Ivan Rice of The Bourbon County Citizen and Dave Schabell of bmustangs.com contributed to this report.
Class A District 5 has consisted of Bishop Brossart, Bracken County, Nicholas County, and Paris since 2015 with Berea leaving after the 2018 season. The district has seen a lot of parity since the three-way tie in 2016 that went Nicholas County’s way after the tie-breaker. The district went to Paris in 2017 and 2018. Nicholas County won the district in 2019.
The 2020 Covid-19 football season saw Brossart beat Nicholas 42-34 in triple overtime, Paris 27-6, and Bracken 34-6. Nicholas County beat Paris 36-16 in the opening round of the State Football Finals, pitting them against Bishop Brossart for the district championship. It was Nicholas County that claimed the 2020 district crown after Bishop Brossart was made to forfeit due to Covid-19 quarantine protocol.
Bishop Brossart came back in 2021 for the district championship. They finished 10-0 in the regular season before losing to Raceland in the State Football Playoffs at Raceland 48-7.
This season expect to see more parity. Each team can make a strong argument for the number one spot. In fact, that Cats Pause had these teams ranked in an entirely different order. Bishop Brossart will try to recreate their historical 12-1 season. Nicholas County returns a strong offensive core and will try to knock off the Mustangs. Paris returns arguably the best player in the district and is the dark horse this season. Bracken County will try to rebuild their program once again after an impressive season under led by their young coach.
1. Bishop Brossart
The Brossart Football Mustangs come into the 2022 season off of a somewhat unexpected undefeated regular season and district playoffs from a year ago. A loss to Raceland in the Regionals ended their season with an overall 12-1 record. A key component of the 2021 team was the defensive unit which allowed only 54 points via touchdowns.
The 2021 Mustangs had overcome the loss of 7 quality seniors including Trevor Schadler, who held two school rushing records and was Brossart’s second leading career rusher. Unheralded Jed Martin joined third year quarterback Jacob Leicht in the Mustangs backfield and both recorded 1,000 yard seasons. Leicht was named the District 5 Player of the Year, and Martin was tabbed All-State – Honorable Mention – Running Back.
The 2022 Mustangs, whose roster has grown from 37 to 49, will be asked to overcome the loss of 11 seniors from that 12-1 team, including the services of both Jed Martin and Jacob Leicht.
Also lost to graduation are David Govan who was responsible for 46 of their 312 points scored, their reliable place-kicker “Dewey” Schwartz (23 of 28 PATs), and Thomas Sayers and other key members of that defensive unit.
While it appears a daunting task, the cupboard is not bare. Sophomore Keegan Gulley, who has added inches and pounds over the off-season, served as the Mustangs’ JV quarterback last year, leading that squad to a 4-0 mark. He is the early favorite to claim the quarterback position, with Seniors Mason Meyer and Sam Willike both capable at that spot.
Meyer could find himself under center, in the backfield, or as Gulley’s primary passing target in the wide-receiver spot. Evan Orth and Austin Schadler, primarily defensive players, could well find themselves forming a “jumbo package” when the situation calls for it.
Orth was the primary short yardage go-to guy a year ago. Newcomer, Senior speedster, Logan Woosley, could also add some energy and excitement to the backfield.
Brossart’s schedule is a mirror image of that played a year ago, with 6 Class A teams, 3 Class 2A, and Pendleton County, a 3A program.
The Mustangs are fresh off of a team-building trip to the Smokey Mountains, that had been postponed since the summer of 2020 Covid pandemic. They will scrimmage Sayre on August 12th in Lexington, and open the season versus independent Class 1A foe, Dayton, at Dayton on the 19th. A pair of Thursday night home games will take place – Newport on the 25th and Bellevue on September 1st, before embarking on a four game road trip that includes a trip to Carlisle on the 30th, for a district seeding game with Nicholas County, closing out the month of September.
Three home district seeding games will follow in October, with a bye on the 21st, and the regular season wrap-up with the Battle of 27, their annual grudge match with Pendleton County, at the new Mustang Athletic Complex.
