High School Sports

Meet the Herald-Leader’s 25th annual Class of the Commonwealth football team

Jackson Beerman, Tates Creek
Jackson Beerman, Tates Creek Photo provided

The Lexington Herald-Leader is proud to present its 25th edition of the Class of the Commonwealth, an annual selection of the state’s top football-playing seniors.

All choices were made by Herald-Leader reporter Josh Moore using criteria which included: career stats and accomplishments, senior-season stats and accomplishments, recruiting rankings and advancement in the postseason.

In addition to the 25 members selected for inclusion, five honorable mentions were named.

Jackson Beerman, Tates Creek

Position: Wide receiver/tight end

Credentials: Finished with 909 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final season with the Commodores, who advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Mulling multiple Division I offers, including Air Force, Army, Eastern Kentucky Navy and Columbia. Also a baseball standout at Tates Creek.

Cole Bentley, Belfry

Position: Offensive guard

Credentials: Bentley, along with fellow Class of the Commonwealth member Austin Dotson, helped Belfry rack up 5,207 rushing yards, the sixth-most in state history, this season. Signed with Louisville after a host of Division I offers, among them Cincinnati, Marshall, Purdue, Virginia and Western Kentucky. Ranked as the state’s fourth-best recruit by 247Sports and 43rd at his position nationally. Won four state titles.

Spencer Blackburn, Trinity

Position: Quarterback

Credentials: Led the Shamrocks to a Class 6A state title (their state-record 24th) despite never having started at the varsity level prior to this season. Completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 2,577 yards and 36 touchdowns with only four interceptions. Mr. Football nominee also rushed for 26 scores and 621 yards.

Geordan Blanton, Johnson Central

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Credentials: Mr. Football nominee was one of only two players who played both sides for Johnson Central, which won its first state title this season. Scored 11 touchdowns, had a team-high five interceptions and finished with about 1,500 all-purpose yards. Three-sport star who won a state wrestling title in 2015 has signed with Marshall University to play baseball.

Landon Board, Owensboro

Position: Running back

Credentials: Rushed for more than 3,600 yards and 47 touchdowns during his career, managing a little more than 1,800 yards during both his junior and senior seasons with the Red Devils. Owensboro fell to the eventual champion in its class each of his four seasons.

Trajon Bright, Mayfield

Position: Running back

Credentials: Scored 79 touchdowns and rushed for 5,773 yards, the latter a school record. Mr. Football nominee Played for three state-title teams.

Jamale Carothers, Bowling Green

Position: Running back

Credentials: Named Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year. Navy commit produced 5,731 total yards over the course of four years, finishing the last three as the Purples’ leading scorer. Named MVP of the 2016 Class 5A finals, during which Bowling Green set a state record for points in a championship game (70). Mr. Football nominee scored 64 touchdowns and was part of three state championship teams.

KeyRon Catlett, Christian County

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Credentials: Ended his career as Christian County’s all-time leading receiver, finishing with 3,614 yards and 42 touchdown receptions as a four-year contributor for the Colonels. Western Kentucky commit also scored five rushing touchdowns and two return touchdowns as a senior.

Zack Dampier, Danville

Position: Quarterback

Credentials: Completed nearly 70 percent of his passes as a senior, 42 of which went for touchdowns. Threw for 97 touchdowns and 8,705 yards over his career, which included a trip to the Class 2A finals in 2016.

Austin Dotson, Belfry

Position: Offensive tackle

Credentials: University of Kentucky commit who won four straight titles with the Pirates, the first Eastern Kentucky team ever to put together such a run. A top-10 recruit in the state and considered one of the top 150 players nationally at his position by 247Sports. Member of the Kentucky team for the Best of the Bluegrass All-Star Game.

Quinten Floyd, Bryan Station

Position: Tight end/defensive end

Credentials: Two-time Herald-Leader All-City selection. In addition to his primary roles, Floyd also served as the Defenders’ backup quarterback for much of his career, throwing for five touchdowns. Eastern Kentucky University commit scored five touchdowns as a junior.

Steven Franklin, Glasgow

Position: Linebacker

Credentials: Ranked among the top 150 inside linebackers in the country. Played all four seasons for the Scotties, recording 138 tackles over the course of his career. Will play in the Blue-Grey All-American Game on Jan. 14, when he will choose his college from a final five of Toledo, Massachusetts, Florida International, Georgia State and Washington State.

Kyree Hawkins, Fern Creek

Position: Running back/defensive back

Credentials: A dynamic contributor for the Tigers in every facet. As a senior he led Fern Creek in rushing (1,364 yards, 21 touchdowns) and receiving (254 yards, five touchdowns) and was in on 86 tackles, second-most on the team. He recovered a team-high three fumbles, returning one for a 75-yard touchdown, had two interceptions and returned a kick for a score. Played for two Class 5A state semifinalists.

