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2018 Prep Football Previews: Boone County seniors want to end high school careers on winning team

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

With several returning skill players and an improved offensive line, the Boone County football team expects to be much more competitive than last season when the Rebels were outscored 424-85 in 11 games and posted only one victory.

“One of the hardest things you do when you struggle or when something bad happens in a game is say, ‘Here we go again,’” head coach Marty Steele said. “We’re hoping to get passed that with the core group of seniors we have this year.”

Boone County senior John Mark Shutt led the team in rushing yards and tackles last season.

One of those seniors is John Mark Shutt, a two-way starter at running back and linebacker. Last season, he rushed for a team-high 381 yards and recorded a team-high 127 tackles.

“He’s such a great leader and football player,” Steele said of Shutt. “I’ve seen a lot of players and linebacker’s over the years and he ranks right up there with some of the best that’s ever played at Boone.”

Shutt has recorded 218 tackles since starting at the linebacker position his sophomore year. During the offseason, the 6-foot, 215-pound senior has been working diligently to end his high school career on a winning team.

“In addition to strength training, I’ve focused on my speed and agility,” Shutt said. “As a team, we’ve worked on giving our all and going the extra mile when it’s not easy.”

Shutt believes the Rebels have a lot of underclassmen willing to step up and make contributions on both sides of the ball. But it will take strong senior leadership to lead the team back to prominence.

“Each game will mean a lot to us as we close out our high school career together,” Shutt said. “Our senior class has been together since the Boone County Pee-Wee League and we want to get back to the winning tradition.”

The list of returning senior starters looking to improve on last year’s lopsided 424-85 scoring differential includes offensive lineman Tevin Merritt, slot back Jante Wingo, wide receiver R.J. Summers and quarterback Zach Grau, who passed for 596 yards and rushed for 160 last season.

Marty Steele

“We had a lot of problems with our offensive line last year,” Steele said. “Zach ran for his life a lot, so hopefully he won’t have to do that this year and it’ll help his production quite a bit.”

The coach said the Rebels’ inability to move the ball on offense, averaging only 180 yards per game, forced the defense to be on the field for longer stretches. When injuries piled up in the defensive secondary, the unit became highly susceptible to big plays.

“Anytime the ball went up into the air, there was a touchdown,” Steele said. “Now that we have the best offensive line I’ve ever coached, we’re hoping those 85 points (scored) will increase greatly, and in turn, those defensive points (allowed) will decrease.”

Boone County once recorded 17 winning seasons from 1990-2009 and made it as far as the semifinals in the Class 6A state playoffs in 2007. Since then, however, the program has fallen on hard times and posted a 4-62 record over the past six seasons.

With all the pieces in place this season and the team showing early signs of maturity, the Rebels want to get this season off to a good start and win their first opening game since 2011 when they play Conner at home on Aug. 24.

2017 season: 1-10 record, lost in first round of Class 6A playoffs.
District: Class 6A, District 6 with Campbell County and Simon Kenton.
Head coach: Marty Steele (2-31 in three seasons at Boone County).

Aug. 24 – CONNER, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 – RYLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 – HOLMES, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – at South Oldham, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 – DIXIE HEIGHTS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 – CLARK COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 – at Simon Kenton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 – at Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 – CAMPBELL COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 – at Highlands, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:



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