For the Tribune-Courier
Any football coach worth his salt will be the first one to tell you that no matter how accurate the passer is or how agile and nimble the running back may be, success on the football field all starts in the trenches.
Because if there is no protection for the strong-armed quarterback or there aren’t any holes opened up for the running back to scoot through, there is nothing to work with.
That’s why Marshall County coach Ron Barnard is optimistic heading into the season with four returning starters that will anchor an experienced offense line for the Marshals.
Senior Joseph Middleman (left tackle), Noah Brien (left guard), Logan Spencer (right guard) and Hudson Deese (right tackle) return with the addition of junior Iverson Ware (center) into the fold gives Marshall County a seasoned, strong offensive line as three of the five linemen can squat 500 pounds.
“They’re all really strong,” said Barnard, who enters his fourth season with an overall 15-18 record. “They’ve all really worked hard in the weight room to prepare for this season.”
Junior signal caller Cole Barnard, who is Ron Barnard’s son, will orchestrate the offense after starting the final two games of the season last year. Cole Barnard, who is also a two-year starter at safety, passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
“We feel like Cole can call the plays on the field,” Ron Barnard said. “He’s very intelligent and he does a pretty good job of reading the defenses.”
Marshall County’s hybrid offense, which the coaching staff came up with during the middle of the season last year, uses a two running back, three wide receiver set for diversity. While the offense may give Barnard options, make no mistake about it, the Marshals want to establish and run the football.
“Our offense is designed to make the defense to commit to what they want to stop,” Ron Barnard said. “They are either going to commit to stopping the run or the pass. We are going to take whatever the defense gives us.”
Senior Nolan Nichols, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season, returns as the primary ball carrier for the Marshals after rushing for 681 yards last year. Seniors Austin Spicer, Cody Gregory and Clay Allen, who started at quarterback for most of the season last year, will man the wide receiver positions.
Nichols, who led Marshall County in tackles last season with 69 stops, will spearhead the 3-3-5 defense at linebacker. Ware will move from the defensive line to linebacker. Sophomores Dalton Riley and Collin Gunn are expected to contribute in the secondary.
“With the 3-3-5 scheme, we can adjust to any offensive set,” Ron Barnard said. “Whether somebody is playing a two-tight wishbone or a spread offense, it is a pretty basic adjustment. We can also easily convert it to a 3-4 or 4-3.”
One of the smallest 6A football programs west of Louisville, Marshall County faces an uphill battle year in and year out in district play. And even though the First District landscape has changed with the addition of McCracken County into the fold, Barnard feels that traditional power Henderson County remains the front-runner in the district race.
“Henderson County has to be the district favorite until somebody knocks them off,” Barnard said.
McCracken County, under the direction of longtime western Kentucky journeyman coach Jack Haskins, could make some noise in the district with senior quarterback Cole Ousley and sophomore sensation Zyaire Hughes – who will get as many touches as possible on offense. Hughes replaced an injured Ousley at quarterback last season at Lone Oak and turned many heads while taking snaps under center.
Daviess County and Marshall County look to battle for third position in the district behind Henderson County and McCracken County.