High School Football

Top 10: The Kentucky Class 5A high school football preseason rankings

Photo slideshow: Scott County at Frederick Douglass (2018 playoffs)

Scott County defeated Frederick Douglass, 28-27, in the second round of the Class 6A high school football playoffs in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.
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Scott County defeated Frederick Douglass, 28-27, in the second round of the Class 6A high school football playoffs in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

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2019 Kentucky high school football preview

The 2019 high school football season kicks off Friday, Aug. 23. New high school sports beat writer Jared Peck is rolling out several stories over the next two weeks in the Herald-Leader and on Kentucky.com previewing the season around the city, region and state and highlighting the top players and games. Click below to read all of his previous stories.

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Kentucky high school football’s 2019 realignment has dropped one of the most consistent Class 6A contenders down to Class 5A in two-time champ Scott County and brought Frederick Douglass, the Cardinals’ newest and most intense rival along with them.

And, as evident by the @HLpreps preseason survey of coaches, big things are expected of Class 5A’s new kids.

Here are the preseason top 10 teams in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Class 5A as voted on by coaches in the division.

1. Frederick Douglass

Head coach: Brian Landis (third season).

Last year: 11-1. Lost 28-27 in the Class 6A second round to Scott County.

Quick look: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the Broncos rate so highly. Start on the offensive line with 6-5, 275-pound senior Clemson commit Walker Parks and add Jager Burton, a 6-3, 271-pound junior guard who picked up an offer from Alabama among others this summer. Then there’s two-star O-lineman Jacob O’Buck, a 6-3.5, 287-pound senior tackle.

Dekel Crowdus, the No. 1 junior in the state according to 247Sports.com, led Douglass in receiving last year and Devin Neal, a Cincinnati commit, patrols the defensive backfield. In all, Douglass has six players with Division I offers, according to Landis.

Paintsville transfer Josh McClurg, who led the Tigers in scoring last year as a multi-purpose player, lines up under center and will give Douglass a vastly different offensive look than they had with Cincinnati signee Cam Jones.

2. Scott County

Head coach: Jim McKee (23rd season).

Last year: 11-4. Lost 37-20 in the Class 6A finals to Male.

Quick look: More than half of Scott County’s enrollment shifted to the new Great Crossing High School, but most of its football upperclassmen did not. The Cardinals return 31 seniors, including coach’s son and quarterback Cade McKee and running back Bronson Brown, who piled up 1,494 yards and 21 TDs as the No. 2 back. Sophomore RB Jeremy Hamilton will share the load. McKee ranks senior Alberto Campos as one of the better defensive ends in the state. Seniors Tasian Stakelin and Rylan Reed anchor the linebacking corps.

3 Covington Catholic

Head coach: Eddie Eviston (fifth season).

Last year: 14-1. Lost 20-16 in the state finals to South Warren.

Quick look: Senior Michael Mayer ranks as one of the top tight ends in the nation and he has junior QB Caleb Jacob back as the Colonels look to make a third straight finals trip. Mayer, a 6-5, 240-pound four-star recruit, committed to Notre Dame. He caught 46 passes for 1,029 yards and 12 TDs in 2018. He also led the team in tackles as a linebacker with 98. Jacob threw for 2,819 yards and 28 TDs.

4. South Warren

Head coach: Brandon Smith (seventh season).

Last year: 15-0. Won the Class 5A state championship, 20-16, over Covington Catholic.

Quick look: The state champs graduated most of their offensive production, but have Western Kentucky commit Colt Jackson, a 6-3, 270-pound three-year starter on the O-line, and Jantzen Dunn, a 6-0 175-pound cornerback who has an offer from WKU. Caden Veltkamp, a 6-5, 186-pound sophomore, takes over at QB. Senior Tomi Mustapha caught for 464 yards and four TDs.

5. Bowling Green

Head coach: Mark Spader (second season).

Last year: 9-3. Lost 28-21 in the second round to Owensboro.

Quick look: Senior safety Vito Tisdale and junior tight end Jordan Dingle have attracted big-time Division I offers, including Kentucky and Louisville. Seniors Elvin Fofanah, Scotty Brown and Zak Brassell caught nine TDs and more than 700 yards amongst them. Tisdale featured on offense last year and led the team in rushing and scoring. Senior Evan Spader, the team’s leading returning tackler, will step up his role on offense.

