensive Lineman | 35 tackles | 2 sacks | 3 fumbles forced and 1 recovered 

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: Several linemen have been highlighted here since the inception of the watchlist and the line of scrimmage produced a Mr. Football just three years ago. Selm deserves a seat at the table. Any doubters would be swiftly silenced by the "get-off" of his 6'4" 295 lb frame and the mobility that accompanies it. He possesses a package of raw power, agility, technique, and ferocity we don't see every year. He was the #1 overall prospect in Kentucky before Boley reclassified. Perhaps more importantly, he's a two-way force, equally adept at pancaking defenders as he is shedding blockers to terrorize ball carriers. And he's a UK committ, which always provides a profile boost. Simon Kenton coach Roy Lucas Jr. says he's the most talented player he's ever coached. 


Willie Rodriguez (TE/LB, Covington Catholic)

2022: 14 receptions for 295 yards and 5 touchdowns | 2 sacks | 1 fumble recovery

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: Rodriguez may have the most potential for a sharp upward trajectory amongst this group. Despite only possessing six games worth of competition as a tight end, his measurables and athletic prowess attracted a slew of Power 5 offers before a commitment to UK in the spring. Statistically, he's coming from the back of the pack. If he's going to make a push for Mr. Football, he needs to put together a full season playing at a Mayer-esque level. It also wouldn't hurt to bring back another state championship to Park Hills.



Max Gainey (WR, Male)

2022: 37 receptions for 445 yards and 5 touchdowns | 1 touchdown pass

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: File Gainey under the same category as Rodriguez. He, too, missed a large chunk of his junior season due to injury. What he lacks in numbers, he'll make up for with ample talent - recall his run-after-catch in the 6A finals - and opportunities against a schedule featuring T, X, Manual, and Indiana power Roncalli. Playing for one of the 'Big 3' is usually an advantage, but having to share targets with budding star Antonio Harris may ultimately work against him.


Zah'Ron "Zeek" Washburn (RB, Manual)

2022: 199 carries for 1,388 yards and 20 touchdowns | 11 receptions for 113 yards 

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: Four touchdowns against Central in Week 1 gave us a glimpse of his potential. He reached greater heights by smoking La Salle (OH), then topping the century mark against the stingy defensive units of St. Xavier and Ballard, before gashing PRP and Fern Creek for 200+ yards each. Despite all that, he's still relatively unknown beyond the borders of Jefferson County. Expect that to change this year with a Manual offense that should see marked improvement all-around.



Brady Hensley (RB/DB, Lexington Christian Academy)

2022: 196 carries for 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns | 111 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns | First Team AP All-State 

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: Hensley's stock skyrocketed following the transfer from Madison Central to LCA, where he'll join forces with front-runner Boley. The relocation to Lexington and the potential for what's to come instantly elevates his status here. Followed up a superb, breakthrough sophomore campaign by making first team all-state at running back as a junior, despite missing four games. He's a patient runner with nimble feet on a well put together body. Should flourish in LCA's dynamic offensive scheme. A Division I commit to Eastern Kentucky University.


JT Haskins Jr. (ATH, Bryan Station)

2022: 40 receptions for 758 yards and 8 touchdowns | 46 tackles | 4 interceptions | 1 kick return touchdown

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: The second generation Defenders star is a triple threat, excelling offensively, defensively, and on special teams. But he wasn't a focal point of the Bryan Station offense during last year's 0-3 start. As his offensive role expanded, Station flourished, reeling off ten straight wins and reaching the 6A semifinals. Station's first four games - Trinity, Franklin County, Bowling Green, and Ballard - could make or break his candidacy. Holds offers from Louisville, WVU, and Marshall, among others. 


Jackson Wasik (QB, Lexington Catholic)

2022: 184/262 for 2,954 yards with 41 touchdowns and 7 interceptions | 170 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns 

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: Imagine throwing down the stat line above and still being no better than the #2 quarterback in your own town. That's life for Wasik walking the same Lexington streets as Cutter Boley. In two games against Boyle County last year, he completed 74% of his throws for 565 yards and six touchdowns. He could put together another phenomenal season and still not get a sniff of Mr. Football, but he deserves recognition here, now.


