College football is fantastic, but there’s something different about playing under the Fright night lights. Just ask Drake Jackson.
“It’s a special thing,” said Jackson, Kentucky’s junior center who played high school football at nearby Lexington Catholic and Woodford County. “Especially this time of year, it’s almost more memorable the colder it gets. ... Just take advantage of that, because it’s gonna go by fast.”
That advice especially rings true as the postseason begins, as it will for most high school football teams across Kentucky on Friday. For many boys in the state, even if they finish as champions, it’ll be their last hurrah.
“Even though I got to play at the next level, I still miss that feeling in high school,” Jackson said. “For sure.”
Several players around the state have committed to UK, and the Wildcats are pursuing others as part of next year’s signing class and beyond. Here’s a primer on where the locals headed to UK, and those who might someday pick the Cats, are going to start their playoff journeys.
Beau Allen, Lexington Catholic (QB): The son of former UK quarterback Bill Allen has thrown for 34 touchdowns and 3,311 yards with only six interceptions as a senior. He’s the only quarterback committed as part of Kentucky’s next signing class and plans to enroll early. His Knights host Bourbon County — coached by ex-Cat David Jones — at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Izayah Cummings, Male (WR): The Bulldogs are the top-ranked Class 6A team and No. 7 overall in the KHSAA’s Ratings Percentage Index, which debuted this season. They host Southern at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Cummings has piled up 870 yards and nine TDs on 47 receptions this season.
John Young, Christian Academy of Louisville (OL): Along with Allen, Young has been one of the most active recruiters of other players in the class. The four-star offensive tackle committed in April. His Centurions made the jump from Class 2A to 3A this season and went 8-2. Mercer County handed them one of their losses, a 45-42 thriller in Louisville; they’ll seek revenge in Harrodsburg at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Octavious Oxendine, North Hardin (DT): The 6-2, 308-pound defensive tackle has announced that he’ll make his decision Dec. 18 at his high school. A three-star prospect, UK and Tennessee are expected to be the biggest players down the stretch. North Hardin is the Class 6A team with the second-highest RPI in the state; it hosts Barren County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Vito Tisdale, Bowling Green (S): Perhaps the state’s most coveted uncommitted prospect, Tisdale is the nation’s No. 32 safety according to 247Sports, which rates him as a four-star prospect. Bowling Green opens the playoffs against Christian County at home; the Purples kick off against the Colonels at 7 p.m. Friday.
Parker Bates and Logan Weedman, Apollo: Bates, an offensive tackle, and Weedman, a tight end, each stand 6-foot-5 and are stout — Bates checks in at 310 pounds while Weedman is 240. Both 247Sports and Rivals rate the Owensboro natives as three-star prospects. Their Eagles will get a second crack at McCracken County, which defeated them 81-51 in September, on Friday. That game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. in Paducah.
Jager Burton, Frederick Douglass (OL): The four-star prospect also holds offers from the sport’s biggest programs — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, etc. — and senior teammate Walker Parks is headed to Clemson. They lead a line that’s enabled Douglass to be one of the state’s most dominant offenses this season; the Broncos were to open Thursday at home against Great Crossing, which opened this year in Scott County. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Tristan Cox, Pulaski County (LB): UK offered Cox last June before Louisville and Purdue followed. The 6-3, 235-pound inside linebacker has 84 tackles — 19 for losses — three sacks and a fumble recovery on defense. He’s also the leading scorer with seven rushing TDs and six TD receptions this year for the Maroons, who host cross-county rival Southwestern at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Jordan Dingle, Bowling Green (TE): He’s second in total receptions (27) and TD catches (four) but tied for the team lead in yardage (395). Dingle is a four-star prospect and considered the No. 9 tight end in the country, according to 247Sports.
Jantez Dunn, South Warren (WR): Dunn, who picked up an offer early last month, has hauled in only 13 catches this season but has made the most of them, going for 303 yards and a team-high five TDs. He’s also rushed six times for 80 yards and a TD for South Warren, the defending champion in Class 5A. The Spartans host fellow Warren County challenger Greenwood at 7 p.m. Friday.
Reece Jesse, Hopkinsville (WR): Talent-rich Hoptown has produced another standout in Jesse, a three-star prospect whom 247Sports has ranked as a top-60 receiver in the nation. He’s 10th in the state with 1,071 yards on 57 receptions and has caught 14 TDs. You can watch him try to get No. 15 when the Tigers host Calloway County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Kaiya Sheron, Somerset (QB): UK and Marshall are so far the only FBS schools that have offered the 6-3, 195-pound junior. He and the Briar Jumpers have lost only once this season — on a two-point conversion at district rival Lexington Christian Academy — and could stage a rematch if they get by Danville again this Friday at 7:30 p.m. An added bonus: Jase Bruner, senior linebacker and running back at Somerset, has committed to UK as a preferred walk-on. He’s rushed for 311 yards and five TDs and leads the Briar Jumpers with 76 tackles and two fumble recoveries.
Lavell Wright, North Hardin (RB): Rivals pegs Wright as the No. 8 all-purpose back in the nation for the 2021 class. He’s rushed for 1,286 yards and 18 TDs this season for the undefeated Trojans. Wright — 6-1, 195 pounds — has also caught 28 passes for 465 yards and three TDs.
Selah Brown, Male (DE): The 6-2, 270-pound sophomore has been a wrecking ball for the Bulldogs, tallying 35 tackles — 11 for losses — and eight sacks this season. He’s also recovered three fumbles.
Kiyaunta Goodwin, Ballard (OT): One of the most physically intimidating football players in the country, measuring in at 6-8, 350 pounds, Goodwin due to KHSAA transfer rules wasn’t eligible to play for the Bruins until October. Ballard is 2-2 since Goodwin came into the fold and “hosts” Eastern this week in a game that kicks off 7 p.m. Friday at Seneca.
Dane Key, Frederick Douglass (WR): A sophomore legacy recruit (his dad is Donte Key), Dane found himself on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays this year and has been electric just about every week for the undefeated Broncos. He leads them with 22 receptions for 432 yards and seven TDs.
Treyveon Longmire and Dakota Patterson, Corbin: Longmire is a sophomore athlete who’s been offered by Florida State, Louisville, Purdue and Tennessee in addition to the Wildcats. UK’s is the only offer so far for Patterson, a freshman wide receiver for the Redhounds. They’ll look to help their team beat Knox Central for the second time this season when the Panthers come to Corbin for a 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff.