Football - McCracken moving along
8/13/2019 12:10 PM

Last year, McCracken County took another step forward in Class 6A.

After a sluggish start to the season, where the Mustangs won one of their first six games -- it would later be improved to two wins in six games, following a forfeit from Clarksville (Tennessee) Northeast for using an ineligible player -- McCracken would turn things around.

It rattled off six straight wins, including the school's first win over a team from the Louisville Metro area -- a 50-12 shellacking of Jeffersontown in a playoff opener on Nov. 2. The Mustangs' season ended with a 34-18 loss to Louisville Ballard in the second round of the postseason.

This season, many of the pieces are back. Elijah Wheat will return as McCracken's quarterback. Franklin Hayes and last year's biggest surprise, Hunter Bradley, will split time in the backfield.

Hayes is eager, he said, at the prospect of taking a bigger step toward Kroger Field in Lexington and an opportunity at playing in December.

"I'm super excited," Hayes said. "We're super dynamic. We've got Jeremiah Hughes, my little cousin, at slot receiver. He's a smart player. We've got receivers who can go up and get the ball, and we've got a lot of experience in the backfield."

The 1-2 punch of Hayes and Bradley was formidable last season.

The pair combined for 872 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns -- with 744 yards and 10 scores coming from Bradley, who came on to the scene late in the year -- and was complimented with Hayes' versatility in the pass game, accounting for 623 yards and six touchdowns.

This year, that may well improve.

"He's got sneaky talent," Hayes said of Bradley. "Things that you think he can't do, he does. He'll just run you over, he'll run through you and past you. He's reading the field like a book. It's special. He and Wheat back there, it's special. It's something to watch."

On defense, McCracken will be without ball-hawking defensive back Kiael Waldon, who graduated last spring. Defensive lineman Darius Cain is off to college, too, at Eastern Kentucky. Kolton Reeves and Ethan McKendree have a shot at continuing the success that Waldon, Cain, Skyler Mayes (Eastern Illinois) and Tyce Daniel (Memphis), their predecessors, turned into an expectation.

"They're starting to take more of a stronghold of the scheme," McCracken coach Marc Clark said of his upperclassmen on defense. "At every level, you've got someone who's been there, done that and played some snaps. They're able to guide some of the younger guys we've got in our lineup along and get them prepped for the season."

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