BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
The Daily Independent All-Area Small School Football Team. Front (from left): Peyton Brown, Brayden Robertson, Dalton Adkins, Noah West, Tucker Brown, Jaylyn Allen. Second row: Kirk Cochran, Kyle Murray, Garrett Applegate, Jake Dixon, Turner King, Dalton Daniels, Grant Wilburn. Third row: Josh Crump, Tay Offutt, Justin Whitmoyer, Judd Adkins, James Allen, Derek Buckler, Austin Reed. Fourth row: Christian Rivers, Jaden Campbell, Luke Lemaster, Justin Fairchild, Tanner Smith, Nolan Smith, Landan Swartz. Fifth row: Michael Salmons, Nick Clark, Austin Braden, Cam Webb, Aaron Hill, Tyus Ferguson, Tyrese Allen, Landen Duvall.
KEVIN GOLDY | THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
CANNONSBURG Raceland has had football teams expected to make noise on the statewide stage. The 2017 Rams weren’t one of them.
“We didn’t seem to be the most talented team ever,” Rams senior lineman Tyus Ferguson said, “but it’s like last year we found a way to lose half the time, and this year, we found a way to win.”
Raceland kept doing that all the way to its first Class A state championship game in school history. There, the Rams lost to Beechwood, 41-0, but added another block to its foundation, coach Michael Salmons believes.
“Maybe a lot of people had become frustrated with the barrier that had been in place for many years,” Salmons said
Tuesday at the All-Area photoshoot at Boyd County, “and I think once that door kinda got pushed down, people realized, hey, wait a minute, this can happen and this will happen. Making history was very special.”
Salmons was chosen The Daily Independent
All-Area Small School Football Coach of the Year. Ferguson is one of nine Rams voted onto the All-Area team.
In four years under Salmons, Raceland has won 38 games. That makes Salmons third on the school’s all-time wins list — behind the two coaches the 1999 Raceland alumnus played for in orange, Bill Tom Ross (112 wins) and Randy Vanderhoof (91).
The Rams reached the state semifinals for the third time in program history — Salmons coached Raceland’s second team to get there in his rookie season as skipper in 2014 — and got to the carpet for the first time.
“People ask, ‘What did it feel like?’” Salmons said. “In March Madness, teams just get hot at the right time. I felt like we got hot at the right time, fortunately, and we made plays when we had to make plays, and it was a monumental step for our program and one that we feel like elevated our program to a new level.”
It was a level Raceland reached in part by ending a frustrating fivegame losing skid to district archrival Paintsville in the region finals, avenging a regular-season loss to the Tigers four weeks earlier.
Paintsville won its third consecutive Class A, District 6 championship behind All-Area Small School Player of the Year Tyrese Allen.
The senior West Virginia signee rushed for 882 yards and 17 touchdowns, making a habit of carrying helpless would-be tacklers on his back along the way. He had 105 receiving yards and a score, as well as 25 solo tackles and 17 assisted stops from his defensive line spot.
“It’s really special,” Allen said of his honor. “We all started this journey right around the same time, when we were like 7, and we never pictured that we’d be on the All-Area team or Player of the Year or get recruited by college coaches. It’s just been a tremendous ride.”
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen recently visited Allen at Paintsville High School. Allen deadpanned that the Mountaineer- mandated workout and diet plan includes “running, running, more running, more running.”
“Hopefully I can go up there and make everybody proud,” Allen said of Morgantown. “It’s just crazy to think that kids can get recruited out of here and go big places like that.”
Class A, District 6 sent a team to at least the state semifinals (on the field) for the sixth straight season (Fairview, 2012; Raceland, 2013 and ’14; Paintsville, 2015 and ’16; Raceland, 2017).
“It’s heated, and I love it,” Allen said of the Tigers-Rams rivalry. “I love it, but at the end of it all, no matter how heated it is, when we see each other out in public, we’ll speak to each other. We may say in the back of our minds, ‘Hey, we don’t like Paintsville, we don’t like Raceland,’ but at the end of the day, we’re all one team and we all have to compete.”
Class 3A, District 5 champion Fleming County won its first district title outright since 2001. The Panthers went 8-3 overall and 5-0 in district play, beating Russell and West Carter by five points apiece before handling Bath County, 49-20, on Oct. 23 in the de facto district title game.
Fleming County senior quarterback Josh Crump threw for 2,091 yards, good for fifth in Class 3A statewide in yards per game, and 24 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He also ran for 546 yards and nine touchdowns.
Lawrence County junior Noah West joins Crump as an All-Area quarterback, but he did it the opposite way — West ran for 1,705 yards and 24 touchdowns, making him sixth in Class 3A among reporting teams in rushing yards per game. He tossed two touchdown passes — the triple-option-oriented Bulldogs threw it only 37 times all year.
