PHELPS, Ky. — The Phelps Hornets will be entering a new era this season on the gridiron as first year head coach Andrew West was named to replace previous coach David Jones who left for Bourbon County High School.
West, who was an assistant coach last season on the Hornet staff, was chosen to replace Jones by school administration back in January of this year and said he feels the switch to head coach will be an easy one for him and his team.
"I was the offensive coordinator last year, so the transition has been really smooth for the players whenever I came in and took over, they already knew me, they are already familiar with me, and they are already comfortable with me," coach West said during the Phelps Media Day.
The Hornets were hit hard by graduation at their skilled positions as they lost the services of three-year starter at quarterback Garrett Clevenger, speedster Brandon Turnmire, and fullback/linebacker Zack Ramey.
The cupboard is not bare however as a strong junior class returns from the squad that went 5-5 in 2018, including leading rusher
Francis played in nine of the 10 games for the Hornets a season ago and led them with 98 carries and 714 rushing yards on the season. He scored 13 total touchdowns which was also tops on the team, with eight coming on the ground, four through the air, and one on a "pick six."
The junior, who also starts on the defensive side of the ball, will carry a big workload for the Hornets in 2019.
Junior Riley Dotson will be making the transition to quarterback this season after starting at wide receiver and being the back up to Clevenger a season ago. He only completed 2 of 5 passes for 23 yards in limited action last year but played in all 10 games at wide receiver.
Dotson was a key piece on the diamond this past year for baseball coach William Stevens and has a high sports IQ, so he is expected to step seamlessly into the QB role this fall.
Another junior is expected to take over one of the backfield spots as Tyrell Hollis is primed to step into a starting role on offense this season after playing primarily on the defensive side in 2018.
Hollis also played in eight games for the Hornets but was still fourth on the team in tackles with 46, including 26 solo tackles. He is blessed with above average speed and quickness and is expected to be a force on both sides of the ball.
Junior wide receiver/defensive end Seth Mayhorn is also stepping into a starting role this season after not getting many touches behind Turnmire, Dotson, and senior Seth Elkins on the outside in 2018.
With his 6-foot-4 frame he will provide Dotson with a physical target on the outside, while also being able to line up at tight end and should well surpass his total of one touchdown reception in 2018.
Junior center Caleb Dotson will also be back after starting all he started all 10 games at the position a year ago.
"We've got a strong junior class this year. We lost some good leadership off last year's team, but I've had a couple of those juniors step up and fill that role," Coach West said. "We also have some solid seniors and even some seniors that did not play last year but have played football in the past come back out this year, and they have stepped up a lot too."
The five seniors that came out include linemen Cody Dotson and Sammy Gross, fullback/linebacker Cameron Johnson, as well as wideout/defensive back Cameron Sanson and Justin Taylor.
They will join returning seniors Corey Collie, Daniel Smith, Randy Conway, and Joey Scott all of who started or saw game action a season ago.
Collie is expected to slide into the fullback role and Smith is also expected to see some carries while both will be main cogs on the defensive side of the ball.
Smith finished second on the squad in tackles in 2018 with 63 while Collie came in right behind him at third on the team with 48 tackles. Smith plays linebacker while Collie plays along the defensive front.
They will be joined on the defensive side by returning sophomores Kenzeth Ratliff and Landon Dotson both of whom saw plenty of action last season as freshman. Dotson played in all 10 games and picked up 36 tackles while Ratliff also played every game and picked up 25 tackles.
"Defensively we really have to be disciplined this year, everybody has to do their job and we have to trust that our brothers are going to do their jobs," West said. "We have to be fundamentally sound; we have to come in and hit, and we have to come in and tackle. Football in the grand scheme of things comes down to three things, and that's running, blocking, and tackling.
The Hornets will play a challenging slate of games this season as they overhauled the schedule with five new teams on it that they did not play a season ago, including Class AA Shelby Valley, Eminence, Harlan, and traditional West Virginia power Tolsia on top of their already tough district games.
"We try to make our schedule as tough as possible in order to prepare us for our district games which is Pikeville, Hazard, and Jenkins," Coach West said. "Of course, Pikeville and Hazard are two big powerhouses in Class A and they are tough to prepare for, but when the time does come to play them hopefully the games we have scheduled along the way will have our guys ready mentally and physically and we come out ready to play."
West, who was brought on last season after previously being the offensive coordinator at Russell County High School and a quality control assistant at Eastern Kentucky University prior to that, is trying to continue the upward trend that the program had seen in the past three seasons under coach Jones.
He has done that through the off-season, getting new equipment, new jerseys, and new helmets for the first season of the "Wild Wild West era."
Prior to Jones being hired in 2016, the Hornet program was in shambles having gone 1-39 over the four seasons prior. Jones improved the win total to four in the 2016 season, and then led them to five wins in 2017 and 2018 while clinching the first .500 season at Phelps since 2004.
If the upward trend continues, the Hornets could be looking at their first ever playoff win in school history in 2019.
They are scheduled to open the season against East Ridge in the 35th-annual Pike County Bowl at CAM Stadium in Belfry on August 30 in a 7 p.m. start.
Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.
2019 Phelps High School Football Schedule
Aug. 30: vs. East Ridge (Pike County Bowl at Belfry), 6:35 p.m.
Sept. 6: at Harlan, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Martin County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Shelby Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 27: Betsy Layne, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: Eminence, 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 11: at Pikeville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18: Jenkins, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25: at Hazard, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1: Tolsia, W.Va., 7:30 p.m.
2019 Phelps High School Roster
No. Name Pos. Yr.
13 Tyler Asbury FB, LB Jr.
54 Tristan Blankenship OL, LB So.
88 Corey Collie FB, DL Sr.
51 Randy Conway G, LB Sr.
50 Caleb Dotson C, DT Jr.
65 Cody Dotson OT, DT Sr.
60 Landon Dotson OT, DT So.
2 Riley Dotson QB, CB Jr. 18
11 Dominick Francis RB, S Jr.
28 Will Gooslin RB, DB Jr.
64 Sammy Gross OT, DL Sr.
20 Tyrell Hollis RB, LB Jr.
3 Cameron Johnson FB, LB Sr.
10 Cainan Land WR, CB So.
4 Christian Land WR, S Jr.
5 Bryson Layne RB, S Fr.
52 Dalton Layne OL, DL Jr.
7 Rico Lee QB, CB So.
9 Bryson Locklear WR, S So.
25 Seth Mayhorn WR, DE, LB Jr.
8 Cameron McCarter WR, CB Jr.
55 Kendall Morrison OL, DL So.
53 Konnor Morrison OL, DL So.
18 Hayden Mounts WR, S Fr.
66 Kenzeth Ratliff OL, DT So.
56 Dommnic Sanders OL, DT Jr.
12 Cameron Sanson WR, CB Sr.
6 Joey Scott RB, LB Sr.
15 Daniel Smith FB, LB Sr.
1 Justin Taylor WR, CB Sr.
62 Rabon Wolford OL, DL Fr.