PAINTSVILLE — Johnson Central is preparing to host a seven-on-seven passing tournament on Saturday. Five other Eastern Kentucky teams are scheduled to join perennial Class 4A state title contender Johnson Central for the early-preseason high school football event. In addition to host Johnson Central, fellow Eastern Kentucky squads Floyd Central, Lawrence County, Pike Central, Phelps and Powell County are slated to compete in the seven-on-seven passing tournament.
Johnson Central, less than two years removed from capturing a Class 4A state title in December 2016, opened preseason practice on Monday. The Golden Eagles, under the direction of veteran head coach Jim Matney, have advanced to three straight Class 4A state title games. Tradition-rich Johnson Central concluded the 2017 season 13-2, finishing runner-up behind Franklin-Simpson in Class 4A.
Junior quarterback Ryley Preece is headed into his third season as a starter for the Golden Eagles. As a sophomore in 2017, Preece completed 58-of-104 passes for 1,284 yards and 16 touchdowns while throwing only five interceptions.
Upstart Floyd Central is fresh off its debut season. Floyd Central fared well in its inaugural campaign, compiling an 8-4 record after finishing runner-up to Belfry in Class 3A, District 6, hosting a home playoff game and reaching the second round of the postseason. The Jaguars defeated visiting Henry County in the opening round of the 2017 Class 3A State Playoffs. Floyd Central is under the direction of head coach Shawn Hager.
A new quarterback will have to lead the Jaguars following the graduation of starting signal-caller Dylan Caudill.
Lawrence County finished behind Floyd Central in Class 3A District 6 in 2017. The Bulldogs, under the tutelage of head coach Alan Short, ended the 2017 season 5-6. Lawrence County lost to Waggener on the road in Louisville in the opening round of the 2017 Class 3A State Playoffs.
A longtime leader, senior quarterback Noah West is back for the Bulldogs. Not known as a prolific passer, West ranks as one of the state’s top rushing quarterbacks.
Class A District 8 member Phelps, one of the state’s most improved high school football programs, exited the 2017 season with a 5-5 record. Former University, of Kentucky player David Jones is entering his third season as the head coach of the Hornets. Jones had Phelps flirting with a victory on the road in the opening round of the 2017 postseason before Lynn Camp held on to win 32-26.
Junior quarterback Garrett Clevenger is a proven offensive leader for the Hornets.
Another member of Class 3A District 6, Pike Central is expected to be improved after finishing 5-6 in 2017. The Hawks lost to Central in the first round of the Class 3A State Playoffs. Pike Central is under the guidance of head coach Eric Ratliff.
The Hawks face the tough task of replacing quarterback Seth Conn, who wrapped up his stellar high school career last season.
A team out of Class 3A District 7, Powell County is poised to field arguably its best squad ever. The Pirates ended the 2017 season 8-5 following a loss to Corbin in the Class 3A, Region 4 championship game. Corbin defeated Powell County 50-14 in the region title matchup. Joshua Kincaid is preparing to guide Powell County in his first season as the Pirates’ head coach. Kincaid replaced Brandon Brewer, who left Powell County to guide Prestonsburg in Class 2A District 8.
Senior quarterback John Brooks is back for the Pirates. As a junior in 2017, Brooks completed 83-of-181 passes for 1,452 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing nine interceptions.
The Johnson Central-hosted seven-on-7seven passing tournament is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Saturday.