Raceland junior Judd Adkins, West Carter senior Peyton Brown, Russell junior Landen Duvall and Bath County junior Landan Swartz are All-Area running backs.
Swartz led Class 3A in rushing yards per game and was third across all classes with 2,196 to go along with 26 touchdowns. He had three return touchdowns, 32 solo tackles and 13 assisted.
Brown’s stat line includes everything but the partridge in a pear tree: 1,082 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, 287 receiving yards and two scores, a touchdown pass, two field goals, 22 extra points, 23 solo tackles, 47 assisted stops and an interception return for a TD. He is the Comets’ all-time leading scorer with 422 points.
Adkins rushed for 1,001 yards and 18 touchdowns, caught passes totaling 250 yards and four scores, and threw for another TD. Duvall ran for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught a scoring pass.
Raceland junior Dalton Adkins, Fleming County senior Jaden Campbell, Lewis County senior Tay Offutt and Paintsville senior Tanner Smith garnered mention at the receiver spots.
Adkins had 480 receiving yards and two TDs, ran for 153 yards and six scores, and had 76 solo tackles and 26 assisted — including 11 unassisted stops and a half a tackle in the state finals.
Campbell had 668 receiving yards and three scores and ran for a TD. His 79-yard punt return for a touchdown with 28 seconds remaining lifted the Panthers over Russell, 35-30, on Sept. 29.
Offutt had 655 receiving yards and five TDs, ran for a score and made 39 solo tackles and 22 assisted. He tied for seventh in Class 3A in receiving yards per game.
Smith ran for 570 yards and nine scores, had 287 receiving yards and three scores, and took three returns to the house.
The All-Area offensive line is composed of six seniors: Russell’s Tucker Brown, Fleming County’s Derek Buckler, Lewis County’s Kirk Cochran, Raceland’s Jake Dixon, Russell’s Aaron Hill and Lawrence County’s Brayden Robertson.
Raceland senior Luke Lemaster is the placekicker. He booted 46 extra points and six field goals, including perhaps the seminal play in Rams history — his 36yard field goal as time expired to beat Pikeville, 17-14, in the Class A state semifinals.
Russell senior Austin Braden, Fleming County senior Kyle Murray and Bath County junior Austin Reed join Allen and Ferguson on the All- Area defensive line.
Ferguson made 49 solo tackles and 33 assisted and caught a scoring pass. Reed had 53 solo tackles, 15 assisted stops and caught thee TDs.
Braden made 11 solo stops and five assisted, and Murray owns 11 solo tackles and 89 assisted.
Paintsville sophomore Jaylyn Allen, Fleming County senior Nick Clark, Paintsville senior Dalton Daniels, Raceland junior Nolan Smith and Rams senior Justin Whitmoyer are All-Area linebackers.
Allen, the lone underclassman on the team, had 31 solo tackles, 22 assisted stops, 111 rushing yards, two TDs and a fumble return for a score.
Clark had 25 solo tackles and 103 assisted. He also ran for 506 yards and six scores.
Daniels made 25 solo tackles and 19 assisted and ran for 444 yards and five touchdowns.
Smith had 67 solo stops and 33 assisted, and Whitmoyer collected 66 solo tackles and helped on 39.
Paintsville junior James Allen, Fairview senior Turner King, West Carter junior Christian Rivers and Raceland senior Cam Webb are the secondary.
Allen had 23 solo tackles and 11 assisted, recovered three fumbles, and had 341 receiving yards and three TDs.
King had 45 solo tackles, 46 assisted, a pick and a fumble recovery. Splitting time at quarterback, he also ran for 548 yards and four touchdowns.
Rivers made 23 solo tackles and 47 assisted and claimed two interceptions. The Comets’ QB threw for 1,122 yards and 14 scores and ran for 725 yards and seven TDs.
Webb made 48 solo tackles and 22 assisted and snagged two picks. He had 515 receiving yards and six TDs.
Russell junior Grant Wilburn is the punter. He kicked 37 times for an average of 35.7 yards per punt. He also stepped in as the Red Devils’ quarterback for their playoff game against Western Hills.
A new addition to the All-Area team is the allpurpose player position. Lewis County junior Garrett Applegate and Raceland senior Justin Fairchild claimed those inaugural spots.
Applegate ran for 820 yards and 12 scores and threw for two TDs. He made 38 solo tackles and 22 assisted. His 210 rushing yards and five scores against Nicholas County on Sept. 8 tied him for the most rushing TDs in a game in Lions history.
Fairchild made 25 solo tackles and 18 assisted, recovered two fumbles and rushed for a score.
The All-Area team is made by area coaches’ voting. The Player and Coach of the Year are awarded by the newspaper’s sports department. The small-school division includes northeastern Kentucky’s Class A and Class 3A programs.
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