Tyler Batten and Josh Ricket are tough-minded football players. But they had to have moments when they thought, “So what am I going to get out of this?”
Maybe it was during two-a-days in the August heat. Maybe it was a school night in the weight room with a load of homework waiting for them. Maybe it was when a coach yelled at them. Maybe it was when the other guy won the job.
Whenever those moments came through two years of junior varsity and a junior year of not much more than special teams action, they never gave up.
“I just always thought if I put the work in that I’d eventually get to play,” Ricket said.
Eventually happened this season for the two senior outside linebackers who have helped lead Kenton Ridge to its third straight playoff appearance, a run of unprecedented success for the Cougars. They play a Division IV opening-round game at Jonathan Alder at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“They’re guys who sat in the shadows of a bunch of graduates and they’ve lit it up this year,” coach Joel Marratta said. “Just through hard work they’re starting to get the credit they deserve.”
Batten was the third-leading tackler in the Central Buckeye Conference and second in the Kenton Trail Division this season with 98. He was second overall and tops in the Kenton with eight sacks and tied for fourth in the league and division with four interceptions.
“I knew I was eventually going to get a chance, but I didn’t expect it to be what it is,” Batten said of his playing time.
Batten grew up in the program as a safety, but he was moved to linebacker this year. So he entered fall practice thinking more about how he might help the team on offense. Fortunately, Ricket grew up at linebacker, so he was eager to help his friend learn the position. Batten said Ricket reminded him that he was going to get better, and Batten saw a lot of improvement by the end of the first scrimmage.
“I felt real comfortable,” Batten said. “I felt like every piece on the defense was complete and we had every part we needed. … I like being in the plays more, and I like getting my nose dirty.”
Ricket was fourth on the team with 72 tackles. He was also a big contributor on offense as blocking tight end for Jayden Davis, who led the CBC with 1,695 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.
“Hard work leads to success in the long run,” Ricket said. “(The coaches) always told us to persevere and to always try and we’ll get the results. I thought I had to earn it for sure. It wasn’t guaranteed.”
They have also earned the respect of their coach.
“These guys exemplify what we want the face of Kenton Ridge football to be,” Marratta said. “They’ve never asked for instant gratification, they’ve always done what they’ve been told, they’ve worked extremely hard and they’ve never asked for the limelight.”