Gambrel Toyota Pigskin Preview: Shelby Valley gets ready to ground and pound teams in 2019

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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - The beginning of a new high school football season in Kentucky is almost upon us. With teams ready to hit the gridiron, hope springs eternal for every team in the state. That includes the Shelby Valley Wildcats.

"I think what sets us apart is that they're a family. These guys have a each other's back. It's not just on Fridays, they got each other's back every day," Head Coach Anthony Hampton said about his team. "They go through a lot of stuff, they go through a lot of work, do a lot of things year around and try to prepare for what's next."

"Communication and having a will to go that far," Senior Running Back and Defensive Back Dalton Meade added. "I feel like there's a lot of effort issues here and there sometimes, but I feel like that's gonna come along and what's gonna bring us farther is the chip on our shoulders this year."

It was a struggle for Anthony Hampton in his first season at Shelby Valley, going 3-8 in 2016. Since then, the Wildcats have progressed with each passing year. They finished 6-5 in 2017 and 10-2 last fall.

Year four could be Hampton's biggest challenge yet, as the Wildcats have to replace Seth Johnson. Johnson was the leading rusher in Class 2A last season, rushing for more than 2,200 yards and 25 touchdowns. Hampton says Johnson's production can not be replaced by simply one guy alone.

"We have been known for a while now to have developed linemen and running backs and there's other guys here that can step up," Hampton said. "When a guy like Seth Johnson comes through, very seldom does that happen. You have to fill that void by committee."

The Wildcats to have a reputation for developing lineman, and they have a number of lineman returning, in addition to Dalton Meade, who was behind Johnson last season.

"Returning our O-line, like everyone has gotten stronger in the weight room. A real help as it all starts up front, if you aren't good up front, then you aren't going to be good," Senior Offensive and Defensive Lineman Adam Johnson said. "Also, Dalton Meade. He is a pretty good rusher too."

The Wildcats begin their season at home against Letcher Central on August 23.

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