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2016 Prep Football Previews: Conner looking to build on last year’s successful season

The NKyTribune will be offering focused coverage of NKY high school football throughout the season, thanks to support from St. Elizabeth Healthcare Sports Medicine. See all of our pre-season features on each of NKY’s 21 high school football teams and follow our coverage, including roundups each week at Northern Kentucky High School Football.

By Evan Merrill
NKyTribune intern

Although they lost quite a few starters to graduation, the Conner Cougars look to continue the momentum of last year’s 8-4 football season and compete for a Class 6A district title with Cooper and Ryle this season.

“We’ve got a good senior class again, we had one last year,” coach Dave Trosper said. “We’ve grown to the standpoint of it’s not rebuild, it’s reload. We lost a lot of guys last year, but we have a lot of guys that played (returning).”

Brian Manning

One of Conner’s varsity veterans is Brian Manning, who played defensive back and wide receiver on last year’s 8-4 team.

Conner has several key contributors from last season returning. The list includes Austin Cain, Peyton Van Horn, Darrel Marshall and Brian Manning, who are put in a position of being team leaders for the underclassmen.

“(Austin) kind of takes on a lot of the leadership vocally,” Manning said. “I just mostly show them what to do.”

Manning played both defensive back and wide receiver for the Cougars last season. He’s one of several returning starters on defense, but the offensive unit lost a lot of firepower with the graduation of quarterback Kyler Padgett and wide receiver Isaiah Ebarb, the team’s top two scorers last season.

With senior leaders like Manning returning, they can help set the tone on defense while paving the way for the offense to find its footing.

“Having a quality defense is great. We’re always going to score points, we always have,” coach Trosper said. “Having a defense that can compete, get off the field and give us opportunities to get the ball more is great. We feel pretty confident from a defensive standpoint. We just need to continue to build every week and not be satisfied with where we’re at.”

The coach said senior Walker Buelow and junior Cooper Gullion are competing for the starting quarterback position. Trosper expects the battle to be sorted out by Conner’s first game against Boone County on Aug. 26.

One underclassmen who will have to play a huge role on offense is junior running back Matt Simpson, who was injured in the second game last year and didn’t play the rest of the season. “He’s going to be a guy that does some really good things for us,” Trosper said.

St E Football plugTwo of Conner’s four losses last year were to county rival Cooper, once in the regular season, 15-13, and again in the playoffs, 14-6. The rivalry between the schools is set to begin once again.

“It starts up the beginning of the season, trash talking starts, carries on, then about a week before the game everyone starts tweeting at each other and stuff like that,” Manning said. (Hyping) the game up, for the bragging rights for the rest of the season.”

But defeating Cooper isn’t the ultimate goal for Manning and his senior teammates. They’ve dreamed of a state championship since their sophomore year and they’re set to do everything they can to achieve that goal.

“We want to win state,” he said. “That’s what we’ve always wanted to do. We all have to play each down. We have to do our jobs every play.”

Trosper isn’t surprised by Manning’s response. In his nine seasons as Conner’s head coach, the Cougars have never won more than two games in the post-season playoffs. He’s hungry for a state title as well.

“That’s the common goal for us,” Trosper said. “If you’re not shooting for that, you’re underachieving in my mind. We have to stay healthy,   compete week in and week out and the rest of it we can’t control.”

2015 SEASON:
8-4 record, lost in second round of Class 6A playoffs.
DISTRICT: Class 6A, District 5 with Cooper and Ryle.
HEAD COACH: Dave Trosper (69-75 in 13 seasons overall, 56-48 in nine seasons at Conner).

Aug. 26 – at Boone County, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 – at Simon Kenton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 – SCOTT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 – DIXIE HEIGHTS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 – LLOYD, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 – at Campbell County, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 – RYLE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 – at Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 – at Mason County, 7:30 p.m.

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