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2016 Prep Football Previews: Two-way starter heads talented senior class for Holy Cross

The NKyTribune will be providing 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 Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Holy Cross enters the 2016 football season with a senior class that’s loaded with athletic talent and Derrick Barnes heads the list.

Derrick Barnes HC

Derrick Barnes is one of the talented seniors on the Holy Cross football team who will play on both offense and defense this season. (Photo by Terry Boehmker)

Barnes has already accepted a scholarship offer from Toledo University to play linebacker, but he will still play on both sides of the ball for the Indians during his final high school season.

The coaching staff is moving the 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior from slotback to running back on offense this year to take full advantage of the power, speed and agility that made him a major college prospect.

“Give him the ball and he’s dynamic,” said Holy Cross coach Bruce Kozerski. “And as lead blocker on the different kinds of plays you want to run, he’s like a monster coming at you being that big.”

Barnes and his 21 senior teammates have been working hard to make Holy Cross a top contender in Class 2A once again this season. The Indians won the state title in 2011, but they haven’t made it through the regional round of the playoffs the last four years.

The seniors on this year’s roster are striving to do more in their final season together.

“We’ve built something very special and I’m sure we’re going to have a great season,” Barnes said. “Coach said he’s never seen so many good athletes in one bunch of seniors. I think we can go to state. And not just go, but win it.”

Last year, Holy Cross lost in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs and finished with a 6-6 record. Barnes was the team’s defensive standout with 82 solo tackles and 129 total stops. On offense, he had 816 yards rushing, 208 yards in pass receiving and scored 13 touchdowns.

Kozerski said Barnes got most of his rushing yards last season in the final five games after he switched from slotback to running back. The coaches made that move because Xavier Abernathy, the team’s leading rusher at that time, was put out of action by a knee injury.

St-E-Football-plug-768x249“I love running the ball,” Barnes said. “Last year, I was playing slot and did a lot of sweeps. But when Xavier got hurt I did more runs up the middle instead of going sideline to sideline.”

With Barnes and Abernathy in the same backfield this year, Holy Cross could be a lot tougher to stop on the ground. The team also has all five of its offensive linemen returning, and they’re all seniors.

How well junior Dylan Couch does in his first year as the team’s starting quarterback is the big question mark. Kozerski said he has several proven players at the wide receiver, slot back and fullback positions.

“We could two-platoon in skill positions if we have to,” the coach said. “We’re going to be using a lot of bodies (in games) and try to stay fresh for the fourth quarter so we can get after (opponents) when they’re tired.”

Barnes’ responsibilities as a linebacker on defense won’t change. His goal is to make 200 tackles this season.

“We do a couple of (defensive) formations,” he said. “I play outside linebacker at times, but mostly they want me inside the box.”


2015 SEASON: 6-6 record, lost in second round of Class 2A playoffs.
DISTRICT: Class 2A, District 4 with Lloyd, Newport and Newport Central Catholic.
HEAD COACH: Bruce Kozerski (57-73 in 11 seasons at Holy Cross).

Aug. 19 – vs. Holmes at CovCath, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 27 – vs. Walton-Verona at Thomas More, 1 p.m.
Sept. 9 – at Taft (Ohio), 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 – at Scott, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 – vs. Beechwood at CovCath, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 – at Bardstown Bethlehem, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 – at Newport Central Catholic, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 – at Newport, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 – vs. Lloyd at Thomas More, 1 p.m.
Oct. 28 – at Bellevue, 7:30 p.m

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:
Dixie Heights

Covington Catholic

Newport Central Catholic
Boone County
Campbell County

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