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2016 Prep Football Previews: Culture change is having a positive effect on Bellevue program

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 Tom Ramstetter
NKyTribune contributor

The Bellevue football program stands on firm ground these days under the direction of second-year head coach Woody McMillen and the Tigers expect that to lead to more wins on the field. The biggest part of having continuity at the head coaching position has been what McMillen calls a culture change in the Class 1A program.

The players can feel it and they have bought in.

Adam Hazeres

Bellevue senior Adam Hazeres says second-year coach Woody McMillen has brought some stability to the Tigers football program. (Photo by Terry Boehmker)

“We’ve been through a lot of coaches the past couple years,” senior linebacker/running back Adam Hazeres said. “I really like having coach McMillen around because he is here to stay. Building the program up is really good for future generations.”

The Tigers were 3-8 last season, losing eight of their final nine games after a 2-0 start. The returning players chalk that up to learning a whole new system after McMillen took charge.

“It’s rough,” Hazeres said. “It’s hard to buy in, which is something we hadn’t done. That’s part of the reason we weren’t any good because you just get a whole new system and you really have to get people to work hard and trust in the system … and trust in your coaches. I think that is something that we have this year, which is nice.”

McMillen understood that sentiment and began to work to earn their trust.

“I think, for the seniors last year, I was the third coach they’d had in four years,” McMillen said. “That’s tough on a kid. So our coaches and players trust each other. I think they know we care about them. They know I care about them and I think that’s gone a long way. Trust and culture, that’s a two-way street. The coaches have committed and the players have really bought into what we’re trying to do.”

Hazeres is the leading rusher returning from last year’s team. He picked up 274 yards on 64 carries as a third option on offense behind running back Cameron Chase and slot back Nick Anderson, who both graduated. On defense, the Tigers have two of their top five tacklers returning in linebackers Jason Craig and Hazeres.

McMillen has been pleased with what he calls a great offseason, something players and coaches say hasn’t happened in a long time. The commitment was there.

St E Football plug

“Our school is pretty small, but the guys that we have that were not participating in basketball, baseball or track, they really committed and we were really pleased with that,” McMillen said. “I feel like our football culture has improved the last 15 months and since the end of the season.”

During pre-season practice this summer, the coach is putting an emphasis on doing things the right way.

“Be on time,” McMillen said. “Hustle. I really feel like a lot of it has taken care of itself. Some of our seniors have really emerged as leaders here in July. Adam Hazeres is one of them. Jason Craig has been a really nice leader. A guy battling it out to be our quarterback, Tucker Thomas, has been a nice leader for us this spring. Liam McCarthy, who transferred in after the football season, has been a leader as well as a lot of other guys.”

According to Hazeres, the team’s new culture relies on seniors setting a good example.

“I feel like our teammates trust in us and we believe in ourselves.,” Hazeres said. “I think it’s going to be a really good year. We’ve got a good group of seniors this year who are working hard and pushing everybody else hard. We’re really filling the leadership roles as role models and putting in the work.”

The coaching staff’s long-range goal is a return to the glory days of Bellevue football when the Tigers were a top contender in the Class 1A region and state. Beechwood has been the top small-school program in the area for several years and McMillen said he’d like to “get to to a point where we’re competing with them.”

“More importantly, our young men at Bellevue, I really feel like they’re growing as players and as people. I’ve been really pleased with them,” McMillen said. “We did lose some guys to graduation, but I think our team chemistry is going to be a lot better. You can pin that on the culture. Our guys have been committed and they’re picking each other up. They’re not afraid to kick one another in the rear end if they need it.”

Now, they hope the wins start coming.

“I’m looking forward to this year,” Hazeres said.


2015 SEASON: 3-8 record, lost in first round of Class 1A playoffs.
DISTRICT: Class 1A, District 4 with Beechwood, Dayton and Ludlow.
HEAD COACH: Woody McMillen (7-14 in two seasons overall, 3-8 in one season at Bellevue).

Aug. 19 – GALLATIN COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 – at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 – at Brossart, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 – NEWPORT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 – HOLMES, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 – BARDSTOWN BETHLEHEM, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 – at Beechwood, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 – DAYTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 – LUDLOW, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 – at Holy Cross, 7:30 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:

Dixie Heights


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