BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – For the first time since 2011, Wildkat Nation is excited for football. Not an “it’s football season” kind of excitement but a genuine “this team is for real” excitement. At 6-0 and in control of the North Central Conference, the 2015 Kokomo Wildkats are lighting scoreboards across the conference, and in the process, rewriting several key entries in the record book.
Last Friday at Walter Cross Field, Muncie Central (3-3) became the latest victim of a sensational Kokomo offense as the Wildkats topped the Bearcats 63-28. The win marked the second time this season Kokomo has scored more than 60 points and was the Kats eighth win over Muncie Central in the last nine years.
In a game of sectional opponents, Kokomo made a statement early – and late – that this year’s squad is the one to beat. Three Wildkat runners cracked the 100-yard rushing mark as the squad tied a school record with nine rushing touchdowns. The Wildkats also set a school record with 601 total yards of offense, breaking the record of 587 yards it set in week two against Indianapolis Arsenal Tech.
“We have a good team,” said Kokomo coach Brett Colby. “I don’t know how good we are yet, though. I will let you know in three weeks how good we are. We have some things we want to accomplish this year.”
Bruising 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior running back Marcelle Kenner set the tone early as a dominating force with a pair of first quarter touchdowns (11 and six yard runs). Then the game turned into the Jeron Gray Show as he left an impression on the Bearcats defense that they will not soon forget. The Wildkat senior ran the pigskin 26 times and found the end zone on six occasions – breaking the school mark of five held by five different Kats. Gray had scoring jaunts of 1, 2, 14, 5, 43 and 22 yards.
“Jeron is a great kid and had his biggest night of his career tonight,” said Colby. “He is a little kid (5-foot-8, 165-pounds) with a big heart. And he not only runs well, be blocks well. That is how Marcelle gets yards – blocking by Jeron and others.”
By the time the starters called it a day, Gray had his second career 200-yard game with 215, plus another 10 yards receiving. Kenner finished with 108 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns (his third was for 18-yards in the third stanza). Not to be outdone, Keenen Wheeler rushed 11 times for 120 yards, and while he did not have a touchdown he did catch a 2-point conversion from Kyle Wade.
Speaking of Wade, the Kats quarterback cracked 100-yards through the air. The sophomore completed six of eight passes for 114 yards.
“It is hard to prepare for all of those different options,” Colby said of the quintet of 100-yard performers. “I am glad we are able to do that.”
On defense, Jordan Matthews added to his school record with his 14th career interception. DeShaun Barbary led the squad with 11 tackles and a sack. Wheeler had an interception, Homecoming King Jesse Johnson recovered a fumble and Jack Perkins had eight tackles – including a huge tackle for a loss on fourth down as the Bearcats were looking to score from the six-yard line late in the second quarter.
“It was 28-14 and they have the ball first and 10 on the 20,” explained Colby. “We end up getting a stop (Perkins tackle) and then go down and score. Talk about a momentum shift. We put 14 points on the board back-to-back after turnovers – one on downs and one on a fumble.”
But as the record books continue to shatter with this squad, Colby knows he can get more out his Kats.
“Great result, but you have to get better,” said Colby, who has a record of 67-22 at Kokomo. “It was a sloppy game. We had turnovers that never should have happened, missed tackles and penalties – things that we have not done all year.”
Kokomo (4-0 in NCC) has a one-game lead over Richmond and McCutcheon in the conference race. The Kats have already defeated McCutcheon and travel to Richmond in week nine. Kokomo hosts Logansport (1-5, 1-3 NCC) this Friday night at 7 p.m.