When junior quarterback Dylan Lemen needed to restart the Kenton Ridge offense late in the first half Friday night at Stebbins, he looked for classmate Calvin Dibert.
“We’ve had a special connection ever since eighth grade when I started playing,” Dibert said.
That’s when Dibert gave up soccer. In his first middle school football game on a nearby field against Stebbins, he caught his first touchdown pass from Lemen.
“I just wanted something new and tried football to see how I liked it,” Dibert said. “And I really liked it.”
Good thing for the football Cougars.
On Friday, their early three-touchdown lead had been cut to a 12-point lead late in the first half and momentum had shifted. Then Lemen and Dibert shifted it back.
On three consecutive plays, Dibert, who is 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, lined up wide on the right. All other receivers were on the left side. Dibert drew single coverage each time and Lemen knew what to do. The first two plays covered 36 and 31 yards. Lemen put the ball up high both times so Dibert could go get it. The third was a two-yard strike to the front corner of the end zone for the touchdown into Dibert’s big hands.
The three-score lead was back (33-14) and the Cougars were on their way to a 47-14 nonconference victory.
“Calvin’s a great wide receiver and our line’s giving us great protection,” Lemen said. “I’m just trying to get it out there to him. He can go up and get it — he makes us look good.”
Lemen completed 12 of 20 passes for 167 passing yards and two touchdown passes to Dibert, who caught six passes for 118 yards. The Cougars rushed for 279 yards with Lemen and Carson gaining 110 each. Lemen scored on runs of 41, 14 and 6 yards. Jones scored on a 5-yard run, but his biggest play was a 95-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff.
“We preach so much to our kids about how important winning the kicking phase of the game is,” Cougars coach Joel Marratta said. “And coming out finally taking an opening kickoff for a touchdown … we spend so much time on special teams and it finally paid off for us tonight. That was the spark we needed to get going.”
The Cougars are 2-1 with wins over Carlisle and Stebbins after a 54-14 season-opening loss to Mechanicsburg.
“We had a few good scrimmages so we were rolling in there big-headed,” Lemen said. “We needed an eye opener and that gave it to us.”
Stebbins quarterback Austin Womack reminded the Cougars of that when he led two touchdown drives in the second quarter, connecting on a long pass to set up a short touchdown and throwing a 47-yard touchdown to Andre Snow.
“We’re not world-beaters,” Marratta said. “We were very uneven tonight. We let up, we got complacent, we got comfortable. We’re not a good enough football team to be able to do that and let people in the backdoor and give them hope.”
Stebbins (0-3) is coached by former Southeastern coach Greg Bonifay who is trying to build a program at a school where he previously served as an assistant. In his first season, he played a lot of freshmen and sophomores. This year a lot of sophomores are playing.
“We show signs of being a pretty good football team, and then we show signs of needing to work on things,” he said. “Once we start doing all the little things right, we’re going to be all right.”