With the 2021 high school football season in our rear view mirror, let us not forget about the outstanding coaches, players and teams that entertained us each and every Friday night under the lights this past fall. Two western Kentucky teams made it far in their respective class state tournament in Mayfield and Paducah Tilghman.

The Blue Tornado stunned the area week one, when they defeated McCracken County 35-27, while Murray stunned an undefeated Mayfield team near the end of the year, 25-21. Five of the 12 teams that fall under the umbrella that The Sun covers, ended the season with winning records including Mayfield, Graves County, Tilghman, Caldwell County and Murray.

In reflection on the season, 11 of the 12 coaches in the area submitted their nominations for who they believe stood out above the rest for the annual Paducah Sun All-Purchase Team. This year’s awards include the “David Barnes” Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, Quarterback, two running backs, a flex player, two wide receivers, five offensive linemen, one kicker and/or punter, four defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs.

‘David Barnes’ Coach of the Year

Joe Morris, Mayfield

In his 22nd year as head coach, Joe Morris led the Mayfield Cardinals to a 12-2 record. They stood undefeated through the first eight games of the season. The Cardinals went on to dominate in the first three games of the 2A State Championship, holding their opponents to a combined 12 points. Their season came to an end in the semifinal game against Beechwood where they lost 38-7. All of this and much more is what fellow coaches found Morris worthy of this award.

2021 Player of the Year

Clint McKee, Graves County

There wasn’t much that Clint McKee didn’t do in his senior season with the Eagles. He dominated the rushing game, totaling 1,634 rushing yards through the 12 games of the season, averaging 136.2 yards per game. He hauled in 16 receptions for 200 yards and he found the end zone 33 times this season, 32 rushing TD’s and one receiving. On top of that he completed a pair of 2-pt conversion plays, had one fumble recovery and had six tackles.

Local coaches found McKee most deserving of the 2021 Paducah Sun All-Purchase Player of the Year award. The title comes with a $1,000 scholarship courtesy of The Paducah Sun. He also receives one of the two running back awards.

Quarterback

Rowdy Sokowski, Murray

As the Murray Tigers running back, Rowdy Sokowski did it all. For starters, he had a hand in 23 of the teams 48 total touchdowns, from TD passes to scores he ran in on his own. Sokowski completed 69 of his 138 pass attempts, threw for 1,131 yards and 12 passes to the end zone. He ran for 739 yards and scored 11 times on his feet for an average of 61.6 rushing yards per game. Rowdy also completed a 2-pt conversion.

Running backs

Kylan Galbreath, Mayfield

Kylan Galbreath, the Cardinals senior RB, led Mayfield with 1,660 rushing yards this season. He was the sole Cardinal to break the 1,000 rushing yard mark. Those yards came through just 183 carries, averaging 118.6 yards per game. Of those 183 carries, 24 were completed in the end zone. Galbreath has committed to play football for Murray State University next season.

Flex

Malachi Rider (RB,LB), Paducah Tilghman

The lead rusher for the Class 3A runners-up Paducah Tilghman Blue Tornado was sophomore Malachi Rider. The running back/linebacker ran for 1,281 yards on 228 carries and 14 rushing TD’s. Rider also hauled in eight passes for 66 yards and completed a 2-pt conversion. As just a sophomore, the young Blue Tornado will have two more years of high school football to continue to impress western Kentucky and the Tilghman fans.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mason Grant, Graves County

Senior Graves County Eagle, Mason Grant hauled in 45 passes for an impressive 779 yards and nine TD’s this season. He averaged 64.9 receiving yards per game through all 12 games that the Eagles played.

Brian Thomas, Paducah Tilghman

As a fifth year senior, Brian Thomas had one last chance to play high school football thanks to an extra year or eligibility due to Covid-19. Thomas led all receivers with 1,022 receiving yards on 56 receptions in the 2021 season. He found the end zone 12 times on the season and averaged 73 receiving yards per game.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Luke Nesler, Graves County

Graves County’s offense with Luke Nesler at the line was a force to be reckoned with. Opening up space for Clint McKee to do his thing while holding off the defense so that QB Drake Defreitas could throw for 1,983 yards, is no small task. Overall, the Eagles combined for 4,297 total offensive yards on the year (2,093 passing, 2,204 rushing).

Melvin Puckett, Paducah Tilghman

The strong offensive line of the Paducah Tilghman Blue Tornado was stacked with talent including Melvin Puckett. As a line, they did a great job at protecting their young quarterback Jack James. Tilghman’s offense as a whole put up 2,942 passing yards and 1,725 rushing yards.

Drew Davis, Caldwell County

At the line of scrimmage, junior Drew Davis landed on two fumble recoveries for the Caldwell County Tigers. He helped the Tigers on the offensive line to a 7-4 record as they put up a total of 2,272 yards of offense.