Coach Paul Wiggins is in his ninth year as the head coach of the Mustangs. His overall record is 53-34 (one loss was a forfeit credited to Covid). Wiggins has received numerous awards including being designated the District 5 Coach of the Year in 2021. His staff includes Dennis Ollier, Jr., in his seventh season; Jake Martin a former player; Mark Moore, a multi-year veteran; Scott Schroeder; Nate Bezold, another Brossart alum; and Staff Assistant Justin Reckner, a Brossart grad.
All Brossart varsity football games (Audio Broadcasts) can be accessed each game night via our www.bmustangs.com website.
2. Nicholas County
Coach Robert Hopkins enters his 21st season as head coach of the Bluejackets with a record of 101-117 with them.
His 2021 squad had a games played record of 6-5. Nicholas County started off their season with a 31-7 win over Owen County, 6-21 loss to Campbellsville, 48-12 win over Fort Knox, and blowout loss to Frankfort 20-49 (who also running clocked Bracken).
They started off district play with a two touchdown 14-0 loss to Bishop Brossart in Alexandria, a game that determined the #1 seed in district. The Mustang defense shut out their opponents in 7 games last year and held the Bluejackets to 152 yards. Next week they hosted the Paris Greyhounds in a 17-6 win where Nicholas had 86 passing and 176 rushing yards. They defeated Bracken County 38-6.
In the State Football Playoffs they hosted Bracken County in a 27-0 win, before getting running clocked by Bishop Brossart on the road 36-0. This was a far cry from the two touchdown battle just over a month earlier.
They lost 8 seniors but return most of their offense. The starting QB will be senior Tate Letcher who threw for 841 yards, averaging 76.5 yards per game and throwing for 7 touchdowns. Letcher was also the team’s third leading rusher with 22.6 yards per game. He also was the team’s second leading man on defense with 82 tackles. Letcher’s primary target is now senior Brayson Ring who averaged 36.8 receiving yards per game.
Nicholas County’s biggest offensive production comes via the run game. Carter Fryman was just a sophomore last year, but he led the team in all rushing categories. He ran for 872 yards in 10 games and scored 10 touchdowns.
The Bluejackets also return running back Dalton Hughes who is now a senior. He was their second choice in the backfield averaging 55.3 rushing yards with 8 touchdowns.
The Bluejackets lost 9 seniors last year. Most of those players started for the Bluejacket defense. They will try to recoup what was lost to graduation on the defensive side and in the trenches this season.
This will be the year for Nicholas County to reclaim the district title, as they loose almost their entire offensive production next season. Nicholas County will kick off their season on August 19th hosting Owen County. In the district they host Bishop Brossart and play Paris and Bracken on the road.
Tyquan Rice’s first Greyhound football team finished last season with a 4-6 record that saw them lose a tough one to, at the time, an undefeated Bishop Brossart team in the opening round of the 1A state playoffs. Gone from that team are four-year starters, as well as all-district performers Chase Puckett, Gabriel Arnett, Zion Jackson, and MarQe’is Catlett.
Paris will need to find a replacement for Puckett, a three-year starter at the quarterback position, and then, try their best to fill the void of losing Jackson, Catlett, and Arnett, who all played big on both sides of the ball. However, one plus for this year’s team will be the guys that play in the trenches.
Anchored by junior Zian Webb, sophomore Preston Cowan, junior Cordre Patterson and sophomore Colby Gray, and with nearly every other starter returning on the offensive and defensive line, if Paris can coach up a few more skill guys, Rice’s team should be able to put the ball in the endzone, while at the same time, keep teams out of the endzone.
As of right now, Paris, who will still be a noticeably young team, is ranked as the fourth best team in the four-team district according to the Cats Pause, and rightfully so, considering they have lost seven district games in a row. But this writer (Ivan Rice) will be extremely stunned if the Greyhounds finished fourth, after being in every district game last season before fading at the end. They lost all four games by a combined 30 points.
Early analysis of Paris’ 2022 team is simple… right now, it’s just a wait and see approach.
