KENTON – Zach Turner’s first season as the Kenton head coach was a tough one after enduring a 0-10 year.
Despite the winless year, plenty was learned on and off the field for Turner and he is confident the Wildcats can turn things around.
Turner reflected on last season and reviewed what went right and what did not work.
“You have to understand you can’t be everywhere at once,” Turner said. “You start to recognize where you need to distribute things and balance out responsibilities. That is No. 1. Number two is we have to improve our weight room as far as lifting and strength and I think we did that.
“It is not like we weren’t prepared each week but now I know more how to prepare for this week. Now I know how to get ready for that. It is just those little tweaks. The offseason is huge.”
Turner points out that they have gotten the commitment in the weight room and that is a major step and the next one is to prepare the team for its on-field play.
Adding five new coaches, most of whom have been part of the Kenton program in the past, is one way Turner has gone to turn things around and said all of these guys are committed to seeing Kenton return to when it was a regular in the playoffs and vying for the Western Buckeye League title.
“The guys have done a great job,” Turner said. “Grant Sherman is our offensive coordinator. He played here and played on a couple of final four teams. Trevor Downing is our defensive coordinator and he played at Ashland.
Kenton coaches will have plenty of work, as 20 returning letters are back for the Wildcats. Turner said the players have come in with a great attitude and are dedicated to never allowing a season like last year to happen again.
“They have come in with the goal in mind to get better,” Turner said. “No day can be left where you just go through the motions. Rome wasn’t built in a day but it also wasn’t built on mediocre days and so you have to come in ready and enthusiastic every day, looking to get better every day. I think a consistent effort is a big thing.
“Our players have already overcome the biggest adversity. They have shown up this year. A lot of kids might have packed it in and said, ‘whatever’ and we are not going to face adversity. We are going to do something else.”
Turner said throughout the offseason weight training, approximately 45 players showed up to get in the necessary offseason conditioning and it has reached as many as 60.
One of the off-the-field goals for Turner was to improve the team’s mental toughness.
“How do you play when things go hard?” Turner asked. “How do you prepare? How do you handle it when you are tired? How are you going to play those next reps? All those things go into it and that is where you have to start.”
The Kenton offense, known for its aerial attack, looks to try and post the big numbers they have had in the past. Last season the Wildcats were ranked last in the WBL in total offense. The passing game was third overall in the league.
“We will still be that offense that puts the ball in the air but we will be more multiple actions with some runs in that sense,” Turner said. “We have some pretty good playmakers on offense. Guys that have put in the time.”
Behind center for the Wildcats will be Korbin Johnston who started as a freshman. In his first year, he passed for 1,418 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Johnston’s primary targets will be two seniors, Kooper Johnston, and Tyson Lawrence who caught 40 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns. Also expected to see time is Grady Kleman-Beazley.
Tim Wilkinson is slated to handle the running duties and expects to see more carries from the junior running back.
Turner has seen improvement upfront and said they have matured a lot. Because they are expected to run the ball more, the Kenton staff has worked on improving the run blocking, which is not as easy as it sounds, considering most of these offensive linemen are taught to pass block in their midget football days.
“I am excited,” Turner said. “I think our quarterback has taken a huge stride in leadership. Our receivers have come a long way. The leadership of Tyson and Kooper has really grown. I’m excited to see what this group can do this year and build on what they did good last year.”
Defensively, Turner sees the linebackers as the strength on that side of the ball with three juniors, Kyle Thrush, Luke Leffler and Garrett Campbell.
Turner adds they will feature multiple coverages and fronts with a lot of movement in hopes of creating chaos for the opposing team’s offense.
Turner describes the defensive line as stout with Trevor Robinson and Jake Kennedy, along with sophomore Bob Wilkinson and juniors Broddin Maddox and Seth Leffler.
Turner sees the secondary comprised of three juniors and a sophomore.
“We are a little young on defense,” Turner said. “We are going to have 10 underclassmen and one senior and they have come a long way and with the time they have put in the weight room we think that side of the ball is going to show up.
“We are calling our defense the wolf pack and as a wolf pack, you hunt the ball and we want to see 11 hats on the ball and be aggressive and play fast,” Turner said. “Creating negative plays and creating turnovers is our big thing.”
Special teams is one area Turner said the team has also been heavily working on as well.
Turner said he feels that if this team can gain some consistency and continue to grow in each that they can compete.
“All of the little things that don’t show up in the box score on Saturday mornings are things we have to continue to get better at to win football games and last year we didn’t do it,” Turner said. “We didn’t do the little things.”
Coach: Zach Turner
Years at School Record: 2nd (0-10)
Last year’s record: 0-10
Returning Letterwinners: Kooper Johnston (Sr.), Tyson Lawrence (Sr.), Tim Wilkinson (Jr.), Grady Kleman-Beazley (Soph.), Bill Wilkinson (Soph.), Eli Kauble (Jr.), Tyson Hopkins (Sr.), Dustin Proffitt (Sr.), Gavin Marwell (Jr.), Trevor Robinson (Sr.), Bob Wilkinson (Soph.), Broddin Maddox (Jr.) Seth Leffler (Jr.), Luke Leffler (Jr.), Garrett Campbell (Jr.), Kyle Thrush (Jr.), Colby Howard (Jr.), Carter Heydinger (Jr.)
Promising Newcomers: Carson Delong (Soph.), Trenton Delong (Soph.), Jerin Baker (Jr.), Kade Smith (Jr.), Dylan Searson (Soph.), Austin Ashbrook (Soph.), Owen Kauble (Soph.)
Season Outlook: Look for a group of guys to show their resilience and the work they have put in this off-season. Grow and get better every game and continue to uphold the tradition of Kenton Football.
August 19 – at Coldwater
August 26 – Elida
September 2 – at Bath
September 9 – Celina
September 16 – at Defiance
September 23 –Wapakoneta
September 30 – St. Marys
October 7 – Van Wert
October 14 – at Shawnee
October 21 – at Ottawa-Glandorf
All games start at 7 p.m.