The Bell County Bobcats enter the 2019 season primed for a deep run in the Class 3A playoffs.
Eight players who either started or saw significant time return on defense and the offense brings back some key cogs up front along with leading receiver Jason Jones. There is a deep stable for running backs ready to replace the three starters lost in the backfield from last year.
Senior quarterback London Stephney gives the Bobcats a shot at a touchdown on any play no matter where they are on the field.
Stephney is back for his second season as the starter and it’s his athleticsm and leadership that can take Bell County from being a good team to a state title contender.
“There’s no question about it. He carried us last year,” Bobcat Coach Dudley Hilton said. “Some people on our team didn’t accept it because he was the new guy on the block. I think the bunch we have this year accepts London and understands what kind of athlete he is. I think this year he will lead us and he’s done it during the offseason, he’s done it during the preseason and he’s hung right in there with these kids. They really respect him.”
Hilton is quick to remind you that his team has “some other great athletes that can play.”
That include Jones, a 6-2 senior, who is Stephney’s favorite target and a big play threat in his own right.
Bell County will feature more of a committee approach in the backfield this season. At running back sophomore Brandon Baker and junior Hunter Bailey are in the mix along with sophomores Dawson Woolum and Pineville transfer Hayden Callebs. Freshman Ethan Raby is also a name to watch.
At fullback, senior Will Dean and junior Tyson Thomas figure to split time with junior Trevor Kidd anther name to watch.
They’ll run behind an experienced offensive line led by seior tackle Lane Hoskins and senior guard Caleb Lefevers.
Junior Josh Helton is the center with senior Timothy Lawson and junior Chase Huff rounding out the starters and senior Tyler Nelson providing depth.
“We’re real proud of our defense. We’ve got a lot of kids back fom last year and we don’t have any excuses. They ought to know their positions better,” Hilton said. “They’re flying to the ball and we’ve got some competition. That’s going to make it enjoyable as long as we don’t get anyone hurt.”
Up front Lefevers, Thomas and Huff return with Kidd and Kage Baker also seeing time.
Junior Dawson Widener is at one defensive end with Jason Jones, Hayden Callebs and Dawson Woolum also in the mix.
Hunter Bailey and Brandon Baker are the linebackers with Josh Laws also seeing plenty of time in the middle.
Brant Hoskins and Jonathan Lankford are the starters at corner with Woolum also seeing time on the outside. Stephney is the safety with Cameron Burnett spelling him when needed.
On special teams, Jones will handle place kicking with Laws kicking off.
Jones and Stephney are Bell’s primary returners.
The math is simple: The Bobcats return plenty of talent from last year’s team that went 11-2 and advanced to the regional championship game. Both of those loses were to Corbin, who is playing in Class 4A and off the schedule this season. So Bell County may not face a stiff challenge from a 3A school until the third or fourth roud of the playoffs where will likely face Ashland Blazer or Belfry.
Hilton is not buying that for a second.
“We’re still in a tough district. You better not underestimate Rockcastle and Garrard County, they’re both outstanding teams. We might have lost one outstanding team but I think we gained two. That’s my opinion,” he said
“I think we would have been ready for Corbin if they were back in our district this year — but we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about our new district and I think we’ve got two legit teams in Garrard and Rockcastle. I know they are, they’ve both got great coaches who have been there a long time.”
The Bobcats opened the season with a 37-14 win over Collins in the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic on Saturday in Danville. This week they host old rival Knox Central on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Short-Redmond Auto Group Pride of the Mountains Bowl.
All Hilton will say is that he’s proud of the work his team has put in since the summer.
“They’ve worked hard and worked as a team,” he said. “We’re focused on getting better every day and growing our strengths while getting rid of our weaknesses.”
— — —
Aug. 23 — vs Collins (W)
Bob Allen Pigskin Classic at Danville
Aug. 30 — vs. Knox Central
Pride of the Mountains Bowl
Sept. 6 — @ South Laurel
Sept. 13 — OPEN
Sept. 20 — @ Whitley County
Sept. 27 — @ McCreary Cent.*
Oct. 4 — vs. Rockcastle Co.*
Oct. 11 — vs. Garrard Co.*
Oct. 18 — @ Jackson Co.*
Oct. 25 — @ Estill Co.*
Nov. 1 — vs. Harlan Co.
* District games