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2018 Prep Football Previews: Walton-Verona looks strong enough up front to continue running the ball

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 Evan Merrill
NKyTribune sports reporter

Last season, the Walton-Verona football team averaged 277 yards rushing and only 44 yards passing per game. A talented offensive line was the reason the Bearcats ran the ball so effectively, and they expect to do it again this year.

Walton-Verona senior Grant Grubbs, right, led the team in tackles as a linebacker last season. He’s also a guard on the offensive line. (Photo by Carla Martin)

“I’m extremely confident in the line coming up this year,” said senior guard Grant Grubbs. “Right now, we have four seniors starting and one junior, (but) that’s not even necessarily set in stone. We have other senior leaders that could definitely step in and play. It’s a very focused line group compared to what I’ve seen in the past and I think we’re all taking our jobs seriously this year because we know what relies on it.”

This will be Grubbs’ fourth season as an offensive lineman for the Bearcats. He also plays linebacker and made a team-high 76 tackles last season on a defensive unit that posted shutouts in seven of the team’s nine victories.

But Walton-Verona’s successful season ended with a loss in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. Head coach Jeff Barth wants to see the Bearcats break through that barrier and make it to the regional finals.

“I think we’re at that level now where we contend for it, we just have to get one,” Barth said of a regional title.

Three of the top four rushers on last year’s team graduated. The top returning ball carrier is senior fullback Micah Alford, who picked up 526 yards on 43 carries and scored 10 touchdowns. Tyler Schrader and Peyton Smith are the leading candidates to fill the vacant backfield positions.

Grant Grubbs

The Bearcats have a veteran quarterback in senior Garrett Jones, who completed just 37 passes for 488 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games. There’s a good chance he’ll be throwing the ball a little more this season.

“He’s definitely going to be looked at as an offensive leader,” Grubbs said of Jones. “There’s going to be more of an emphasis and he’s going to have to be reliable.”

While the offense is sorting out what works best, Grubbs said the defense “looks as good as I’ve ever seen it before” with nine seniors and two juniors in the starting positions

One of the seniors is linebacker Kameron Pardee, who made 47 tackles last year at defensive end. Schrader was right behind him with 40 tackles as a defensive back.

“Our line’s looking very big compared to normal,” Grubbs said. “Our defensive backs are very experienced with guys like Tyler Schrader, who’s been playing since a freshman. So, overall, it’s a strong unit who should be able to get the job done, hopefully.”

The Bearcats have not lost a district game over the last four years and they look like the strongest team in the group once again. Making a run in the Class 2A playoffs is the team’s long-range goal, but that won’t be easy against the district they’ll face in the playoff bracket.

“This year they have us in with Glasgow (and) I think they’re a top-five team already,” Barth said. “So it’s always going to be tough, but I think obviously you have to put yourself in a situation to try to host and then you win the first one, get in a challenge with the second one.”

2017 season: 9-3 record, lost in second round of Class 2A playoffs.
District: Class 2A, District 5 with Carroll County, Gallatin County, Owen County, Trimble County.
Head coach: Jeff Barth (69-37 in nine seasons at Walton-Verona).

Aug. 17 – at West Jessamine, 9 p.m.
Aug. 24 – KENTUCKY COUNTRY DAY, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 31 – at Holmes, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 – at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 – OWEN COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 – PAINTSVILLE, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 – at Carroll County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 – GALLATIN COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 – BELLEVUE, 7:30 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:


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