Blink And You'll Miss Him

Tyleeq "TyTy" Williams (ATH, Bardstown)

2022: 210 carries for 1,882 yards and 25 touchdowns | 32 receptions for 475 yards and 6 touchdowns | 58 tackles | 6 TFL | 2 sacks | 4 interceptions | 3 kick return touchdowns

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: His low center of gravity makes for incredible balance and change of direction. Add a dash of acceleration, and you've got a recipe for dynamite in the open field. He detonated in Week 1 last year against a tough Greenwood squad, saving the day with a walk-off touchdown reception to escape the Gators unscathed. As the injury bug threatened to derail Bardstown's season, he donned a cape to carry the Tigers to Lexington, a run that included over 400 rushing yards and eight touchdowns combined against the previously unbeaten counties of Union and Mason in the playoffs. With most of his offensive line intact from last year, expect Williams to at least stay within striking distance of the frontrunners. And when he strikes… don't blink.


Bad Juju* Good For Mayfield

Jutarious "Juju" Starks (RB/DE, Mayfield)

2022: 144 carries for 1,214 yards and 21 touchdowns 

Highlights: Jr. Season

Why he's here: The Cardinals took last year off from the watchlist, but return with one of the state's most physically gifted ball carriers. The sight of Starks with his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and surging upfield will strike fear into the hearts of potential tacklers. If he can make a splash on the watchlist, that bodes well the Cardinals chances of making it back to the winner's circle for the first time in eight years. They almost made it last year, but fell to Beechwood by the slimmest of margins, despite Starks running for a hundred yards and a score in the 2A finals. 

*For the record, it's pronounced Juh-Juh


Five To Follow

Brody Benke (QB, Highlands)

2022: 160/277 for 2,170 yards and 24 touchdowns with 11 interceptions | 232 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns 

Highlights: Jr. Season


Shaun Boykins (WR, North Hardin)

2022: 56 receptions for 897 yards and 10 touchdowns | 221 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns | Committed to Louisville 

Highlights: Jr. Season


Russ Osborne (QB/DB, Shelby Valley)

2022: 156/220 for 2,787 yards and 27 touchdowns with 6 interceptions | 649 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns | 78 tackles | 4 interceptions, including a pick-six 

Highlights: Jr. Season


Steve Partin (RB/QB/LB, Knox Central)

2022: 271 carries for 1,782 yards and 26 touchdowns | 70/114 for 927 yards and 11 touchdowns with 2 interceptions | 10 receptions for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns | 71 tackles | committed to Yale

Highlights: Jr. Season


Daniel Thomas (RB/LB, Bell County)

2022: 208 carries for 2,228 yards and 29 touchdowns | 12 receptions for 360 yards and 5 touchdowns | 87 tackles | 5 sacks | 2 fumbles recovered and one forced


Too many cooks in the kitchen?

Frederick Douglass and Boyle County have been mainstays of the watchlist over the last several years. Both feature top talent once again, but they need not look far for postseason award competition. It's up and down their own rosters. 

The Broncos boast four of the state's top eleven prospects according to the 247Sports composite, but neither Demeco Kennedy (OL/DL), Zuri Madison (OL), Jeremiah Lowe (DB), or Terrion Hicks (DB) currently have the profile necessary to contend at this time and Douglass is lacking a superstar quarterback or skill player as the season draws near.

That's not a problem for the Rebels, with Sage Dawson (QB/DB) and Avery Bodner (RB/DB) returning as two-way standouts. But here is the problem - if you want to call it that… Neither is the best player on his own team. The toast of 'Title Town' is incoming junior Montavin Quisenberry, a sure frontrunner for next year. It's a luxury for Coach Justin Haddix, but one that may keep the Rebels sidelined from this year's Mr. Football race.

Then again, if there are two schools you can't count out in regards to this award, it's Boyle County and Frederick Douglass. 

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21 hours ago, KYFootballFanz said:

Good luck to all, I love seeing Russ Osborne on list big fan of his.

Super underrated player. His measurables (6'0" and 175ish) won't catch the eye and he doesn't have Boley's arm, but he throws a pretty ball and puts good zip on it for his size. Not necessarily fast, but elusive when he runs. The injury he suffered at the end of last season robbed him of greater exposure against Beechwood. He wouldn't have changed the outcome that night, but it would have been nice to see him compete at that level.

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3 hours ago, RedHawk said:

Good Luck to All! I think it's Cutter's to lose.  I'd love to see Willie make a big push for him to win this though, I think he's the clear #2.

Clearly ahead of Hodge? If we're talking potential, he's definitely up there. But the gap between what we've seen from Rodriguez and Hodge on the field is cavernous right now.

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Seems to me, that it would be fair to say an undefeated regular season seals it for Boley. They have all the weapons. If there are any more than two losses on the season for LCA, whoever is awarding Mr. Football HAS to give a fair look to the other top 3 candidates. 



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