Last year was a fantastic one for Shelby Valley. The Wildcats had an 8-2 regular season and won the first two games in the 2A playoffs before falling to eventual state champion Beechwood after entering the game without quarterback Russ Osborne, who had a broken collarbone. This year, head coach Anthony Hampton is hopeful that his squad can take the step to the next level.
“That loss left the kids really hungry,” stated Hampton. “They have really put the work in this offseason. We have watched that Beechwood game multiple times to see what we need to work on. It’s motivated us coming into this season.”
KEY LOSES: Lincoln Billiter (TE, LB), Caleb Lovins (OL, DL), Jayden Newsome (RB), Jordan Ratliff (CB)
KEY RETURNERS: Russ Osborne (QB), Brady Bentley (WR), John Luke Fields (WR), Kyler Click (OL), Zachary Yates (LB)
Now a senior, Osborne returns to man the quarterback position for the Wildcats. Last season, he completed 156-of-220 with 2,787 yards, 27 touchdowns and and 6 interceptions. He also rushed for 649 yards and 12 additional touchdowns.
“He stands out due to his knowledge of the game,” said Hampton. “He just understands things that most quarterbacks don’t. He has pinpoint accuracy and then can take off and run with it when needed. He’s like a coach on the field with great athleticism.”
Jake Childers and Brett Sturgill are expected to join Osborne in the backfield. Childers is a physical runner while Sturgill is fast and elusive, giving the Wildcats a strong combination.
The Wildcats return their top three receiving targets from last season. Brady Bentley is back after an amazing season where he had 57 catches for 1,208 yards and 13 touchdowns. Speedster John Luke Fields is back after catching 31 passes for 689 yards and 9 touchdowns. Fields also placed 6th in the state track championship in the 100m dash, so he has elite speed. Then, possession receiver Jesse Cook returns after catching 22 passes for 335 yards and 3 touchdowns.
On the offensive line, 6’7″ 330 pound Kyler Click returns. Click is getting several Division I looks and should anchor the line. Brendon Whetsel, Cade Howell and Rafael Ascencio also return as starters, giving Shelby Valley a huge advantage in the trenches.
Senior Jackson Robinson is expected to help anchor the defensive line. The linebackers will be led by returning tackler Zachary Yates. Bob Collins will also help Yates in the linebacking corps.
Osborne and Clark Craft will handle duties at safety. Childers and Ethan Gunner will play at cornerback. Brady Johnson and Jonah Bartley will also help a lot on defense.
“Scheduling has been difficult with success,” said Hampton. “Some teams that used to play us no longer will play us. That is why you see us scheduling some 3A, 4A and 5A teams.”
8/18 – Letcher Central
8/26 – @ Lawrence County
9/01 – Martin County
9/08 – @ Middlesboro
9/15 – Perry County Central
9/22 – @ Elizabethtown
10/06 – Pike County Central (District)
10/13 – Betsy Layne (District)
10/20 – @ East Ridge (District)
10/27 – @ Floyd Central
The Wildcats lost some but return a lot. With Osborne, a plethora of receivers and almost all of the offensive line returning, Shelby Valley should be explosive. Look for the WIldcats to be a force in 2A this season and maybe take the next step to becoming a top program.