By RYAN HINES
After winning back-to-back Division IV state titles in dominating
fashion, the Kenton Wildcats appear to have fallen back to the
rest of the pack this season.
stumbles into week four of the season at 1-2 overall and 1-1
in the Western Buckeye League. This week, the Wildcats make
the trip to Celina to face a Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1 WBL) team that’s
coming off their first loss of the season.
Don’t put a lot of stock into Kenton’s record, since
last year the Wildcats entered week four of the regular season
at 1-2 and went on to win the next 12 games along with a second
straight state title.
The difference this year is that Kenton doesn’t have 2002s
Mr. Football at quarterback in its spread offense.
Ben Mauk, who’s now a freshman at Wake Forest, threw for
a national record 17,523 yards in his high school career, including
454 passing yards with six touchdowns and 139 rushing yards
against Celina last season.
The new quarterback for Kenton this season is the converted
Billy Cozad who was a sensational receiver for the Wildcats
last year. Cozad (5-11, 175, senior) has been inconsistent in
the pass-happy Kenton offense thus far this year completing
just 23-43 passes for 502 yards and just six touchdowns to go
along with three interceptions. He also has 147 rushing yards
on 37 attempts.
“When you lose an exceptional player like Mauk was, you’ve
got to realize that he’s a once in a lifetime player,”
said Fell. “The Cozad kid is a good athlete that runs
well and has a strong arm. He’ll run a lot of option at
Cozad struggled in week one against a good Coldwater team going
just 8-for-21 passing for 122 yards, one touchdown and three
interceptions. Things looked much better for Cozad in week two
against Elida as the signal caller was 10-for-10 passing for
244 yards and four touchdowns. Then, in week three the numbers
fell again as Cozad was just 4-for-9 with 79 yards and one score.
Inexperience must be the reason for the slow start for Cozad,
because it can’t be that Kenton doesn’t have enough
weapons around him at wide receiver.
Tommy Petitt, D.J. Underwood, Braden Spivey and Nick Auger give
the Wildcats one of the most talented wide receiving corps in
the entire state.
Petitt (5-11, 205, junior) is the go-to receiver after 100 catches,
1,899 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. Underwood (6-1, 175,
senior), Spivey (5-10, 170, junior) and Auger (5-5, 145, senior)
combined for 158 catches, 2,575 yards and 22 touchdowns.
“There is a lot experience from their receivers,”
said Fell. “They’ve been there a few years now and
it will be a tough challenge on the defensive backs. Spivey
and Petitt are the two you have to focus on.”
At times, the Kenton offense has gotten conservative for their
normal style by just sending out three or four receivers and
actually having a running back in the backfield. Zach Jackson
(5-10, 235, sophomore) just gives the Wildcats one more option
The talk before the season was about the defense for Kenton
as the Wildcats returned eight starters from a team that allowed
just 19.1 points per game last year. The defense has been average
allowing 16.3 ppg. on the season.
Linebacker Chase Hommel (5-11, 210, junior) and defensive end
Nick Parr (6-1, 235, junior) are the leaders of the defense.
“Kenton has the best defense that we’ll face this
season,” lauded Fell. “They’re an aggressive
defensive team that likes to hit hard and let you know they
can hit hard. They got a lot of their defense back from a year
ago and they are bigger and stronger.”
The potentially potent offense that Celina unveiled in week
one, has slowed up considerably with scoring just 13 points
the past two weeks, including a shutout against Shawnee last
If the Celina offense is going to get back on track, it’ll
take a better effort from the Bulldogs offensive line. After
opening huge holes in the running game in week one, the holes
just aren’t there for Celina anymore and Joe Kanney has
little time at quarterback to find an open receiver.
Having already suffered one loss in league play, Celina’s
offense must execute better if the Bulldogs hope to stay afloat
in the WBL title race and Fell knows it.
“Last week was a tough loss but we’ve got better
in practice this week,” stated Fell. “We got humbled
The Bulldogs were hit hard by injury from last Friday as starting
running back and leading rusher Kyle Schott is out of the year
with a broken right ankle.
“When something like this happens to a kid like Kyle,
it’s tough to deal with because you know all of the hardwork
that he put in to get ready for this year,” explained
Fell. “He’s an excellent young man and it’s
a big hit to the team.”
Kelly Mallory will likely lineup next to Brady Bonifas in the
Celina backfield now with Brian Gagle also seeing some time
as well. When Gagle is in the backfield, Ryan Byers will occupy
the third receiver spot in the offense.