Mekhi Hudspeth, Murray

Senior Mekhi Hudspeth played in just four games this past season but made an impact large enough to receive recognition from local coaches. Along with the rest of the Murray Tiger offensive line, they created gaps for multiple running backs to rack up 3,473 rushing yards.

Kaleb Butler, Mayfield

Everyone knows how dominating the Mayfield offense was this season and that offense wouldn’t have been what it was without a solid offensive line. Senior Kaleb Butler helped fill that line and helped the offensive role players like QB Zane Cartwright and Kylan Galbreath put up big numbers. As an offense, the Cardinals totaled 5,017 yards of offense.

Kicker/Punter

Blake Vivrette, Caldwell County

Blake Vivrette sent seven field goals and 22 PAT’s through the upright as part of his senior season campaign for the Caldwell County Tigers. His field goal percentage was 70% (7-10) and his PAT percentage was 84.6% (22-26).

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Gabe Spalding, Mayfield

The Mayfield defense held six different teams to six points or less through their 12-2 season. Part of that impactful defensive line was senior Gabe Spalding who had 25 solo tackles and helped in 28 other tackles. He was the second highest defender in tackles with 53 and had nine tackles for a loss of yards.

LeAndre Bolen, McCracken County

LeAndre Bolen competed at a very high level for his senior season as a Mustang. As a defensive lineman he barreled his way across the line of scrimmage all season long, putting fear in the eyes of the offense. He led McCracken County in tackles with 34 solo and 30 assisted tackles and eight tackles for a loss of yards. Bolen also forced three fumbles and recovered two and went for 55 yards on fumble recoveries on the season and two touchdowns from those fumbles. If all that wasn’t enough, he also snagged two interceptions out of the sky and ran them for a total of 20 yards.

Dylan Yates, Crittenden County

With 91 total tackles on the season, senior Dylan Yates made a big impact for the Crittenden County Rockets. He led the team with 21 tackles for a loss within his 91 total tackles. He played in all 12 games for the Rockets and pulled down 63 total solo tackles and assisted in 28 others.

Elijah Shaheen, Caldwell

On the defensive side of the ball Elijah Shaheen did it all for Caldwell County. He led the Tigers with 87 total tackles (30 solo, 57 assisted), while acquiring 20 tackles for a loss of yards. He also forced and recovered two fumbles on the season.

LINEBACKERS

Isaiah Keys, McCracken County

Senior Isaiah Keys, a McCracken County Mustangs linebacker, did a little bit of everything. On offense he ran for 169 yards on 27 carries and scored three TD’s. On defense he scored the lone safety of the season for the Mustangs, he had 35 tackles, two for a loss of yards, 16 on his own and 19 assisted. Keys was the all-around player for the Mustangs and put up a solid senior season.

Nathan Watkins, Mayfield

In his senior season, Nathan Watkins earned a sport on the All-Purchase team for linebacker. He led the Cardinals with 76 tackles on the season through 13 games played. He brought down 40 of those tackles on his own and was assisted in the remaining 36 and had 3.5 tackles resulting in a loss of yards. On offense, Watkins caught four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Luke Jackson, Fulton County

Luke Jackson led the Pilots defense with 113 tackles as part of his junior season. Jackson is listed on the roster as center, tight end and linebacker. With a smaller roster, he and his teammates were asked to do it all and he did just that. As part of his 113 tackle season, 68 were on his own, 45 were assisted by other Pilots and 14 resulted in a loss of yards for his opponents. He had one reception on the season for eight yards and snatched two interceptions out of the air.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Daniel Coles, Mayfield

As a safety for the Mayfield Cardinals, Daniel Coles forced four fumbles, and had four interceptions resulting in 40 yards and two touchdowns. He also brought down 48 tackles, third most on the team, 28 solo tackles, 20 assisted and four for a loss of yards.

Tre Barnes, Mayfield

Fitting for a 12-2 team, the Mayfield Cardinals have two defensive backs that made the All-Purchase team. Tre Barnes had 19 total tackles as part of his senior campaign, 16 were solo tackles and three were assisted. He also pulled down three interceptions and ran them back for a total of 20 yards and one resulted in a touchdown.

Camdon Marshall, Paducah Tilghman

Another fifth year senior on the Paducah Tilghman roster was Cam Marshall. The QB, WR, S had an impressive final year as a Blue Tornado, but local coaches found him most deserving of a defensive back slot on the All-Purchase team. Marshall has 72 total tackles, third highest amongst the Blue Tornado. He handled 54 by himself and had help on the remaining 18. He also led the team in interceptions with four and ran those for 93 yards.

Xavier Biggers, Murray

Sophomore Xavier Biggers had 62 tackles this year as a sophomore for the Murray Tigers. He also hauled in an interception. With two more years of high school football to be played for this young man, expect to see him make this list again. Of those 62 tackles 37 were solo and 25 were with some help.

To top it all off, he did all of this in just 10 games played.

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