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2018 Prep Football Previews: Dixie Heights senior taking on new roles as double-duty player

The NKyTribune will be featuring each of the 21 high school football teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties leading up to the first games of the 2018 season on Aug. 17. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Dixie Heights football coach Dave Brossart said one of his favorite players on the 2014 Class 6A state runner-up team was senior Luke Zajac, a two-way starter who rushed for more than 1,300 yards and made 60 tackles that season.

This year, senior C.J. Bensman will be a double-duty guy for the Colonels, seeing a lot of action on both sides of the ball as a running back and middle linebacker.

Dixie Heights senior C.J. Bensman made a team-high 81 tackles and rushed for 425 yards last season.

“He’s a very tough, hard-nosed player, just like Luke,” Brossart said. “I think he’ll probably be out there 60 to 70 percent of the time on offense and he might not come off the field on defense.”

That’s good news to Bensman, who loathes standing on the sideline during games. He wants a chance to improve on the numbers he put up last year when he made a team-high 81 tackles at inside linebacker and rushed for 425 yards as a fullback.

“I’d rather play both (ways) than just one,” Bensman said. “Last year, I started out every game on defense and still got in a bunch on offense. I do not like sitting out.”

Dixie Heights is changing to a 3-4 defensive formation this season and moving Bensman to middle linebacker. In that position, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior said he expects to make 100 tackles or more.

“He’s very capable of that,” Brossart said. “At the end of last year, he was our best defensive player. He probably had three-fourths of his tackles in the second half of the season. In the last five or six weeks, he was getting 10 to 14 tackles a game.”

The Colonels lost the last four games on last year’s schedule to finish with a 3-8 record. In three of those games, their opponent scored more than 40 points.

By switching to a 3-4 defense, they’ll have four linebackers on the field making stops, but the transition to the new formation is still a work in progress.

“Defense was definitely our weakness (last year),” Bensman said. “We still need to practice a lot on defense. We’re not working as a team right now.”

The Dixie Heights coaching staff also made some changes in their offensive strategy that involve Bensman. He was primarily used as a fullback last season when the Colonels averaged 244 yards rushing and less than 50 yards passing. They plan to open up the offense this season and let Benson run the ball more.

Dave Brossart

“We’ll spot play him on offense and try to give him anywhere from 12 to 18 touches a game, but he’s still going to be our feature running back,” Brossart said. “He’s going to be less of a blocker and more of a ball carrier.”

Bensman knows picking up yardage will be a lot more challenging since five of the big, strong offensive linemen that opened up running lanes last season have graduated.

“We’re going to a lot smaller up front,” he said. “We’re going to have to run a little harder and read more blocks.”

Developing a passing game would take some of the defensive pressure off the Dixie Heights running backs. Jeremy Adams is the team’s returning quarterback and Seth Young is battling him for the position.

“We want to be able to throw it more and spread defenses out,” Brossart said. “We’re smaller up front so we want to be able to rely on our speed and we’ll have four wide receivers on offense most of the time. I don’t think we’ll be 50-50, but I think we’ll be 60 (percent) run and 40 pass.”

2017 season: 3-8 record, lost in first round of Class 5A playoffs.
District: Class 5A, District 5 with Covington Catholic and Highlands.
Head coach: Dave Brossart (60-59 in 11 seasons overall, 36-37 in six seasons at Dixie Heights).

Aug. 17 – CAMPBELL COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 – at Scott, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 – MILFORD (Ohio), 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 – SIMON KENTON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – at Conner, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 – at Boone County, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 – COOPER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 – HIGHLANDS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – at Covington Catholic, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 – at Ryle, 7:30 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:

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One Comment

  1. Bob Young says:

    I look forward to following your coverage Terry.

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