Evan Yongue is Leon Hart’s kind of football player.
Great team guy. Committed. Alert. Tremendous work ethic.
“All those things, and you always felt he would be a gritty player,” Ashland’s 10th-year head coach said.
After a part-time role as a junior, this is Yongue’s big opportunity and that’s exactly the way he has approached it.
During the offseason, Hart asked Yongue to make the move from outside linebacker to safety — a large hole to fill after the graduation of standout Ryan Whetsel.
“Evan played a bunch of quality minutes at outside linebacker as a junior, and he had a tremendous offseason,” Hart said. “We’re counting on him to do a lot of good things on both sides of the ball.”
Along with learning a new defensive position, Yongue is taking on a starting role at running back.
“This is my senior year and I’ve worked my butt off in the weight room trying to get strong and fast,” he said.
It shows. The 6-foot, 195-pounder is the only non-lineman in the team’s Supercat weightlifing club — reserved for players who can squat, bench and clean a combined 1,020 pounds. Yongue’s total is 1,055 — 305 bench, 485 squat and 265 clean.
He came a long way to get there.
“As a freshman, I was only benching 135,” Yongue said.
He also broke his ankle that year in a game at Lawrence County. Mostly a scout team player as a sophomore, Yongue worked his way into the defensive rotation last season at outside linebacker.
In his first start, against Ironton, Yongue made two fumble recoveries and also had a strip fumble in the Tomcats’ 28-6 victory.
“To start against Ironton, that was huge for me,” he said.
His progress accelerated through the offseason. This summer, he attended a three-day Blue Chip Academy camp at Mars Hill in North Carolina.
“I wanted to keep improving and get some college exposure,” Yongue said. “There was a lot of teaching, and it helped me a lot. I believe I have the potential for Divison II or maybe I-AA. I know I have the work ethic for it.”
After practice on the Ashland Blazer campus, Yongue often heads over to Putnam Stadium to run the steps.
“I just want to go out with a bang this year because I think this (senior) class is special,” he said.
Hart has confidence in Yongue’s ability to transition to the safety position.
“You’ve got to be able to set the secondary, support against the run and defend the pass,” Hart said. “We went to four passing tournaments this summer. You could see Even get more comfortable with each one. He does a good job reading his keys and getting to the football.”
Ashland’s home opener is Friday night against Lawrence County.
Yongue has been looking forward to the challenges on Ashland’s schedule, especially a return meeting with West Virginia state runner-up George Washington and star running back Ryan Switzer. Last season, GW edged the Tomcats 18-14 at Putnam Stadium as Switzer ran for 208 yards and a touchdown.
“I know he’s going Division I,” Yongue said. “I even have a picture of him in my locker that gives me motivation for practice. I know he’s the best. If I can stop the best, I’m right there.”
At the same time, Yongue knows he has big shoes to fill.
“Safety is one of the key positions,” he said. “I had to work on footwork and making the right reads. It’s kind of like I’m coming under the radar. Most people probably don’t know about me.”
They shouldn’t be able to miss him this season. Yongue will get plenty of work at running back, especially with Cody Watts out for the season with a knee injury.
Yongue, who got only a handful of carries last season, knows about success and pressure situations.
Along with Ashland’s long-awaited district football championship last year, he was a key contributor on the school’s State Tournament baseball team this spring. A position player and starter on the mound, he pitched the Tomcats to a regional win over Russell.
At the State Tournament, Yongue hit a two-run double in the fourth inning of a scoreless game against South Laurel to trigger Ashland’s 7-0 victory in the opening round.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.
Tomcats’ Yongue gets full-time duty as safety, RB
Evan Yongue is Leon Hart’s kind of football player.
- Local Sports
62nd District Softball: East playing second fiddle no longer
East Carter’s Morgan Jacobs fired a pitch across the plate for strike three in the bottom of the seventh inning and jumped into the arms of first baseman Montana Fouts.
Salow Show: Ashland ace halts Boyd’s district streak
What’s the encore for a perfect game?
62nd District baseball: Staton strives after storm
East Carter’s Conner Staton hasn’t lost a 62nd District in his high school career. As a senior, he wasn’t going to let that change.
63rd District baseball: Greenup County outduels Lewis, 7-3
Lightning delayed the 63rd District Tournament championship game several times following the first inning on Tuesday, creating a late night for Greenup County and Lewis County.
Boyd’s Fraley commits to Herd
Boyd County sophomore basketball player Logan Fraley has announced her commitment to Marshall University.
The 5-foot-11 shooting guard informed Marshall women’s coach Matt Daniel of her decision on Monday morning, which was confirmed by Boyd County coach/father Pete Fraley via text message.
63rd softball: Greenup leans on bunting, baserunning; Russell wins
Immersed in another district contest with little breathing room, Greenup County softball coach Eric Keeton resorted to the strengths of his lineup: bunting and baserunning.
Two bunts and a swinging bunt helped the Lady Musketeers scratch across three runs in the fifth inning of a 6-2 victory over Raceland in the 63rd District Tournament opening round on Monday night at Russell High School. Top-seeded Russell defeated Lewis County, also 6-2, earlier in the evening.
Boyd pounds out 11 hits to go along with Grimm’s shutout, 14-0
Robbie Shivel might be a little sore after Monday night, but it was Fairview that left the game battered and bruised.
Boyd County belted out 11 hits to go along with Dylan Grimm's complete-game gem as the Lions roared past Fairview, 14-0, in the opening round of the 64th District Tournament at Ashland's Alumni Field. The game lasted five innings.
Different look, same results for Lady Lions
A longtime fixture in the 64th District softball championship game, Boyd County looked different this return trip.
The Lady Lions defeated Fairview 10-5 in Monday’s district semifinal, which doubled as an Autism Awareness Night. Boyd County players wore light blue shirts and colorful, jigsaw puzzle socks for the event, which had to be rescheduled more than once due to weather problems.
Musketeers explode in final 2 innings to beat Raceland; good times continue for Lewis
Through the first four innings of its 63rd District Tournament opener, Greenup County found itself hitless. The Musketeers made up for it over the next two innings.
Greenup County scored eight runs on eight hits in the final two innings to defeat Raceland, 9-1, at Russell High School on Monday.
The will to win
Opponents get the same look from Emily Stewart whether it’s softball, basketball or soccer season.
Steely eyed and lips pursed, the Boyd County senior is keenly focused and all business between the lines.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- 62nd District Softball: East playing second fiddle no longer