DRAFFENVILLE – Coach Ron Barnard will field his third Marshals team this year, with much already accomplished and much remaining to be done.
Barnard, ever the optimist, believes the time is ripe to move the program further forward.
“We want to win our district,” Barnard said. “We want to knock Henderson [County] off their perch. We’re tired of them being the Cat Daddy.”
Last year’s team was 6-4 in the regular season, earning a home playoff opener berth for the first time since 2007 and lost a hard-fought 6-0 game to Seneca of Louisville to finish 6-5.
Among the seniors lost to graduation, six were named All Western Kentucky Conference – DB Chase Buchanan and Logan Taylor, RB Nathan Anderson, OL/DL Levi Sanders and Noah Willett and DB/PK Brian Dueker.
On the bright side, juniors DB Noah Steele and LB/TE Casey White were also honored by the WKFCA.
Also cited by the coaches’ association was Barnard, who garnered WKFCA and KFCA Region 1 coach of the year honors for the second year in a row and also was awarded the Joe Russell Distinguished Leadership Award for the second straight year.
Graduation decimated the offensive and defensive lines “and almost my entire defensive backfield,” Barnard said. “It’s gonna take that secondary time to jell.”
Steele figures to be a key to development of the defensive backs, which will include Dalton Greenfield at safety and Josh Joyce at the corner opposite Steele. Monsters in the 3-3-5 formation will be senior Jamie Gilland and junior Nolan Nichols.
A trio of juniors appear set on the offensive line, with Joseph Middleman at left tackle, Noah Brien at left guard and Logan Spencer at right guard. Senior Tanner Pollard will anchor the line at center. On the right side, senior Hayden Hendley, who did not play last year, will compete with Spencer and junior Jacob Ledford and sophomore Sam Dunn will vie for tackle.
Senior Casey White will anchor the linebacker trio in the middle position, flanked by sophomore Tycen Henry and junior Thomas Alkemeyer.
On offense, the Marshals will have a new quarterback. Chase Clark, the starter last year as a junior, is not playing his senior year. Junior Clay Allen gets the nod with the coach’s son, sophomore Cole Barnard, his understudy.
“I feel good about both of ‘em,” Barnard said. “Clay’s got moxie. Clay’s a clutch kid. Got a lot of fight in him. Cole’s real smart, technical – form, everything.”
Nichols is at the top of the depth chart at halfback, ahead of Gilland, who has been hampered by injuries the last two years and figures to get plenty of playing time if he can avoid another setback. Alkemeyer will start at fullback in the I.
Steele and Dalton Greenfield will start at wideout spots and White will play on offense at tight end.
“This will be probably the youngest team we’ve had here,” Barnard said, “but possibly the best. That’s a bold statement, I know.”
Barnard insists the goals he has set are realistic.
“It’s not a make-or-break year for us,” he said. “But it’s a good time for us to make a statement. Mayfield, Graves County, Henderson – those are all statement games.
“I feel like we’re ready to we’re ready to win some playoff games.”