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2018 Prep Football Previews: New quarterback among Conner players taking on leadership roles

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 Michael Canizales
NKyTribune contributor

Although they lost 20 players to graduation and have some new assistant coaches on the staff, the Conner Cougars have adapted well to the changes and look to get back on the winning track this football season with 24 seniors leading the way.

“We have key players graduate every year,” said head coach Dave Trosper. “It’s always been our motto to get players ready and step into leadership roles.”

Jared Hicks, who saw some action at quarterback last season, will be running Conner’s spread offense. (Photo by Rocio Flores Walls)

One of the players filling a vacancy in the starting lineup is junior quarterback Jared Hicks. After spending his sophomore season as an all-purpose player, he’ll be a dual-threat in the team’s fast-paced offense.

“The expectation at quarterback is always to lead and work hard,” Trosper said. “Jared brings a lot of that to the table.”

This is the third consecutive year that Conner will have a first-year starter at quarterback. Last season, the Cougars averaged 270 yards and 25 points per game with senior Cooper Guillon running the offense.

Hicks, who saw some action at quarterback last season, already has the mindset of a veteran. He studies videos of last year’s games to know what to look for on Friday nights. He also watches highlights of professional quarterbacks moving the ball with their passing and running in a spread offense.

“I enjoy watching players like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson,” Hicks said. “Watching them, I see the tendencies of a dual-threat quarterback in the NFL and can use them to my own advantage.”

The top two receivers on last year’s team — Matt Simpson and Jaylen Watkins — also graduated after combining for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hicks expects seniors Emmanuel Merkel, Ayden Camp and Tate Niederman to be the team’s primary receivers this season.

“Emmanuel Merkel is a player to look out for,” Hicks said. “He didn’t get many snaps last year due to a knee injury, but he offers a big body at the wide receiver position.”

Jared Hicks

Hicks made 54 tackles as a defensive back last season and he’ll likely see action in that position once again. The top three tacklers on last year’s team — Andrew Davis, Clayton Boyd and Niederman — will also be back in the defensive lineup.

“We have high potential on offense and defense,” Hicks said. “Defensively, we will look to cause turnovers with the quickness that we have.”

All of Conner’s returning starters are striving to do better than last year when the team lost its last five games, including a 64-0 blowout to Louisville Male in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

“Our defense will need to start fast and be good early so that our offense can get some experience under their belt,” Trosper said.

The Cougars open their season away on Aug. 24 against Boone County, another team looking to get back on the winning track. Until then, Hicks said Trosper will work with him and the rest of the team to make sure their minds are in the right place.

“Coach Trosper does an excellent job at preparing us,” Hicks said. “For us to have a successful year, the others and I must step up as leaders and hold each other accountable.”

2017 season: 4-7 record, lost in first round of Class 6A playoffs.
District: Class 6A, District 5 with Cooper and Ryle.
Head coach: Dave Trosper (82-85 in 15 seasons overall, 69-58 in 11 seasons at Conner).

Aug. 24 – at Boone County, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 – at Simon Kenton, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 – SCOTT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – DIXIE HEIGHTS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 – at Lloyd, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 – at Campbell County, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 – RYLE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – at Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 – FREDRICK DOUGLASS, 7:30 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:


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