6. Highlands

Head coach: Brian Weinrich (sixth season).

Last year: 10-3. Lost 36-0 in the third round to Covington Catholic.

Quick look: Junior running back Joe Buten had a sophomore year to build on with 537 yards and nine TDs. He has a senior-laden O-line, including Dylan Turner, Brock Huber and Max Dierig. Senior linebacker Brycen Huddleston heads up the defense and ranks as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com. He’s committed to Eastern Michigan.

7. Pulaski County

Head coach: John Hines (21st season).

Last year: 11-3. Lost 36-14 in the semifinals to Covington Catholic.

Quick look: Eastern Kentucky commit Jake Sloan, a 6-3, 200-pound wideout, had 116 catches for 1,666 yards and 13 TDs in 2018. Hines expects big things from sophomore QB Drew “Tiger” Polston: “Remember this guy’s name.” Junior linebacker Tristan Cox ranks as a three-star recruit with seven offers, including Kentucky and Louisville. Senior LB Konner Hargis has a shot at the school’s tackles record.

8. Owensboro

Head coach: Jayson Fallin (fifth season).

Last year: 10-3. Lost 44-7 in the third round to eventual champion South Warren.

Quick look: Austin Gough, a 6-0, 200 pound linebacker, earned first-team all-state honors as a sophomore after setting a school record for tackles with 131, but he’s expected to miss some time after suffering an ankle injury ahead of the season. Tyren Hayden, a 6-3, 190-pound senior, comes back as the Red Devils’ leading receiver with 48 catches for 667 yards and six TDs in 2018. He bookends with junior Treyvon Tinsley’s 459 yards and 10 TDs. Under center, Gavin Wimsatt, a 6-3, 200-pound sophomore, takes over at QB. He started for Owensboro’s regional champion basketball team last season.

9. South Oldham

Head coach: Jamie Reed (10th season)

Last year: 12-2. Lost 44-7 in the third round to South Warren.

Quick look: The Dragons bring back a ton from a team whose only losses came to two eventual state champs. Keaton Martin, 5-7, 185-pound senior RB, returns as a four-year starter and “the heartbeat of our team,” Coach Reed said. He had 1,509 yards and 19 TDs in 2018. QB Anthony Pierce and WRs Ethan Bednarczyk and JT Benson also return and represent most of the 2018’s passing production.

10. Southwestern

Head coach: Jason Foley (first season)

Last year: 10-3. Lost 13-6 in the third round to Pulaski County.

Quick look: Running back Chase Doan rushed for 916 yards and 10 TDs as a freshman. Leading tacklers Austin Barnes (93) and Rowan Pennington (88) also return. District foe Pulaski County handed Southwestern two of its defeats. The new playoff structure makes a two-game series very likely again this season.

Others receiving votes

(Listed in order of votes received)

Conner, Christian County, Cooper, Madison Southern, Montgomery County, Graves County, South Laurel, North Bullitt, North Laurel and Woodford County.

Teams participating in Class 5A top-10 vote: Bowling Green, Christian County, Conner, Covington Catholic, East Jessamine, Frederick Douglass, Graves County, Great Crossing, Greenwood, Highlands, Iroquois, Montgomery County, Muhlenberg County, Pulaski County, Scott County, Seneca, South Oldham, South Warren, Whitley County and Woodford County.

Survey method: Every Class 5A coach was given the opportunity to participate in the @HLpreps annual survey, emailed to their address listed on KHSAA.org. Multiple attempts were made to contact every coach.

High school football 2019

The 2019 high school football season kicks off Friday night. New high school sports beat writer Jared Peck has been rolling out several stories over the past two weeks in the Herald-Leader and on Kentucky.com previewing the season around the city, region and state and highlighting the top players and games. Visit Kentucky.com to catch up on any stories you’ve missed.

Jared Peck, the Herald-Leader’s Digital Sports Writer, covers high school athletics and has been with the company as a writer and editor for more than 19 years.
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