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2018 Prep Football Previews: Simon Kenton coach expects defensive unit to carry team early on

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

The Simon Kenton football team entered preseason practice with nine positions to fill in the offensive lineup, but the Pioneers have nearly everybody back on the other side of the ball.

Simon Kenton senior J.J. Courtney made 82 tackles as a defensive lineman last season.

“We feel really good about our defense,” said head coach Jeff Marksberry. “We’ve got guys who can run and guys who are big and strong up front and very athletic. We hope to play very good on defense and special teams to help our offense out early on.”

The list of varsity veterans on defense includes senior lineman J.J. Courtney, a third-year starter who made 82 tackles last season along with two fumble recoveries and one interception.

Courtney was a second–team selection on the Northern Kentucky coaches all-star team as a junior. This year, he hopes to impress college recruiters while helping his team become a Class 6A playoff contender once again.

“I really want to play college football,” he said. “Football is my whole life. This is my 13th season playing and I’d like to continue that in college.”

Listed as 5-foot-9 and 250 pounds on player profiles, Courtney may not have the physical size to play major college football, but there should be a place for him on other teams, according to Marksberry.

“His intensity and the effort level that he plays with is just phenomenal,” the coach said. “He’s got the strength to get off blocks, but he also has that fantastic motor to run to the ball and make plays.”

Simon Kenton has so many players in the football program that they can be assigned to either the offensive or defensive unit and no one has to play both ways. That pays off in practice because each unit can work together to get better.

“Last year, I had a lot of run tackles and the pass wasn’t something I was focusing on too hard,” Courtney said. “But my pass rush is definitely something I want to get better at. I only had like four sacks last year and I want more, so that’s what I’ve been working on.”

Jeff Marksberry

Simon Kenton’s other starting defensive linemen will be juniors Vuk Sajlovic and Jack Milton. They’ll have several senior veterans behind them, including linebackers Bryson Pernell and Clay Cogswell and defensive backs Brady Nipper and David LeCount.

Last year, the defense allowed 292 yards per game, but that was offset by a high-powered offense that averaged 396 yards to lead the team to an 11-2 record.

The Pioneers have leading rusher Austin Hammack returning, but there will be an entirely new offensive line and Caleb Farfsing is a first-year starter at quarterback. That’s why the team is counting on its more experienced defensive unit to set the tone for another successful season.

“Last year, we were in the same boat as the offense is this year,” Courtney said. “I was one of only three returning starters on defense, but we worked together and became a sound unit. I think the offense will do the same. But, for the time being, we’ll do what the offense did last year to help us out.”

SIMON KENTON PIONEERS
2017 season: 11-2 record, lost in third round of Class 6A playoffs.
District: Class 6A, District 6 with Boone County and Campbell County.
Head coach: Jeff Marksberry (135-79 in 17 seasons at Simon Kenton).

2018 SCHEDULE
Aug. 17 – MEADE COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 – LEXINGTON BRYAN STATION, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 – CONNER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 – at Dixie Heights, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – at Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 – at Highlands, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 – BEECHWOOD, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 – BOONE COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 – at Campbell County, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – at Ryle, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:

DAYTON GREENDEVILS
DIXIE HEIGHTS COLONELS
COOPER JAGUARS
CONNER COUGARS
HIGHLANDS BLUEBIRDS
LUDLOW PANTHERS
BOONE COUNTY REBELS
HOLMES BULLDOGS
WALTON-VERONA BEARCATS
BROSSART MUSTANGS
NEWPORT WILDCATS
SCOTT EAGLES
CAMPBELL COUNTY CAMELS

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