Youth defines this year’s Lions squad

Published 12:25 pm Friday, August 18, 2023


Contributing Writer

Hoping to build upon their early 2022 success, the Pineville Mountain Lions will open their 2023 campaign with a cache of young but somewhat unproven talent.

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Coach Allen Harris opened his inaugural season in Pineville with a seven-game winning streak that catapulted the Lions into the top 10 in Class A, but the Lions hit a three-game skid at the end of the season with losses to Williamsburg and Harlan before played perennial 2A power Middlesboro to the wire on the road to close the regular season. The Lions also played well but fell at Hazard in the first round of the playoffs.

This year will also be a challenge for the youthful Lions. Pineville opens up on the road at Clay County and Rockcastle County before getting into district play that now includes Middlesboro to go along with Williamsburg, Harlan and Lynn Camp.

Pineville graduated 14 seniors out of 33 players off that 7-4 squad but also returned key components in the skill positions that will allow the Lions to be explosive on offense and defense.

Harris is excited about the possibilities for his “young guns.”

“We lost 14 seniors from last year’s club, many of which were starters on both sides of the ball, so in many ways, it’s a total rebuild. But we are excited about the young guys,’ Harris said. “We have more freshmen and sophomores than juniors and seniors. We’ve had a really good summer and look forward to the season.”

Pineville has a good problem at quarterback and has had a competition for the spot with freshman Deakon Partin (6-3, 215) and junior Sawyer Thompson (6-2, 170). Partin is coming off a monster eighth-grade campaign and has all the tools necessary to be a dynamic signal caller. Thompson is a dual threat at both quarterback (1326 yards passing 18 TD) and wide receiver and can impact games at either position.

The Lions backfield will feature sophomore Landon Robbins (1,139 yards total offense). Robbins has put on several pounds of muscle to go with his breakaway speed and will be hard to contain. Seniors Jacob Maggard and Nasir Wilson provide depth in the backfield.

The Lion receiving corps is young but could be very potent. Junior Dylan Abner is a load at the tight end-H position and has excellent hands. Robbins is a threat out of the backfield to catch the ball. The receiving group of Thompson, Maggard, Wilson, senior Wyatt Caldwell, junior Kaiden Robbins, and sophomore Zakary Brown have all made big plays over the 7-on-7 summer campaign and will be counted on to keep defenses honest.

Of the losses due to graduation, the Lions must replace several key pieces that helped pave the road for the offense. However, PHS does have some young talent along the line of scrimmage in sophomore guard Ben Matthews and sophomore center Braxton Washington. Both will be counted on to help guide the Lions up front along with senior tackle Josh Beverly.

Defensively, the Lions will try to use their athleticism at the linebacker and secondary positions and create pressure up front.

Up front, PHS will feature Abner and sophomore Shawn Sinkhorn at the ends and Matthews at tackle. The other tackle position is up for grabs with several in competition for the spot.

Sophomore Dustin Jones and Washington have played well over the summer and will be counted on to produce from their inside linebacker positions. L. Robbins and Maggard are quick outside linebackers and can make plays all over the field.

The defensive backfield will feature K. Robbins and Caldwell at the safety position and Wilson, Brown, and freshman Riley Monhollen manning the corners.

Brown returns to handle the kicking duties. The Robbins brothers and Wilson will handle return responsibilities.

The Lions open up play on Aug. 18 in Manchester against the Clay County Tigers.



Aug 18 at Clay County

Aug 25 at Rockcastle County

Sep 2 vs. Bishop Brossart

Sep 8 vs. Eminence

Sep 15 vs. Lee (Jonesville, VA)

Sep 22 vs. Harlan

Sep 29 at Williamsburg

Oct 6 vs. Middlesboro

Oct 20 at Lynn Camp

Oct 27 at Leslie County