By Ryan Hines
The 47-point thrashing at the hands of Shawnee last week was difficult for any Celina football fan to take as the Bulldogs were dominated on both sides of the ball in the shutout loss.
It's not going to get much easier this week as Celina travels to Kenton on Friday to face the aerial arsenal of the Wildcats in Western Buckeye League play.
Kenton won't be as talented overall as Shawnee was a week ago, but the Wildcats' passing offense has been rolling up big scores this season ever since the week-one loss to Coldwater.
Kenton got beat by Coldwater 28-7 in the opening week of the season, but the Wildcats have rallied for three straight wins that have come by a combined score of 107-16 over teams like Elida (47-6), Bath (30-7) Ottawa-Glandorf (30-3).
Controversy followed Kenton quarterback Dailyn Campbell leading up to the start of this season but his play on the field has helped drown out the naysayers. There were four members of the Wildcats' football team involved with placing a fake deer on a Hardin County road, which resulted in a car accident. Campbell and defensive back Jesse Howard were cleared to play this season and the duo will have to serve 60 days in juvenile detention after the football season. Two other Kenton players, wide receiver Corey Manns and defensive lineman Taylor Rogers, still face charges from the incident and their trials aren't set to begin until at least October.
Campbell, who started the season with a horrible 13-of-33 performance for just 200 yards and five interceptions, has rolled in his last three games as the Wildcats' signal caller. Campbell is 76-of-158 this season for 1,252 yards and 10 passing touchdowns while also adding four rushing scores.
"He can throw the ball 60 yards going backwards and he has great escapability as a quarterback. Campbell grades out at an A+ for his escapability. Kenton always seems to have that quarterback with a rifle arm that can also run," pointed out Celina head coach Jerry Harris. "I compare Campbell's abilities to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. Kenton has developed a Troy Smith for the last 10 years. They wear people down because they have to rush the passer every down and then the opponent gets tired."
Campbell has a strong stable of receivers to choose from when dropping back as Dustin Clapsaddle, Billy Price, Brad Shuster and Billy Campbell have all been big-play threats.
"They have had more dangerous receivers in the past than now, but they still have enough. Everybody that goes out for a pass can be dangerous," said Harris. "We can't key on anyone because we're not at the point yet where we can specialize and matchup with them. Ability to run is their strength at the receiver positions.
"We've had great difficulty stopping teams from passing on us. We haven't defended the pass or rushed the passer at the level that's necessary to be successful," added Harris. "You just have to out-guess them and mix up what you are doing on defense. Try to confuse them and hope you're right. Last thing is hope the kid (Campbell) has a bad night."
While offense seems to never be a problem for Kenton, the Celina offense has struggled right out of the gate and has continued through week four, with the exception of a big game against an overmatched Van Wert squad in week three.
A lack of size and strength up front has limited the Celina offense according to Harris.
"We just aren't big enough or strong enough up front. We haven't been able to control the line of scrimmage up front and protect our quarterback and open holes for the running backs," pointed out Harris. "Our goal is to protect the quarterback because he's been taking a beating and we need to work hard to protect him. We have to have him there the rest of the year. We keep moving people in and out on offensive line trying to find the best combination. Every day is a new shot for kids to play on the O-line."
Celina quarterback Derek Gagle left the Shawnee game midway through the fourth quarter after being driven into the ground on a sack and walking gingerly off the field. Gagle had 10 stitches in his chin from the hit but didn't miss any practice and should be ready to go against Kenton.
Gagle and the rest of the Bulldogs will be facing a strong defense against Kenton.
"With the type of offensive numbers that they put up year-in and year-out, the defense for Kenton kind of gets overlooked a lot of times," pointed out Harris. "They like to stunt a lot, have two or three kids doing a lot of stunts. They make it fun for the kids and they do it well. Kenton has outstanding strength and they use it in a lot of ways on defense."