A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

2019 Prep Football Previews: Two-way senior starter expects to build on Newport team’s success last year

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 2019 season on Aug. 23. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Terry Boehmker

NKyTribune sports reporter

Kaleal Davis didn’t like the idea of playing quarterback when Newport football coach Joe Wynn first suggested it last summer. He had never played the position before so he didn’t know anything about running an offense.

“I wasn’t really happy about it in the beginning, but my team needed me so I felt like moving to quarterback would be the best position for me to be in just to help the team out in another way.”

Kaleal Davis averaged more than 140 passing and rushing yards combined per game as Newport’s quarterback last season.

Davis handled the quarterback duties so well that Newport averaged 278 yards per game and posted a 6-5 record last season. It was the first time since 2014 that the Wildcats finished with more than two wins.

With Davis among eight returning starters on offense, Wynn expects his team to build on the success it enjoyed in his first year as head coach.

“We will improve drastically up front on offense,” Wynn said. “I think that will be our biggest area of improvement. We have a really good O-line coach and a lot of guys returning who understand our terminology and what we’re trying to do when we have the ball.”

Last season, Davis averaged 97 yards passing and 47 yards rushing per game in the spread offense that the new coaching staff installed. The fledgling quarterback completed 72 of 147 passes for 1,070 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 540 yards and seven TDs.

There was a bit of a learning curve in the new position. Davis said he got a little frustrated at times, but the offense clicked and was able to get the ball into the end zone.

“I scored my first touchdown and just the excitement of the crowd and the excitement of my teammates, it was just an indescribable feeling,” Davis said. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to do this again.'”

This will be the final season that Davis takes snaps at quarterback. Several colleges were recruiting him to play defense and he accepted a Division I scholarship from Indiana State University last spring.

“If you get to go to college and play anywhere, that’s a blessing,” he said. “There were times when I felt I couldn’t go Division I. But I’ve got the greatest support system in the world. My family kept pushing me everyday. I kept hitting the books and the next thing you know I got that Division I offer.”

Newport coach Joe Wynn

As a starting safety for Newport last season, Davis made 62 tackles, recovered two fumbles and intercepted five passes, including one he returned for a touchdown. He was among the players who received a Top 24 Award at the Northern Kentucky Football Coaches Association post-season banquet.

Davis said playing quarterback has helped him become a better safety because he has a fuller understanding of what offensive plays are designed to do.

“He understands football and that’s obvious if you watch him play defense,” coach Wynn said. “He’s a ball hawk. He’s 6-foot-2 and runs a laser-fast 40 (yards). I honestly think he’s one of the best athletes in Northern Kentucky, if not one of the best in the state. He’s a gem, and not a lot of people know about him.”

Davis is one of seven returning starters on defense for Newport.  The Wildcats need to do a better job on that side of the ball than last season when they were outscored 119-18 in their final three losses to Class 2A opponents.

“I committed (to Indiana State), but I’m still working hard every day to get better and to make sure I get my teammates around me better, too,” Davis said.

After playing on Newport teams that finished with a 1-10 record when he was a freshman and sophomore, Davis is striving to make his final season with the Wildcats something special.

“This year, I feel Newport is going to be the talk of the town,” he said. “Everybody was down and out on our football team my first two years, and now everyone’s asking, ‘Hey, are you going to the game Friday night.’ It’s truly a blessing when people act like that. It makes me happy and all our guys happy. And that’s the reason we work hard every day.”

2018 SEASON:  6-5 record, lost in first round of Class 2A playoffs.
DISTRICT:  Class 2A, District 6 with Beechwood, Holy Cross, Lloyd.
HEAD COACH:  Joe Wynn (6-5 in one year as head coach at Newport).

Aug. 23 – at Harrison County, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 – BROSSART, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 – CARROLL COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13 – BRACKEN COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 – at Holmes, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 – vs. Newport Central Catholic at Thomas More, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 – BELLEVUE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 – LLOYD, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 – vs. Holy Cross at Thomas More, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 – at Beechwood, 7 p.m.

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