Jake Kennedy accomplished a rare feat just by stepping onto the turf at Edwards-Maurer Field for the Wittenberg Tigers on Sept. 1.
The Bellefontaine High School graduate Kennedy became the first Wittenberg quarterback since Aaron Huffman, the starter from 2006-09, to start the season opener in three straight seasons. With the 14th-ranked Tigers (1-0) opening North Coast Athletic Conference play Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. game at Oberlin, Kennedy can begin pursuit of an even bigger goal: three straight outright conference championships.
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Wittenberg shared the title with Ohio Wesleyan in 2012 and then won two outright championships. It hasn’t stood alone atop the NCAC in three straight seasons since it won four titles in a row from 1998-2001.
“It’s uncommon to win three in a row, but it’s happened before,” Kennedy said after practice Wednesday. “I like to take it just one day at a time, and hopefully, everything will take care of itself, and we’ll win another ring.”
Wittenberg beat Westminster 34-21 in its first game of the 2018 season. Kennedy completed 22 of 34 passes for 230 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
In the 27th appearance of his career, Kennedy took another step toward moving into the top five in the Wittenberg record books in passing yards. He has 5,352 yards, ranking sixth. He’s right behind College Football Hall of Fame quarterback Charlie Green (5,575).
Kennedy should overtake the school’s all-time passing leader, Huffman (6,446), later this season. With three touchdown passes in the opener, Kennedy moved from ninth to tied for fifth with Rocky Alt and Ryan Holmes with 46 career touchdowns. He passed Greg Cornett and Ben Zoeller. He’s still 28 behind Reed Florence, who’s now Wittenberg’s offensive coordinator.
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Overall Kennedy has built a memorable career, and his final season got off to a solid start.
“He looks like a guy that’s played for three years,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “He gets us in and out of the right plays a lot of times. I think he’s got good chemistry with the guys he’s throwing to. He has much better feel for the offense than at any point in time since he’s been here. It’s been an evolution. His sophomore year he looked to one receiver a lot of times. His junior year, he ran a lot of (run-pass options) and threw a good deep ball. This year, you can really see him go through his progressions, and he feels comfortable.”
Wittenberg is 21-3 with Kennedy as the starter, and two of those losses came in the playoffs. The Tigers stretched their regular-season winning streak to 15 games in the opener.
“It was just yesterday I was making that first start as a sophomore,” Kennedy said. “It’s definitely surreal I’m finally at the end of the road, but I’m enjoying every minute of it and hoping time slows down, I guess.”