LEWIS CASS FOOTBALL: STACKED OFFENSIVE LINE SHOULD FREE KING RUNNERS

Football - Lewis Cass

BY DEREK SULLIVAN, Lewis Cass Student Contributor

WALTON, Ind. - As Lewis Cass students settle back into their class schedules this week, roughly 65 of the young men are spending their time after school wearing pads and helmets. The Lewis Cass Kings are looking to build on a mediocre 5-5 campaign from last season. Among those returning to their second year in the starting lineup are seniors Hunter Clark at linebacker, James Champ on the defensive line, Owen Ohman at quarterback and Leland Bowling at punter. Junior Conner Zeck, a defensive back, is moving from safety to cornerback.

While they have several key players back, younger players will need to step up to take the places of quality starters from last year. This seems to be the case every year in a high school system; seniors graduate and underclassmen come of age and take on bigger roles on the team.

Key projected starters on defense include Blaine Elliot, Shadd McLochlin and Cameron Rinehart on the defensive line. They join previous starter Champ to form a solid defensive front with a unique blend of size, strength and speed.

On offense, the Kings have a whole new set of weapons to replace the effective offense that Cass had last year. Jake Wilburn is the new starter at fullback while Bowling, Hunter Clark and Champ provide a great rotation of fresh legs at wing back. The offensive line is stacked with senior firepower with Seth Slusser, Rinehart, Noah Byers and Sam Martin.

This year the Kings have been chosen to play one of their conference games at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 23 at noon. This marks the third time the Kings have played in this stadium. The first game was a close loss to the Heritage Eagles in the 2008 2A state championship game.

Week one football preview

The Kings open up their season with a nonconference opponent, Pioneer. The Kings have played the Panthers to open the season for the past 10 years or so. Cass throttled the Panthers 29-0 last year and that was the biggest margin of victory by either team in the series between the county rivals. Pioneer, unlike Cass, returns most of their team from last year. Their starting lineup is dominated by juniors where as the majority of Cass’s starters are seniors.

This game will start a two-week home stand for the Kings before they head off the Lucas Oil to take on the Northwestern Tigers. Lewis Cass has high hopes this year; the senior class is very stout and when playing together as the highest ranking class, hasn’t lost a game since early their seventh grade year. The Kings’ are primed and ready for the season that lies ahead.

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WESTERN FOOTBALL: NEW COACH WILL BRING NEW OFFENSIVE LOOK TO THE TRADITIONAL BLACK ATTACK

Football - Western

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. - In football, Western has a tradition of gritty, hard-nosed football. A blue collar style of the game. The program is known to stuff its opponents on defense and run the ball down their throats on offense. It has been that way for decades – the Black Attack. But Panther fans had better hold on because that is about to change.

“We are going to look different,” said first-year Western head coach Ron Jankovich. “We will throw the ball more. I think like a quarterback. It will be a little different than what they have seen for the last 49 years.”

Jankovich arrives to helm the black and white after a career as a quarterback at Lake Central High School and Bethel College in Tennessee. He served as Bethel’s quarterback’s coach and passing coordinator for the past two seasons. Jankovich takes over for Nate Andrews, who departed for his alma mater of NorthWood after two seasons and a 15-8 record.

“I spent time at Bethel as the (offensive coordinator), but thankfully I am able to come back up here to Indiana and coach,” he said. “Indiana is home, and I get to live out the dream as a head coach in my home state.”

Jankovich inherits a squad that was 9-2 last season and champions of the Mid-Indiana Conference at 6-1. But graduation losses will bite the Panthers, losing its top two rushers plus all-state offensive lineman Brett Boswell and all-state defensive lineman Russell McDorman. Like a lot of Howard County squads, the Panthers are young with just eight seniors on the varsity roster.

“It is a work in progress,” said Jankovich. “We are young, but that seems to be going around the conference. I really think we will grow quickly. We had a great off-season in the weight room, so I think we are more athletic than a year ago.”

With an offensive mindset, Jankovich will look to junior Jacob Douglass and freshman Tyler Knepley to fill the role of quarterback in his new passing scheme. A trio of juniors are slotted to run the ball in Cameron Dessing, Nolan Stout and Brooklyn Watters. Senior Quintin Fields, junior Min Park and freshman Ricky Bearden will compete for fullback responsibilities. Senior Kyle Vail will return to tight end, and senior Jake Stout and junior Tanner Heady are in line to catch passes.

