Football: Position Battles
By BRANDON HURLEY
Youth sprinkled in with a dose of veteran leadership is spearheading a team-wide positional shakeup as Greene County enters week one.
A select group of skill positions remain unchanged from a season ago, but outside of the quarterback, which is firmly in Clint Dennhardt’s grasp, furious position battles have ensued.
After an up-and-down sophomore season – his first as the full-time Greene County signal caller – Dennhardt did compile the fourth-best passing total in the district (788 yards), but threw more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six).
Despite that rocky fall in which the Rams went a mere 1-8, Dennhardt is poised for a breakout. With the lumps that came with becoming a starter at such a young age, the right-handed gunslinger was able to pick up a few valuable lessons along the way.
“[I learned] to play with more confidence this year. I’m more experienced and know what’s going on,” Dennhardt said. “It’s going to be a lot less stressful. I’ll be less worried about it.”
First-year head coach Mitch Moore feels his lead guy is one of the more valuable assets to the team. He commands a huddle and his teammates much better than a year ago. He may flash some of his running ability more often this season as well.
“Clint Dennhardt, he’s kind of a utility player. He can play quarterback for us, but that’s not the only position he’s going to play,” Moore said. “We’ve talked about him quite a bit in the staff room. He’s a special kid and has tremendous leadership skills. He’s grown in that department more than anything in the last six months which is what you need in your leader. He’s a junior, but he’s a leader on this team.”
That dual-threat ability is what separates Dennhardt from other quarterbacks in the district, Moore said. He can launch the ball 60 yards downfield for scoreboard busting TDs, but where he really can hurt a defense is with his legs.
“Clint could play running back at any school in the state, but he happens to be our quarterback. It gives us a really, really good dual-threat option,” Moore said. “He’s not the 6’4,” prototypical pocket passer, but he can sit back there and make those throws, and throw them a long way. “
That aforementioned arm strength isn’t enough to take him to the next level. The coaching staff wants Dennhardt to hit his receivers with more consistency.
“We are working on his accuracy. We’re working on the tempo in which he throws the ball,” Moore said. “But he’s a run and pass guy, and he’s not dependent on either one, which makes him a unique guy to have to defend.”
Despite that good will, is a two-quarterback system in play this fall? Coach Moore certainly feels so.
Don’t get it twisted, Clint Dennhardt is the man at quarterback this fall and has full trust of the Ram coaching staff. But that’s not to say an eager underclassmen waiting in the wings won’t get some tick.
Brent Riley, a sophomore with quick feet and the ability to throw on the run, is the next budding superstar. But he has to wait, which is fine with coach Moore.
“Clint Dennhardt is the bell-cow of this team, and budding star, but I don’t think anybody is asleep on Brent Riley because that guy can really throw the ball. We will use him at quarterback, too,” the coach said. “I’ve never believed in only needing one quarterback to be successful. When building a championship program, which we are trying to do here, you have to develop more than one quarterback at a time.
Both of those guys will see time a quarterback this year for us, which will be great.”
Riley is a member of the sophomore class that is itching to break out. The defensive secondary will boast two sophomores at the corners, Xavier Hayes and Nick Breon, while Colby Kafer should see significant tick at the running back position.
“Those are two guys that you’re hoping to get three good years out of at cornerback,” Moore said.
Another underclassman, junior Austin Delp, will roam the secondary as the Rams’ safety. Sophomore Will Hansen should play a key role in the linebacker unit as well.
Austin Delp has done a tremendous job at safety for us, who had a great baseball season and really has been kind of the leader in the secondary,” Moore said. “Will Hansen, who is a fantastic wrestler, does everything you ask him to do. Kind of like Jake Burns, a ‘do-everything-right’ guy. He’s always in the right spot and he’s a great tackler.”
Kafer, who sparked the boys’ 4x100-meter relay team to the state meet in the spring, brings an unmatched electricity to the backfield that Moore feels can help steer the offense.
“We’ve got a running back in sophomore Colby Kafer, to me, he’s got all the tools,” the coach said. “He’s a young kid and his ball security isn’t as good as it probably needs to be and doesn’t know the game of football as good as he knows, but he’s a special talent.”
The time is now for a young, but extremely talented Class of 2020.
“Those sophomores, they’re going to make mistakes but, boy, we’re excited,” Moore said. “They’ve really, really stepped up, and they’re going to have some significant playing time.”
Length should be a calling card of the Greene County defensive ends. Six-foot-four-inch senior Wade Adcock and sophomore Tyler Miller, who’s 6’7,” could wreak havoc on opposing back fields this fall.
“A guy that really is kind of the diamond in the rough and can play both sides of the ball is Wade Adcock,” Moore said. “He’s a great basketball player and had a great summer in baseball and strength and conditioning. Boy, has he really done some good things in the pass game for us at tight end. At defensive end, he’s been tremendous and is a hard guy to defend.”
Anchoring the defensive line is senior Charlie Minnehan, who will play some center as well.
A shake-up is in full effect in Jefferson. Will it bear fruit?
Find out when the Rams open the 2017 season at home against Kuemper Catholic. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Linduska Field.