KENTON – Beset by injuries throughout the season Kenton was forced to play a lot of young players and it led to a 5-5 year.
But the silver lining to playing those inexperienced individuals is that this year, Kenton has a number of players ready to go at the varsity level.
“We had a lot of injuries to our senior class that was pretty good and about half of them were unable to play,” Fackler said. “I thought the young players we put in there responded well and I was happy in terms of their play but our record shows that we were inexperience
Fackler added that the team’s record could have been better but late turnovers and costly miscues proved to be the difference,
“Our record by no means is where we want to be,” Fackler said. “We go out every year and want to compete for the Western Buckeye League. A couple of things didn’t go our way in a couple of games. Against Coldwater we lost on the last play and against Wapak we couldn’t hold the it.”
But with perennial all-state quarterback Jaron Sharp back at the helm and a defense that features nine starters back, Kenton appears ready for another run at the WBL title and a deep run in the postseason.
Sharp led the league in passing yards with 3,432 yards passing and 32 touchdowns and was second in the league in rushing with 1,114 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Wildcats lost three receivers but the two returners made a big impact last season. Jayden Cornell, a sophomore, led the WBL in receiving yards, 1,022 yards, and receptions, 66, as a freshman. He also caught nine touchdowns.
Also back is junior Landon Rush who hauled in 50 catches for 750 yards and 11 touchdowns.
With these two back, Fackler said it will be other young receivers to step up and contribute to the offense.
“We really have to good received and but we lost four of the six,” Fackler said. “We are thinking of moving a couple of defensive players to receivers.”
But the biggest challenge for Kenton’s offense is up front. The Wildcats need to replace three of their starters on the line. Early on Fackler is looking for seniors Ian Lyons, Jacob Jolliff and David Heilman to lead the charge.
Fackler added that he has moved some of his offensive linemen to defense to bolster a defense that returns eight starters, but as Fackler points out that is a bit deceptive because he will have players returning who played as sophomores and are still learning.
“Our sophomore class in one of the best I have in a long time,” Fackler said. “I’m not saying there is a bunch of Division I talent but we have a lot of great talent that is still learning.”
The defense lost the top three tackle leaders.
Back for Kenton on the defensive line is seniors Jon Hord, Noah Leffler, Elijah Manns and juniors Noah Eikenbary and Austin Moore.
“The defense line should be one of our strengths,” Fackler said. “We have some, good young talent there and we are deep at that position.”
Senior Trent Lawrence and Luke Fackler return to bolster the linebacking corps. Others competing for time at the linebacker slot will be Eikenbary, Colin Morris, Carter Bays and Brandon Bowling.
In the defensive backfield, senior Brian Blankenship and sophomore Malik Jett.
Fackler said if the Wildcats are going to be successful this season, the offensive line will have to gel sooner than later and some of the younger players will have to step it up on defense.
“We expect to be improved and right now we are getting ready for Coldwater,” Fackler said.
Fackler added that the WBL is going to be tough again and it is imperative his squad be ready due to the tough few weeks that opens with powerhouse Coldwater followed by Celina, Defiance and then Wapakoneta and St. Marys.