The key returnee will be junior Jakari Ransom, who is ranked as the top returning player in the district. He led the Hounds in 2021 with 755 rushing yards (19th best in Class A) on 138 attempts, while rushing for a team best 10 touchdowns. Ransom caught a team-best 18 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown. He completed 8 of his 24 pass attempts for 142 yards, while scoring 68 points, 20th best in Class A. He totaled 42 tackles on defense, with 6 going for a loss, had 3 sacks, and forced 3 fumbles.
Another returnee will be all-district performer Darian Bell, a sophomore, who carried the ball 20 times for 142 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 8 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, Bell recorded 11 tackles, 2 for a loss and picked off a team-best 3 passes. In addition, look for junior Jayden Holman, sophomore Kaden Frederick and junior Evan Tipton to give this team some much-needed skill athletes.
Six games (Frankfort, Bath County, Ludlow, Bracken County, Nicholas County, Clinton County) this year will be played at the historic Blanton Collier Stadium which opened in 1945. The Hounds’ four road games (Morgan County, Pineville, Bishop Brossart, Sayre) will eat up some miles on the buses, where the distance to each field will have a combined total of nearly 620 traveling round trip miles.
The Greyhounds will kick off their grid season on August 19th when the Frankfort Panthers come to town to battle their longtime rival in the Greyhound Hall of Fame Game.
4. Bracken County
Bracken County enters their 20th season of football in what has been up and down since its inception in the 2003 season.
Last season was the first time the Polar Bears beat Paris since 2016. Bracken County has not beaten Nicholas County since 2017, and before that it was their 22-21 upset victory in 2016 under coach Mike Sizemore.
Bracken County is led by a young coach named Simon Clouse. Clouse is a 2009 graduate of Harrison County where he was a tight end/defensive end. Last year was his first head coaching position after spending some time as an assistant coach in southwestern Kentucky. The Polar Bears had a somewhat surprising 2021 season under Clouse, given the fact the two prior seasons they had a combined record of 1-15 under coach Tim Carver.
Like another young coach in Bracken County football’s history, Mike Sizemore took an 0-11 squad in 2014 and did a complete 180 two years later with the 2016 team that went 8-3; the most successful season in school history up until that point.
Last season started off with a one-touchdown loss to Ludlow on the road. Bracken County then beat 3A Lewis County on the road in an 18-14 dog fight in the mud. They had blowout wins over Trimble County and Caverna before a loss to Frankfort who also running clocked Paris and Nicholas County last year. After that Bracken beat Paris 20-12 in an unexpected, however, not surprising win. They then lost to district opponents Brossart and Nicholas before beating Owen County, and eventually losing to Nicholas County again in the State Football Playoffs.
This historical makeup of Bracken County’s offense has been ground and pound and there has been no shortage of quality running backs in Brooksville. Nick Parker, Tad Fisher, Trey Brausch, and Payton Gilvin all ran for over 1,000 yards in a single season during their tenure.
The focus will be on replacing Payton Gilvin, who ran for just under 3,000 yards in his career. With no clear front-runner as to who will lead Bracken County’s offense, it places them at the bottom of our district rankings.
One of their biggest strengths will be their offensive line. They return four starters up front, who just won a linemen challenge in a 7-on-7 event with Paris, Pendleton County, and Harrison County.
Another positive to look forward to is the youth and success of the feeder programs. Over the last two seasons, the middle school cubs have a record of 13-2, defeating teams like Newport Catholic (33-6), Bishop Brossart (54-12), Mason County (54-0), and Fleming County (64-30). The key will be retaining these young players.
Two young freshmen will have plenty of opportunities this year. Jackson Whitten, the backup QB and starting defensive back at 6’4″ who is likely to lead the Polar Bears at QB for the 2023 season and will get some snaps this year. Another freshman is Jordan Brown who transferred over the summer from Lexington. He will be the primary receiving target. Daulton Tarter, another freshman, will be getting carries as well.
Senior Chase Wilson will be at the quarterback position. He played in all ten games last season but only made three passes, completing one for a 21-yard touchdown. Last season he was a receiver with 144 total yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side, Wilson had 80 tackles (55 assisted) which were the team’s third most last season.
The Polar Bears open up their season on August 26th hosting Lewis County. They will have an unusual two weeks open as Jenkins’ program folded leaving a still unfilled opening in week one.