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2018 Prep Football Previews: Newport coach counting on seniors to build better program

The NKyTribune is 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

When he was selected as Newport’s head football coach in June, Joe Wynn had 10 weeks to hire a staff, build a relationship with the players, put together a playbook and prepare a team for the 2018 season.

Boosting confidence was also on the first-year head coach’s to-do list. The Wildcats have compiled a disheartening 4-29 record during the last three seasons.

Newport senior Cameron Craig will be a two-way starter for the Wildcats this season under first-year head coach Joe Wynn.

“Our quote for the team this year is ‘Brick by Brick’ and I told the seniors they’re the foundation for what we’re trying to build,” Wynn said. “And they’ve really bought into that.”

Several of the seniors have played a lot of varsity minutes over the last two years due to limited numbers on the Newport roster. They helped bring in additional players for the upcoming season and the new coach expects to have more than 40 in uniform for the opening game on Aug. 24.

“When coach Wynn came along it took a while to adjust to him,” said Newport senior Cameron Craig. “But now we’re just out here working hard and getting pretty confident about everything.”

As a slot receiver on last year’s team, Craig provided 192 yards in pass receptions and 150 yards rushing. This season, he’ll be expanding his role in a new spread offense with junior Kaleal Davis taking over at quarterback.

“Cam is a guy we’re counting on to play different receiver spots,” Wynn said. “We’ll move him around a lot because we know he’s going to be one of those reliable kids who can catch the ball and make plays for us.”

The new coach installed a new offense because the Wildcats averaged just 241 yards and 15.6 points per game last season. They were limited to one touchdown in four of their last five losses and finished with a 1-10 record.

Rebuilding the offensive line around senior guard Nate Turner, a two-year starter, has been a primary focus during practice. The coach said his staff is close to “putting the pieces of that puzzle together.”

Joe Wynn

“I think the biggest improvement has been on offense,” Craig said. “Last year, our defense was our strong side, but we’re way ahead of where we were at this time last year on the offensive side. The coaches have been teaching us really well. It’s all been about learning what we need to do.”

Craig saw limited action on defense as a junior, but he’ll be playing outside linebacker this season. He’ll be lining up with the top three tacklers on last year’s team – linebacker Charles Colston and defensive backs Zach Wilson and Davis.

“I didn’t play defense too much last year,” Craig said. “I wasn’t really in the greatest shape to play both sides of the ball, but I feel that’s changed. I feel a lot better about playing two sides now.”

The Wildcats won’t play a Class 2A district game until the seventh week of the season. That gives the 27-year-old head coach and his staff additional time to build the team into a possible contender.

But he said their main purpose is developing the character of the players involved in the Newport football program.

“We want to win football games, but we also want to invest in those kids’ future and make them better people and better students,” Wynn said. “Winning football games is cool, but we want our guys to be successful in life and not just on the football field.”

2017 season: 2-9 record, lost in first round of Class 2A playoffs.
District: Class 2A, District 4 with Holy Cross, Lloyd and Newport Central Catholic.
Head coach: Joe Wynn (First year as head coach).

Aug. 24 – FINNEYTOWN (Ohio), 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 – OWEN COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 – BROSSART, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – LUDLOW, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 – at Frankfort, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 – at Bellevue, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 – at Lloyd, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 – HOLY CROSS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 – at Holmes, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:


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