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2017 Prep Football Previews: Six senior linemen share leadership role on Dixie Heights team

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The NKyTribune is featuring each of the 21 high school football teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties leading up to the first games of the 2017 season on Aug. 18. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Six senior linemen who came up through the Dixie Heights program together are (back row, left to right): Garrett Vanlandingham, Dylan Ebeling, Justin Penick; (front row, left to right): Chase Stanfield, Kairus Washington, Joey Eckler.

With big, strong, experienced seniors across the offensive line, Dixie Heights football coach Dave Brossart has an optimistic outlook on the Colonels’  potential for success this season.

“I think they’re the leaders of this team,” Brossart said. “This team goes as they go. That’s a lot of pressure, but you’ve got to have your best players performing well, and if this line jells like it’s done so far I think we’ll have a very good year.”

All six of the senior linemen came up through the Dixie Heights football program together and bonded as friends as well as teammates. They want their final season together to be something special after playing on teams that finished 6-6 and 3-9 the last two years.

“We’re excited,” said senior center Garrett Vanlandingham. “We have high hopes and high goals. All eyes are on us and we’re ready for the challenge. I think we’ll all step up.”

The other senior veterans on the Colonels’ front line are guards Dylan Ebeling and Justin Penick and tackles Kairus Washington and Chase Stanfield. All of them are 6-foot-1 or taller and weigh between 255 and 275 pounds. The sixth senior is Joey Eckler, who will play guard or tackle when one of his teammates needs a break as well as line up at tight end in some offensive sets. He’s listed as 6-foot-6, 255 pounds on the roster.

“We’ve been best friends since the sixth grade so we’ve gotten to know each other over the years and really have a close bond,” Washington said. “It seems like we’re always at each others house every weekend. These guys are my brothers and I love them to death.”

Coach Dave Brossart

When Dixie Heights made it to the Class 6A state final three years ago, Washington and Stanfield were listed as freshman backups on the depth chart. For the last two years, all six of the linemen have been regulars in the Colonels’ starting lineup.

“They’ve all got two years of (varsity) experience and their knowledge of the game has steadily picked up over the last two years,” coach Brossart said. “They’re all committed to the weight room and, not only are they big, they’re strong and move real well.”

All six seniors will also see playing time in the four front line positions on defense. Eckler was one of the team’s leading tacklers at defensive end last season with 33 stops.

But their primary duty will be controlling the line of scrimmage on offense so the Colonels can run the ball effectively once again. Last season, the offense averaged 315 yards per game with 272 coming on the ground.

“Even though we might not have won a bunch of games, we feel like we’ve always been able to run the football really well,” Brossart said of the last two seasons. “We feel like running the ball and being physical up front, moving the chains slowly and controlling the clock goes over to the other side of ball and allows up to do better on defense as well.”

Washington and Eckler are drawing the most attention from recruiters, according to Brossart. But the coach feels like all six of his senior linemen could play on some level in college. That means the six members of the tight-knit group will likely be going their separate ways after graduation.

“We’ve just been focusing on this season and not the future because what we have right now is what we have right now,” Vanlandingham said. “We’re just trying to be as successful as we can this season.”

A coach always expects seniors to step up in their final season, but the strong bond between the six linemen adds another level to their motivation.

“I think they are very proud of where they are, but I know they haven’t accomplished what they want to,” Brossart said. “We went 3-9 and 6-6 so they’ve climbed the ladder in wins each year. I think they’ll be really disappointed if we don’t do better (this season) and go out and make a nice run in the playoffs.”

DIXIE HEIGHTS COLONELS
2016 SEASON:
6-6 record, lost in second round of Class 5A playoffs.
DISTRICT: Class 5A, District 5 with Covington Catholic and Highlands.
HEAD COACH: Dave Brossart (57-51 in 10 seasons overall, 33-29 in five seasons at Dixie Heights).

2017 SCHEDULE
Aug. 18 – at Campbell County, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 – SCOTT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 – at Milford (Ohio), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 – at Simon Kenton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 – CONNER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 – BOONE COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 – at Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 – at Highlands, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 – COVINGTON CATHOLIC, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27 – RYLE, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:
DAYTON GREENDEVILS
COVINGTON CATHOLIC COLONELS
BISHOP BROSSART MUSTANGS
WALTON-VERONA BEARCATS

COOPER JAGUARS
SCOTT EAGLES
LUDLOW PANTHERS
HIGHLANDS BLUEBIRDS
LLOYD JUGGERNAUTS
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC  THOROUGHBREDS
NEWPORT WILDCATS

BOONE COUNTY REBELS
BELLEVUE TIGERS
BEECHWOOD TIGERS
CONNER COUGARS
CAMPBELL COUNTY CAMELS

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