INDEPENDENCE – The 2013 season was definitely one of highlights and landmarks for the Simon Kenton High School football team.
The Pioneers had their best regular-season ever, going a perfect 10-0 before eventually falling in the third round of the playoffs to Louisville Butler, finishing 12-1 overall. The Pioneers have a veteran team returning as they look to match or come close to their regular-season success and advance even further down the playoff road.
“I feel like we’ve had a really productive summer on both sides of the ball,” said head coach Jeff Marksberry. “Offensively, we’re a little bit ahead of ourselves because we have three to four returning starters on defense versus seven on offense They’ve worked very hard. We’re a very talented football team. We have really good depth in key areas.”
Two of those key areas are both lines, a key foundation for any football team. The offensive front is anchored by three-year starter Christian Olmstead, an imposing presence at 6-foot-4, 305 pounds. Junior Dave Sandlin had a tremendous sophomore season, and Grant Vercheak returns at 6-5, 260.
Leading the defensive front is three-year starter Quinton Marksberry, who has great size and athleticism. Junior Blake Powell runs well at 240 pounds. Tucker Mueller, at 260 pounds, was the regional runner-up in wrestling last season at the heavyweight class, where he lost to eventual state champ Branden Johnson from Dixie Heights, who plays offensive line for the rival Colonels.
A spotlight this season will be on sophomore quarterback Cameron Racke, who takes the job of highly accomplished graduate Brenan Kuntz. Racke was the main junior varsity QB last year as a freshman and got some varsity throws in at the end of blowouts.
“He’s got some people surrounding him who will make his job easier,” Marksberry said. “He’s a great athlete. He makes really good decisions as to when to throw it and when to run it. We do a lot of ‘read’ game in our offense, and he’s starting to understand. He has a great football IQ. There will still be a learning curve for him, and we understand that.”
Racke will have veteran targets around him, led by explosive running back Dillon Powell and speedy wide receiver Logan Winkler. Powell rushed for 738 yards and nine touchdowns in just eight games, averaging nearly seven yards per carry. Powell also had 13 grabs from the backfield with two TDs. Winkler caught 51 passes for 719 yards (14 yards per catch) with a team-high 11 touchdowns.
“We want the ball in their hands,” Marksberry said. “Those guys are veterans and proven players.”
The Pioneers have enough depth on offense that a couple of players who were receivers last year have been moved to the secondary, which took graduation hits from last season. They are also very deep and talented at linebacker.
Simon Kenton will try to repeat its 10-0 experience with the identical opponents as last year, starting with a home game against Collins Aug. 22. SK will play Conner during the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown Sept. 5 at the University of Cincinnati. SK starts play in the always balanced Class 6A local district Sept. 26 against Ryle.
“We’ve got high goals,” Marksberry said. “We are defending district champions and we would like to defend that title. Of course, everybody else wants it as well. Our district is always tough, but I feel like we have enough solid football players to contend again. We look forward to the challenges of the season.”
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Aug. 22: Vs. Collins, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 29: At Holy Cross
Sept. 5: Vs. Conner (Skyline Crosstown Showdown)
Sept. 12: At NewCath
Sept. 19: At Cooper, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26: At Ryle
Oct. 3: Vs. Campbell County
Oct. 10: Vs. Boone County
Oct. 17: At Dixie Heights
Oct. 24: Vs. Bullitt Central, 7:30 p.m.
Games 7 p.m. unless noted