High School Football

Lexington’s only undefeated football team not yet playing ‘A’ football

Lexington Christian's head coach Ethan J. Atchley celebrated a 4th down stand as LCA hosted Estill County on Friday Sept. 9, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.
Lexington Christian's head coach Ethan J. Atchley celebrated a 4th down stand as LCA hosted Estill County on Friday Sept. 9, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.

Lexington Christian football coach Ethan Atchley was asked about his team’s performance through the season up to this point.

“I’d say we’re at a B-plus in a lot of ways,” Atchley said. “We’re not playing ‘A’ football.”

Talk about a tough grader: the Eagles, ranked second in the latest Class 2A media poll and sixth in the Class 2A Cantrall Ratings, are 6-0 and have beaten their opponents by an average of 35 points. LCA is scoring 51 points per game (No. 1 in the state) and producing more than 400 yards of total offense every time it takes the field.

To Atchley, playing “A” football means producing those kind of results not just week-to-week, but year-to-year.

“I think of ‘A’ football as the Belfrys and the powerhouses each year that have really never had the conversation of ‘turning the corner,’ so to say,” Atchley said.

LCA, on a bye this week, will kick off its district schedule with a home game against Middlesboro next Friday before back-to-back road games at Somerset and Danville, both also ranked in the top 10. Those trips will be the Eagles’ best chance to live up to their ranking and prove they’ve re-arrived after a few dry years following a Class A state title in 2009.

“These kids, sometimes I think for them it almost gets old beating people so bad,” Atchley said. “I say, ‘You boys wait, you’re getting ready for some dogfights in week eight and nine. You better strap it up and get ready to go.’”

The Eagles’ yardage is split almost evenly between passing (1,334) and rushing (1,303), and multiple players have shared in the wealth in both categories. At 580 yards through six games, junior running back Dillon Wheatley is on track for another 1,000-yard rushing season. Fellow junior Logan Nieves isn’t too far behind at 441 yards on just 31 carries this season. Six receivers have accumulated triple-digit yardage already, and have done so ourtesy of a two-quarterback rotation featuring Nieves and Brayden Miller. Balance, to say the least.

“If you scout us right now and look and say, ‘Who do we gotta stop?,’ we’ve got a bunch,” Atchley said.

LCA’s passing game has thrived despite the absence of Ryan Stucky for half the season. The junior receiver, who caught the eye of UK’s staff during a 7-on-7 event this summer and was an All-State honorable mention last season, has been battling a stress fracture in his shin. He’ll be good to go for the district slate of the schedule, though.

“It’ll be an exciting time to get him back in when everybody on film is probably wondering where No. 9 is and we unveil him here for Middlesboro, Somerset and Danville,” Atchley said.

Special teams play has also been a boon for the Eagles, who have returned four kicks for touchdowns this season, including three by junior Drayden Burton. Their increased effort in recent weeks led Atchley to treat the unit to a trip to Culver’s after practice Wednesday evening.

“Those are the little things that we’re doing that are even better than last year,” Atchley said. “It’s what makes this year capable of being special.”

The early returns suggest there will be much more frozen custard in LCA’s future.