Championship state of mind

Pikeville’s Jackson Hensley runs with the ball after a catch against Beechwood in the Class A Championship game at Kroger Field last season.

Jackson Hensley didn’t just sneak into the picture as one of the state’s best players, he jumped onto the scene on the biggest stage last December.

Hensley was having a monster game against Beechwood in the Class A state championship game. He caught four passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Then he got hurt in the third quarter.

Pikeville nearly pulled out a spectacular comeback win against Beechwood, but fell 21-20 and finished as Class A runner-up.

Wednesday, Hensley made it official that he was committing to play college football at Harvard.

Being so close to the state title it has given Hensley and the Panthers a new focus this season.

“We’re all super excited to get started this season,” Hensley said. “We’re using the way last season ended as kind of a fuel to motivate and keep us in the right state of mind. We’re just keeping that total vision for one goal.”

Pikeville finished with an 11-3 record last season.

Hensley is not only one of the top ranked wide receivers in the state, he’s one of the top ranked players as well. He had a tremendous junior season followed by some outstanding performances during the Nike Opening Camp and many others this summer.

Last season, Hensley caught 39 passes for 829 yards and 16 touchdowns. He ran the ball 15 times for 235 yards and two TDs; he averaged 16.8 yards per carry.

“The atmosphere is great right now,” Hensley said. “Everyone is super excited. We all set little milestones and to keep us focused. Right now, we’re working towards our midnight practice and that’s going to carry into our first scrimmage and then with scrimmages, we’ll get ready for games. We’re all working to accomplishing our short goals and working towards bigger ones.”

Pikeville did graduate standout quarterback Connor Roberts.

The Panthers will be led by sophomore quarterback Isaac McNamee this season.

McNamee was 27 for 43 for 465 yards and six TDs last season.

Hensley and McNamee have already developed some chemistry last season and this summer.

“He’s (Isaac McNamee) been learning the offense, well we’ve all been learning the offense because there is some different kind of stuff this year. We’ve had two seven-on-sevens and he’s thrown great so far. I couldn’t be more impressed. He’s got a big frame and a great arm. He’s going to be a great quarterback.”

Besides Hensley and McNamee on offense, the Panthers have wide receivers Seth Pugh and Zach Lockhart returning as wideouts and Cody Raines will be the featured running back.

“Our offense has a chance to be remembered for a long time,” Hensley said. “We’ve got all of the pieces. We’ve got a great quarterback, we’ve got great wideouts, we have great linemen and great young linemen coming up, we’ve got Cody Raines back there running it. We’ve really got all of the pieces and all of the tools. We really just need to work together and progress and continue to get better as a group.”

Pikeville has one goal in mind.

“Team goals at Pikeville are always a state championship,” Hensley said. “That’s just how it is here. Coach Mac (Chris McNamee) really does a great job with us. Our motto is kind of day-by-day. We go practice-by-practice and game-by-game, we really just try to focus on one thing at a time that way we don’t think we’re too big or too good for anybody. We really just focus on everything and every little detail because every detail counts when you’re goal is winning a state championship. That’s what is going to make us special.”

The Panthers will kickoff the season Saturday, August 24 at home at 6:00 p.m. against Bardstown. Pikeville will follow that with a showdown against Mingo Central in the final game of the 35th Annual Community Trust Bank/WYMT Pike County Bowl.

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