NEW PARIS — National Trail head coach Randy Kerns returns to his high school field as a football coach on Friday, Aug 28, when the Blazers take on the Preble Shawnee Arrows at home to open the season.
Kerns will have his work cut out for him this season, as only one of his 33 players is a senior.
The senior is Michael Bane, who returns to football after not playing as a junior. Bane has been thrust into the starting quarterback role after original starter Jacob Heck broke his collarbone on the second play of a scrimmage earlier in the year.
Bane will have some help as Dillon Hager comes back as the team’s center. Hager is someone Kerns said put in a lot of work in the off-season and remains the teams most consistent lineman.
Another player who has improved in the off-season according to Kerns is Tyler Glander. “Tyler had an unbelievable year in the weight room, he is going to be our leader on the o-line and defense — he really is a heck of a player,” Kerns said.
Corbin Hoblit also had a strong off-season as he makes the transition to running back and outside linebacker. Kerns said he believes Hoblit is ready for a big season out of the National Trail backfield.
Kerns believes 6’4” junior Ben Sullivan is also ready for a big year, calling him one of the smartest players on the team.
For Kerns the biggest challenge has been changing the team’s scheme mentality. “We’re going from a team that passed the ball up to 50 times a game, and were really good at it, scored a lot of points, to a team I envision as physically tough, mentally tough, and one that is going to run the football and get tough yards.”
However, despite being young and moving from a spread look to a more smash mouth football approach, Kerns said he sees the signs this team will make the transition.
“I’ve been impressed with them — when we’ve gotten smacked in the mouth we’ve responded, towards the end of games we had gotten better,” Kerns said.
One positive about having a young team is that everyone on the team is battling for their position every day in practice.
“A lot of kids are on the same talent level, so players can’t take anytime off because that sophomore or freshman will come in and take your spot if you do,” said Kerns.
In reality, Kerns said this season is about establishing a new culture and seeing the players buy into the future of the program, and to make sure the program is headed in the right direction for future success.
A strong interior defense will be important to any success the team has this year, according to Kerns, who said the defensive line and defensive front seven will be called out to be the best unit on the team.
Kerns said he is excited about the first game after coming home to the program he graduated from in 2005.
“It’s been special, even starting teaching was special, it’s going to fun. I’m more concerned about the kids than myself. I want them to know we put everything we had into getting them ready for the game,” he said.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062