Local football players to watch in 2018

Published 11:36 am Friday, August 17, 2018

Football has and will always be a team sport. It isn’t rare to find a great talent on a team that can’t produce on the field. In the same respect, there are multiple great teams that doesn’t have an elite athlete. It’s all about the core pieces.

With that said, there are always those players who standout and can contribute just enough to make their teams better on the field. Whether it’s a budding freshman and a veteran senior, those players can make the plays needed to guide a team to success.

Here are players that will help local teams find success this year:

Middlesboro

Offense: Seth Huff — Running back

Rhyan Rogers will be the glue that holds the offense together this season, but it will be the needed emergence of Seth Huff that can make the offense productive. Just a freshman, Huff already exhibits a skill set that can guide him to tons of success down the road.

During his eighth-grade year with the middle school, it wasn’t rare to find him trucking through several defenders on his way to a touchdown. It’s unlikely that he will be able to do that night in and night out at the high school level (at least not as a freshman), but he still possesses the running ability to break tackles — as showcased during the scrimmage with Clay County.

Middlesboro will also need production from Alex Mason, Trey Watkins and Caleb Bogonko to make the offense flow and draw some of the pressure off Rogers. But, it will be Huff that possess both the big play ability and the mindset to gain the tough yards needed in both short and long yard situations.

Defense: Sebastian Wagoner — Linebacker

This selection should be no surprise to anyone. For the past two years, Sebastian Wagoner has been a force on the defensive side of the ball. With a tendency to find the ball carrier no matter where they are on the field, the senior will be a key piece of the defense once again.

After tallying 54 tackles during the 2016 season, last year was a break season for the linebacker. He ended the year with a team-high 117 tackles after starting the 2017 season with an impressive 20 tackles against Bell County. He followed that performance with 12 tackles against Claiborne, 13 tackles against Clay County and 15 tackles against Harlan before starting to cool off for the season.

With an improved defensive line in front of him, Wagoner’s numbers may drop, but Middlesboro will still need him to be the fly around linebacker that he has been in the past.

Pineville

Offense: Matt Golden — Running back

It is rare to see a player put in as much work during practice and on the field as Matt Golden has over his football career. Standing roughly 5-9, the senior running back has been an asset to Pineville in some capacity during all four years of his career.

Last season, after spending much of his career being utilized on special teams, Golden had the opportunity to showcase his abilities in the backfield. Being the speed back in Pineville’s smash-and-dash backfield, Golden racked up 743 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 68 yards per game.

Showing he can be a threat through the air as well, the senior also hauled in six receptions for 79 yards. As a sophomore, he returned two kicks for touchdowns as well.

In an offense that struggled at times last year, Golden will be needed to give the Mountain Lions a spark — whether it be returning a kickoff for big yards or breaking free for a 20-plus yard run.

Defense: Deon Coffman — Linebacker

It pays to have a player on the defensive side of the ball that can guide and direct a team. This year, that player will be Deon Coffman. The senior will be able to provide stability at the second level while providing a veteran leadership for younger players.

Last season, the first real chance for Coffman to exhibit him abilities, he tallied 45 tackles on the year. His best game came against Berea, where the then-junior racked up 13 tackles in a 42-6 victory.

Bell County

Offense: Jason Jones — Wide receiver

The idea that a wide receiver could be a player to watch in a run-heavy offense may cause some to pause. The fact is the Bobcats need that threat at receiver to keep teams honest and to prevent opponents from stacking the box every single play.

While Colby Frazier, Tanner Asher and London Stephney will likely hear their number called more often on Friday nights, it will be Jason Jones who can cause teams fits during the game.

The fact that Jones was named All-State Honorable Mention a year ago was no fluke. The then-sophomore easily led the receiving corps with 463 yards and three touchdowns on a team-high 27 receptions — on a team that only threw the ball 136 times. He averaged 38.6 yards a game

Jones is in line for a chance to improve those numbers again this year while teams focus on stopping the one-two-three punch of Frazier, Asher and Stephney. When coach Dudley Hilton calls for a pass play, you can rest assured that Jones will likely be the the number one option.

Defense: London Stephney — Defensive back

More known as the Bearden transfer who will start at quarterback for the Bobcats, London Stephney will likely be as effective on the defensive side of the ball. Starting at safety during multiple scrimmages in the offseason, Stephney looks the part of a ball hawk in the secondary.

One vice for Bell County over the past two years has been stopping the pass. Last year, the Bobcats allowed 1,419 yards during the season (118 passing yards per game). In three of the team’s four losses, Bell allowed over their season average in passing yards.

During the regular season against Casey County and Corbin, the Bobcats allowed 264 and 229 yards, respectively. A second meeting against the Redhounds in the playoffs saw the Bobcats allow 188 yards passing.

With Stephney anchoring an experienced secondary, Bell County may possess the tools necessary to prevent teams from using the passing game to their advantage.