“These kids are amazing,” said Jankovich. “When I got here we had 50-some kids in summer weights. They are excited to be here and they work hard. That is all I can ask for. I feel comfortable, and I think the kids do to.”

Jankovich plans to use a base 3-3 stack on defense, and will return the squads top two tacklers from a year ago. Filling the linebacker spots are senior Corey Hinkle, who had 72 tackles and earned junior all-state honors last season, and Fields, who had 76 tackles.

“Corey was an all-state wrestler too, and he can flat out play ball,” said Jankovich. “He is a game-changer. When Corey puts his head down and does what he is supposed to do, he is tough.

“And Fields, Jake Stout, Vail – these guys are all going to contribute in a big way on offense and defense. I like our senior class. We may not have 30 guys, but we have 80 football players, and I think that is what we need. I think people look too much into the numbers. We are in a good situation.”

Football season has returned to Russiaville, but not in the form Panther Nation is used to. What was once a controlled game now will see the pigskin fly though the air on a regular basis. And with this being the last year of the MIC, it should be an exciting year for the Western Panthers and its new coach.

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TAYLOR FOOTBALL: DENNIS BENTZLER RETURNS (AGAIN) TO THE HELM OF A STRUGGLING PROGRAM

Football - Taylor

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - Football, like most sports, can be a game of streaks. Unfortunately for the Taylor Titans, they are on the wrong end of a long streak – a 26-game losing streak dating to Sep. 15, 2011. After a pair of winning seasons in 2007 and 2008, the Titans have lost 46 of its last 51 contests on the gridiron. But the good thing about losing streaks is they will eventually come to an end, and the Titans are confident that they have made great strides in becoming competitive on Friday nights.

But before taking the field, they had to overcome a major setback. Four days into the 2014 Taylor High School football season, football head coach Eric Davis shocked the program by stepping down. Davis announced he accepted the head coaching position at Tri-County High School in White County, where he will also teach.

Girls basketball head coach and former football coach Dennis Bentzler, for the second time in his career, agreed to take over the program on an interim basis. While serving as the defensive coordinator in 2001, the Taylor graduate stepped-up to lead the program after the resignation of Tim Week’s. Bentzler led that squad to a 3-7 record after previous seasons of 1-9 and 2-8. Following his one-year stint, the Titans won two games over the next three years under Glenn Humerickhouse. With a long losing streak, Bentzler is ready to point the program in the right direction.

“Bottom line is, my family moved here in 1961 and we all graduated from Taylor – it is what I love,” said Bentzler. “Now, it is all about the kids and the community. It upsets me that people look down on Taylor. We have good hearts. We have lost some values for the kids and the school. I just couldn’t say no.”

Bentzler said on the first day he arrived at practice, only 18 kids were suited up. For last Friday’s scrimmage, 42 proudly wore the Titans helmet.

“We have some good athletes, but the program is where it’s at and I told the coaches this is going to be a learning experience for everybody,” he said. “I will take the heat, but I have challenged the kids to take on some responsibility. They seem very receptive and loose, and I think we will be competitive this year. As for wins and losses, I don’t know. But if we can do what we did in 2001, people will be happy. We will get the program pointed in the right direction.”

One thing that has changed in the last two weeks is the attitude of the players. Not only have the numbers increased drastically since Bentzler took over the program, but so has the motivation level.

“We have kids on board now, and I am not sure that was the case before,” said Bentzler. “We installed some discipline and it seems to be taking hold. We have guys that want to work like Dante Campbell and Darian Stone. And Parker VanMetre said, ‘Coach, I’ve got this.’ So he is now a speaking captain and senior leader on this team. Heck, Campbell may be one of the best running backs in the area. James Bell at 6-4 and 245 pounds and Tyler Howard who is a sophomore and Donovan Renbarger who is 6-7 – they are all ready to play football. I am just excited about the new culture we have and really don’t want to single anyone out.”

The Titans are under a new regime, of sorts. With Bentzler under the helm once again, Taylor should start moving in a positive direction. And with any luck, one of the longest losing streaks in Indiana could come to an end this season.

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