CJ Hayes, South Warren

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Credentials: Purdue commit led Spartans with 855 yards and 12 touchdown receptions. Also returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns in 2016. Finished with nine career interceptions. Member of South Warren’s first state championship team in 2015.

Dante Hendrix, Cooper

Position: Wide receiver

Credentials: Finished as all-time leading receiver (3,106 yards) and second-leading touchdown-scorer (42) at Cooper, which opened in 2008. Set single-season Cooper receiving records for yardage and touchdowns in consecutive seasons as a junior and senior.

Jake Johnson, Pulaski County

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Credentials: Torched state records for career receptions (414) and career receiving yardage (5,614) while recording the most single-season receptions (139) by any player in state history. Mr. Football nominee finished second all-time in career receiving touchdowns. Started for Pulaski County in all 60 games and the four championship games it played in from 2013-2016. Won a Class 5A state title in 2014.

Woodford Lankford, Lexington Catholic

Position: Offensive tackle

Credentials: Anchored an offensive line that produced a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard passers. Western Kentucky commit was a Herald-Leader All-City First Team selection. Rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and among the top 200 offensive tackles nationally.

Colby McKee, Scott County

Position: Center/defensive tackle

Credentials: Integral part of an offensive line that annually helps produce one of the state’s top all-around rushing attacks. Holds offers from Eastern Michigan and Tennessee Tech. Named Class 6A, District 7 Player of the Year by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association. Member of the Kentucky team for the Best of the Bluegrass All-Star Game.

Collin Miller, Casey County

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Credentials: 1,000-yard receiver scored 24 total touchdowns (14 receiving, eight rushing, two return) for the Rebels, who set a school record for wins (10) and advanced to the regional round of the playoffs for the first time in program history.

Tanner Morgan, Ryle

Position: Quarterback

Credentials: Led Raiders to the Class 6A state regional round, their first appearance since 2010. Western Michigan commit, who played his first two seasons at Hazard, finished with 10,303 career passing yards, good for eighth-most in state history. Ended career with 104 touchdown passes, tied for 11th-most in the record books. Mr. Football nominee is rated the 45th-best quarterback in the country by 247Sports.

Jake Paulson, Louisville Christian

Position: Tight end/defensive end

Credentials: Considered one of the state’s top recruits and holds offers from multiple Division I programs, including Cincinnati, Illinois, Minnesota and Western Kentucky. Led Centurions, who won their first state title, with 67 tackles. Also caught three touchdowns.

Kent Phelps, Paintsville

Position: Running back

Credentials: Wofford commit battled back from multiple injuries during his career to finish on a high note, rushing for 2,044 yards and 32 touchdowns in his final season for the Tigers. Also caught three touchdowns for Paintsville, which reached the state semifinals for the second straight season.

Landon White, Madison Central

Position: Kicker

Credentials: Made eight field goals and connected on 26 extra-point tries as a senior. Eastern Kentucky commit finished his career with a school-record 18 field goals (his long was 51 yards) and 59 extra points, second-most in Indians history. Of his 57 kickoffs this season, 45 were touchbacks and four went through the goal posts. “Many went completely out of the back of the end zone,” Indians Coach Mark Scenters said.

Jedrick Wills, Lafayette

Position: Offensive tackle/defensive end

Credentials: Five-star offensive tackle who anchored the Generals’ frontline for their championship apperances in 2015 and 2016. Alabama commit is considered the state’s top recruit by every major recruiting service and was ranked 17th nationally by Rivals.com heading into the 2016 season, the second-highest rating given to a Kentuckian since the service began ranking players in 2002. Will play in the Under Armour High School All-American Game on Jan. 1.

Walker Wood, Lafayette

Position: Quarterback

Credentials: Mr. Football nominee who scored 31 rushing touchdowns and threw 30 TDs while helping Lafayette become the first Lexington public school to play in consecutive championship games. University of Kentucky commit was the Generals’ second-leading rusher (1,321) and threw for a career-high 3,047 yards. Was named Lexington Player of the Year and this season’s Paul Hornung Award winner.

Honorable mentions

1. Rayquan Horton, Belfry: Two-way lineman won four state titles with the Pirates. Holds seven Division I offers, including Western Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky and Toledo. Recorded 81 tackles and recovered two fumbles as a senior.

2. Aiden Justice, Beechwood: Scored team-high 27 touchdowns for the Tigers, who won their first state title since 2008.

3. Cole Kirby, Franklin-Simpson: Offensive lineman committed to Middle Tennessee and bolstered the Wildcats during an undefeated run to the Class 4A championship game.

3. Clark Payne, Bowling Green: Member of three state championship teams who threw 44 touchdowns with only four interceptions his senior season.

5. Desmond Ridder, St. Xavier: Cincinnati commit rushed for 30 touchdowns and threw 19 during his career for the Tigers, whose only in-state losses this season were to Trinity (twice) and Bowling Green, both of whom finished undefeated.

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps

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