The Highlanders are back on track.
Coach Brian Glesing and his Floyd Central football team — which suffered through a 2-8 campaign two years ago — got back in the right direction at 8-3 last season, losing only to Class 4-A champion Columbus East, Kentucky 6-A runner-up Male and Whiteland in the sectional.
To continue their upswing, the Highlanders must replace a huge 28-player senior class. It could be a slow-starting group, but Glesing believes he has some young players who will help right away.
“I think we’re in great shape,” he said, “but we’re going to he young. Our young guys have to develop. We have a lot of inexperience on the O-line and D-line. We just have a lot of inexperience out there.”
The offensive line is an integral part of the run-first Floyd Central offense.
“We’re a running football team, so we have to dominate the line of scrimmage,” Glesing said.
Although they have some holes to fill on both lines, the Highlanders return key players in the offensive backfield, starting with running back Gaige Klingsmith, who ran for 1,589 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. The 5-foot-10, 163-pound Klingsmith is one of the fastest runners in Southern Indiana; he was a state qualifier in the 100-meter dash.
“I definitely want to better myself from last year — TDs, rushing yards and less fumbles,” he said.
Actually, he fumbled just once, but he can’t forget it. It came against archrival Jeffersonville, when he rushed for 197 yards in the rain as Floyd Central rolled 28-14.
“It just fell right out of my hands,” he said. “Nobody hit me. I’ll try not to let that happen again.”
Joining Klingsmith in the backfield is senior quarterback Colton Kimm, who threw for 1,414 yards last season.
“Colton’s not going to have huge numbers in our offense,” Glesing said. “We just don’t throw the ball a lot. He’s a great leader on the field. He understands the offense. He understands what we’re trying to do. We have a great play-action game. We don’t go four wide, five wide with pocket passing. That’s not what we do.”
When asked to throw, Kimm has capable targets led by Adam Wallace, the top returning receiver.
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“I definitely believe in our offensive line and our receivers,” Kimm said. “We’re very capable of throwing the ball. … But we’re a power-running football team. I’ll do my best and do what the coaches tell me to do.”
He will have a new target in senior tight end Kyle Beach, who is playing football for the first time since eighth grade. Kimm, his teammate on the Floyd Central baseball team, said he tried to talk Beach into playing football for years.
“He’s a big kid,” Kimm said of the 6-2 200-pounder. “He’s really athletic and he’s doing a great job. He’s learning on the fly and he’s a quick learner. … He’s going to be a big part of our offense.”
Beach, one of the baseball team’s top pitchers, is the likely starter at tight end.
Another big part of the football team is Garry Posey, who will run the ball and play linebacker.
“The younger kids are doing all right,” said Posey, a senior leader. “They’re coming along, staying in the film room and working hard. We’re really proud of those guys.”
Another reason the Highlanders could get off to a slow start is that, unlike most teams, they don’t practice in the summer. Glesing said he’s always believed in staying away from hitting during the hot weather.
“I’ve seen these team get burned out all the time,” he said. “I think we’re a better football team in the end because we don’t hit in the summer. I don’t believe in playing football in June and July.
“When we get into August and September, we’ll coach the heck out of them. These teams that do that (summer football) — I don’t understand it.”
Looking toward the sectional, Glesing said Whiteland is the favorite but called the four-team tournament wide-open.
The Highlanders again will open against Male, one of the favorites to win the Kentucky 6-A title.
“We open up with the No. 1 team in Kentucky,” Glesing said. “So that should be fun. It makes us a lot better, whether we win the game or lose the game. But anything can happen. We do have high expectations.”