Blue Demons know second step will be tougher than the first
KENNETT SQUARE >> Head coach Lance Frazier understands that it is going to take more than one season to prove that Kennett football is for real.
“Our numbers are up and the guys are excited,” Frazier said. “But we are just trying to keep everybody even and understand that while we had some positives in 2018, just remember that everybody wants to see us for Senior Night and Homecoming. They still think we’re the same old Kennett.
“We haven’t proved anything. This is the season we can take the first step.”
Through four games a year ago, the Blue Demons were 0-4 and didn’t look anything like an up-and-coming program. But then Kennett reeled off wins in four of the next five, increased its scoring average by 22 points per game, and wound up all alone in third place in the Ches-Mont American at 3-2.
“By game five, things just clicked,” said quarterback Sam Forte, now a junior.
“I think it kind of surprised us all, especially after starting 0-4,” added senior running back/linebacker Garrett Cox.
The Blue Demons finished 4-7 overall in Frazier’s first year at the helm, but the tremendous strides from August to November made it feel like so much more. And optimism is high heading into year two.
“We are a lot further than we were at this time last year,” said Forte, who is also a starting cornerback. “With our late success last season it’s kind of just pouring into this year. And we think we’re going to be a lot better.”
Playing quarterback for the first time, Forte connected on .634 percent of his passes for more than 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018.
“Sam is one of the most intelligent kids on the team,” Frazier said. “He is unshakable. He grew before our very eyes last season and he is grasping the position a bit better. Instead of being the athlete, he is really working on the quarterback piece right now.”
It helps to be able to hand it off to a workhorse like Cox, who rambled for nearly 800 yards and scored 11 TDs as a junior.
“He is football through and through,” Frazier said. “He is a downhill bruiser. He has a quiet but nasty demeanor about him. He plays defense the same way – you really can’t tell the difference.”
Four starters are also returning from the offensive line, including senior Jack Colamarino (5-10, 225). The receiving corps suffered some graduation losses and is a bit less certain, but wideouts Buzzy Hertz and Tommy Patrissi have been impressive in workouts.
“We have guys that will step up like Tommy Patrissi, Kalen Frazier and Buzzy Hertz,” Forte said. “I’m not worried about that at all. I think the offense will be better.”
Cox is the physical centerpiece of a defense that ranked second in the Ches-Mont, and senior Shawn Carroll is also a returning starter at linebacker. The defensive line is solid with ends Zach Good at one side and Vince Cresci at the other. Cresci is back after taking a year off from football and has turned some heads in workouts.
“The defenses we learned toward the end of last season we have them so now we are adding some new stuff,” Cox said. “Things have been much smoother and everybody is more confident than last year.”
Forte and the diminutive but feisty Richie Hughson return at the corners to lead the secondary. Hertz and Patrissi are the leading candidates at safety.
“Sam is one of the best cornerbacks in the area,” said Frazier, who played the position for four NFL franchises from 2004-06. “I love confident corners who aren’t afraid to come up into the face of receivers and enjoy tacking.”
The Blue Demons certainly moved up in the C-M American pecking order but dropped competitive contests to West Chester Rustin (28-70 and Unionville (10-7), who have dominated the division for a long time.
“Rustin and Unionville are the cream of the crop in our division,” Frazier said “We look inward a lot to see the things we can tweak to put us in contention with those guys.
“I thought our guys started to approach getting over the hump against Unionville. It’s a big mental hurdle. You hope they don’t take themselves out of the game prior to the game, and they showed up.”
THE MAN BEHIND KENNETT’S ‘D’
It’s almost impossible to talk to any defensive player on the Kennett roster without hearing the name of Scott Gee, who is the squad’s defensive coordinator.
“We have a great mind at defensive coordinator,” Frazier said. “We stay gap sound, gap-control, and we fly to the football. And our guys compete. That’s it.”
The Demons allowed just 14.8 points and just under 250 yards per game a year ago in the Ches-Mont with Gee calling the shots. That put Kennett into second place as a defense in the league, just behind Coatesville.
“Our defense has a lot of attitude. We take a lot of pride, and we have a really good coordinator in coach Gee knows what he is talking about,” Forte said.
“(Gee) is one of the best coordinators in the league,” Cox added. “He writes up a script every single game, we study it, and we know everything about the opponent. He just knows his stuff.”
COX POISED TO PUNISH WOULD-BE TACKLERS
At 5-foot-11, 210-pounds, Cox is probably a bit on the big side for a high school running back. But he is relentless with the football and a load to bring down.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to tackle him,” Forte said with a chuckle.
“I just like to punish people when I’m running, and by the fourth quarter they aren’t going to want to tackle me anymore,” Cox explained. “And on defense, I kind of play the same way.”
Cox is a three-year starter for the Demons and is poised to make the most of his final season.
“Garrett has a better understanding of the offense and he’s really taken control,” Frazier pointed out.
Kennett 2019 Schedule
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sam Forte >> Quarterback
An all-area lacrosse selection, Forte raised a bunch of eyebrows when he threw for 1,701 yards as a sophomore in his first-ever season as a quarterback.
Garrett Cox >> Linebacker
Kennett was the Ches-Mont’s number two defense in 2018 and inside linebacker Garrett Cox is the heart and soul of the unit.
By Neil Geoghegan; email@example.com