He’s only a sophomore, but Owensboro High School’s Austin Gough earned one of the top honors a Kentucky football player can receive.
Gough was named to the 2018 Associated Press Kentucky High School All-State First Team Defense following a year as one of the state’s leading tacklers.
Gough, who primarily played linebacker, led the Red Devils with 131 tackles, and he ranked third in the state with 10.9 per game. He also had one interception, which he returned 45 yards for a touchdown, two fumbles forced and recovered, and a pair of sacks.
Gough was grateful of the recognition, and he said he took the opportunity to start as a freshman in 2017 and capitalized on it this season.
“It’s truly a blessing,” he said. “I feel like God has really looked over me this year. Coach (Jay) Fallin gave me the privilege to start as a freshman last year, and it really took off from there. I took it as a learning point, and this year I executed as much as I could and it’s working out pretty well.”
Fallin said it’s a high honor for any underclassmen to be named to All-State — particularly first team — and it’s a testament to Gough’s work ethic.
“He’s got a rare combination of characteristics and traits,” Fallin said. “He’s very athletic. He’s naturally strong and he’s enhanced that by working extremely hard in the weight room. He’s very intelligent and he’s got an excellent work ethic. When you can combine all those things, you get a very good football player, and that’s exactly what Austin is.”
Gough said he doesn’t consider himself a sophomore, and doesn’t give much attention to class or age. Instead, he welcomes the role of leader and pushes himself to get better.
“Even as a freshman last year, I was thinking of myself as a senior,” he said. “I don’t look at age. I just set my goals very high. I feel like I could play at the top level as of right now. I make myself work that way so I can succeed.”
The numbers speak for themselves, Fallin said, and the coaching staff is excited to have two more years of relying on Gough.
“He’s a leader for us, particularly on defense,” Fallin said. “He was an excellent defender for us. We’re excited to get to see him play and coach him and be around for two more years.”
During his sophomore campaign, Gough helped the Red Devils to a 10-3 season that included an eight-game win streak. One of the more notable wins included taking down Bowling Green for the first time since 2008, and Gough posted 13 tackles — four for a loss — and two sacks. Gough also came in at fullback to pick up a first down to seal the game.
Fallin said they knew Gough had the ability to put up big numbers, and his team helped find the next level of success.
“We knew he was going to have a fantastic season,” Fallin said. “Austin will be the first to tell you that his success, while he’s earned it, is made possible by his teammates. It’s a team effort and a team award, but we knew he was capable of that for sure.”
Gough agreed, saying he wouldn’t be able to perform without the support of the rest of the Devils. He said the bond they developed between seasons played a big role, and he’s looking forward to and even better year in 2019.
“Last year (2017) we had some ups and downs,” Gough said. “We took that as motivation as a young group and pushed together. We pushed each other every day and got a really good bond.
For next year, I’m looking at wins. I’d love to get to the state tournament. If our team is playing well, I play well.”