LCA football's Atchley discusses what it will take for the Eagles to bring home 2A title
This is the sixth in a series of stories previewing high school football teams in Lexington before the start of the 2017 season on Aug. 18:
Coach: Ethan Atchley (fourth year)
Last season: 12-1 (lost to Danville in Class 2A quarterfinals)
Outlook: Lexington Christian’s bid for an undefeated season and the first 2A championship in program history was derailed by a heartbreaking 34-28 loss to visiting Danville in the state quarterfinals last year. But the Eagles are primed to make another run at the title, boasting a wealth of returning experience and firepower. LCA’s senior class is absolutely loaded with playmakers who’ve been putting up numbers and notching wins for several years now. In all, the Eagles return 19 of 22 starters, including 10 on offense. That experience and cohesion should prove especially valuable as the Eagles continue to deploy their signature up-tempo, no-huddle attack.
“Our goal is just to wear people down. Sometimes you can actually see the other team becoming demoralized,” senior quarterback Logan Nieves said. “It excites me to think about what we’re gonna do to teams this year. We’re ready to take that last step.”
Nieves did the bulk of his damage on the ground last year, rushing for 647 yards and 11 touchdowns, both second-best on the team behind workhorse running back Dillon Wheatley. Nieves also passed for 563 yards and five touchdowns, but the Eagles’ most lethal arm is that of senior quarterback Brayden Miller. Last season Miller passed for 2,210 yards and 27 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He’ll have a trio of senior wide receivers at his disposal which last year combined for 110 catches, 1,632 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Other expected contributors: Caelan Lebryk (sr. WR/DB), Drayden Burton (sr. WR/DB), Ryan Stucky (sr. WR/DB), Wade Drake (sr. LB/RB), Ben Whitman (jr. OL/DL), Wyatt Southall (sr. OL/DL), Dustin Wheatley (so. OL/DL), Graham Parks (sr. OL/DL)
Opposing defenses will have to pick their poison when playing the Eagles but their first unenviable task must be finding a way to slow down Dillon Wheatley, a physically imposing bruiser who can both run over a linebacker and outrun a safety. Wheatley topped 2,000 yards from scrimmage for the second time last year, rushing for 1,791 yards and 28 touchdowns along with 305 yards and five touchdowns receiving.
“Dillon just gets stronger as the game goes on,” Atchley said. “He’s an old-school throwback player that loves the game and loves the grind.”
Atchley: “The kids have been working extremely hard, they know big-time expectations are upon them right now. These are exciting times.”
“Everybody knows we’re gonna go no-huddle, everybody knows we’re gonna try to snap the ball every six-and-a-half seconds. And you can always expect a good wrinkle from us out of special teams. The foundation is there and we are who we are.”
Senior receiver Drayden Burton: “Playing with this group of guys for so long gives us a different kind of confidence from other teams. You know where everyone is without even looking at them and that’s a huge advantage.
All we have to do is avoid beating ourselves. When we don’t beat ourselves we’re the best team in the state, hands down.”
(All times p.m.; home games in capital letters)
Aug. 19: WAGGENER, 6
Aug. 26: x-at Pikeville, 8
Sept. 1: Vincennes (Ind.) Lincoln, 7:30
Sept. 8: LEX. CATHOLIC, 7:30
Sept. 15: WALTON-VERONA, 7:30
Sept. 22: at Ky. Country Day, 7:30
Sept. 29: at Middlesboro, 7:30
Oct. 13: SOMERSET, 7:30
Oct. 20: DANVILLE, 7:30
Oct. 27: ESTILL CO., 7:30
x-Pike County Bowl