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Patriot Football to Launch 50th Season on August 18.
ACS Patriot Football

(by Don Meador, Public Information Officer, Allen County Schools)

  The 50th season of Patriot football in Allen County will kick off with more questions than answers. Who will replace three-year starter Chase Wilson at the quarterback position? How will Jacob Lightfoot and Cayden Ross come back following sensational junior years---especially in light of some minor health issues this summer? How will a defense hit hard by graduation respond to the challenge before them? And, the questions go on

  However, one thing that’s not in question is the Patriots daily push to improve, push one another, and jell as a team.

  “Practice has been going good,” coach Brad Hood said. “The kids have worked hard to get better. They are pushing each other and getting to know each other.”

  Hood---entering his 13th season at the helm---is the first one to admit that the 2018 Patriots will look different on both sides of the ball. 

  “We lost 10 starters on defense,” Hood reflected. “On offense, we lost five starters. Beside the faces, the styles and the things we do will be a little different. We are going to look to run the ball more and defensively we will be a little more aggressive. We are also going to add some new blitzing type things and push to get these new kids involved quickly.” 

  Last year, AC-S looked to pass the ball in an offense led by Wilson who amassed a school-record 2,658 yards. Wilson is now at Kentucky Wesleyan leaving the signal-calling position up for grabs. Currently, a highly contested battle has developed between junior Zane Ward, sophomore Trace McIntyre, and sophomore Brandon Baxter.  

  “These three guys are working hard,” Hood said. “Hopefully within this week we will narrow that down to two and then next week we will have it down to one when we go into our first game. They are young, working hard and getting after it.”

  Hood points out that each player brings something different to the table. 

  “All three are really different,” Hood explained. “We are still trying to figure out what is best for our team. Zane has a little better leadership because he has been around longer. Branson has a really good arm and Trace is a tremendous athlete. We are trying to pull the best from all three and figure it out. It wouldn’t surprise me if throughout the year all three had a role. The good thing about all three of those kids is that all three can play other positions. We are trying to give them a fair shot at quarterback but also fair shots at other positions. We have been rotating them around in different spots.”

  The backfield will include a trio of athletes who demonstrated last year their ability to turn routine plays into breakaway scores. 

  Senior runner Kelly Weger is the leading returning rusher (206 yards on 27 carries last year). His stats include the second longest run from scrimmage last year---a 40-yard burst against Barren County. 

  Seniors Jacob Lightfoot and Cayden Ross also demonstrated their speed last tear---mainly as the targets for Wilson’s passes. Lightfoot caught 55 passes for a team-high 1,240 yards while Ross recorded 754 yards on 49 catches. Lightfoot’s longest catch and run was 77 yards while Ross broke free with a reception for 48 yards---catches that demonstrates their ability to get away from defenders. The trio combined for 27 touchdowns.  

  “Kelly Weger has been doing a great job pushing himself this year.” Hood noted. “We will look to Cayden Ross and Jacob Lightfoot to get us going until we get one of the quarterbacks to where we want to be. Hopefully, when we get there, we will be able to do some things.” 

  Hood is pleased to have Lightfoot and Ross returning but admits that the pair have been slowed by medical issues in recent weeks. 

  “It’s good to have two guys of that callable back,” Hood said. “Jacob had a breakout year last year and Cayden is like a Swiss Army knife for us…there is a lot of things he can do for us on both sides of the ball. Jacob has been working through a little knee injury and Cayden has been battling mono so summer hasn’t gone according to plan for those guys. But, by the first game, they will be ready to go. We just have to figure out ways to get them the ball.”

  The Patriot offense will ask several experienced offensive linemen to guide rising players and find the blocks to spark the offense.  

  “We return three guys on the offensive line with a lot of experience, Austin Woods, Matthew West and Jordan Madden,” Hood pointed out. “Tyler Morton has worked really, really hard and Kayden Whitney is a sophomore that’s doing a lot of really good things. We also have sophomores in Tucker Tracy, J.C. Stamps, Logan Kendall that have been pushing. It’s youth but we hope that with the leadership of the four older guys we can find five linemen to put on the field. We are looking at seven guys that could possibly play on the offensive line. Hopefully they will keep working and they will find a way to open up some holes for Kelly and the other guys to get going and that, in turn, will open up some passing lanes.”

  Defensively, the replacements for the lost starters---including Steven Whitney, Aaron Borth, Carson Taylor, and Sheldon Peay----from last year will come from several kids who have been battling hard for playing time. Finding the right players and getting them into the right positions has been challenging. 

  “Coach Berry (defensive coordinator Tyler Berry) gray hair has been coming out in the last few weeks,” Hood joked before adding “the kids have been giving a good attitude and a good effort. One thing that it has done and that I love is that the kids know that there are a lot of spots open. The level of competition has intensified. That has opened some doors. That opportunity has allowed kids to really grow. We have some good competition going on. We have seen some guys really step it up.”

  Hood points out that “it’s still too early’ to know which players will get the call as starters against Adair County on August 18. However, the coach mentions a few players that are battling to be in the trenches. 

  “Cayden(Ross) has been a two-year starter at corner and Dillion Rookstool played well as a freshman but is coming back from an injury,” Hood noted. “Nathan Hogue and Carter Holland has had good summers. Dalton Cline has done good things at linebacker and Jacquez McPeak and Hunter Foster and some other guys give us senior depth. They just have to buy into what we are doing and lead this bunch.”

  AC-S finished 7-4 last year with the season ending in a disappointing first round lost at Madisonville-North Hopkins. The early exit has left AC-S hungry to return to the playoffs with a focus on a different outcome in 2018.

  “It was a good year but it didn’t end the way any of us wonted,” Hood explained. “Our offensive style in a mud fest against 300 pound kids was what we wanted. It was what it was and we were beat by a really good team. We did a lot of good things last year and I feel that this year, we are in a good spot. We weren’t satisfied with the way last year ended. We want a home playoff game and we want to win a playoff game. We have a long way to go to get there but I really like the attitude of the team.”

  The Patriots schedule will be similar to last year. AC-S opens with Adair county at Campbellsville University on Saturday, August 18. The following week, AC-S travels to Barren County before hosting Greenwood August 31 for the home season opener. 

  September will see games at Glasgow, verses Pulaski County at Lindsey Wilson, and at home against Grayson County. District play starts on September 28 at Franklin-Simpson, the defending Class 4A state champion. Following fall break, the Patriots will host Warren East and Warren Central before closing regular season play at Monroe County.

   

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