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Experience returns, but depth an issue for KR

Expectations are high for Kenton Ridge football following the team’s second playoff appearance in program history.

But, cautions coach Joel Marratta, so are the number of players going both ways for the Cougars.

Kenton Ridge returns nearly all of its high-scoring offense and stout defense that led it to a 7-4 record and appearance in the Division III, Region 10 playoffs. The key to repeating — and perhaps surpassing — those marks is staying healthy.

“The one thing we do have going for us is our experience,” Marratta said. “But once you get into the depth chart with the second and third string, if we do have injuries we’re going to have areas we need to work extra hard.”

The roster includes 51 players, three more than last year. Marratta said about seven or eight players will likely start on both offense and defense.

“That counteracts having a lot of those starters back,” Marratta said. “A lot of those guys don’t get a break. We have to make sure we’re in great shape because a lot of those guys will never leave the field.”

One of the few exceptions is senior quarterback Mitchell Schneider, who returns to run the spread offense with an option scheme. The dual-threat QB threw for 1,476 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and led the team in rushing with 682 yards and nine touchdowns on 121 carries.

He guides an offense that returns four of its top five rushers and its four top receivers. The line is bolstered by returning starters Clay Colvin and Bryce Frazier, both seniors, and junior Caleb King.

A 50-front defense that graduated two linebackers returns ball hawks in senior Christian Smith (80 tackles/3 sacks), junior Jayden Davis (75), Colvin (60/3) senior Justin Conley (52/3) and Frazier (45/2.5) among others.

“We’re playing with a lot of the same kids (from last year) and I think the expectation is to back and try to do as well as we did a year ago,” Marratta said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything different. We got out from under the radar and we want to continue in that same direction.”

Kenton Ridge tied for third in the Central Buckeye Conference’s Kenton Division with Bellefontaine and Tecumseh. All three finished 2-3.

Two of Kenton Ridge’s four losses came to Kenton Division champ Tippecanoe: One in the regular season and one in the playoffs. KR also fell to Shawnee and Tecumseh by a combined 21 points. Marratta expects the division to be even tighter this year.

“In our division, the Kenton Trail, I don’t know there’s one dominant team out there that can run the table,” Marratta said. “It’s a playoff week every week (in the division).

“Last year’s team, we knew if we played well, we knew we had a chance in the end. I don’t want to be too overconfident. I like the way our schedule stacks up but we can’t take any weeks off. Too many things can go wrong if you put the cart ahead of the horse.”

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