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Blackcats develop team around senior leadership

FREDERICKTOWN – The 2017 Fredericktown football team posted just one victory under first-year head coach Chuck Ford.

Now in his second season at the helm of the Blackcats, Ford has a combination of experienced leaders and young, hungry players.

“I just think in a lot of places that you don’t notice, we’ve gotten a lot better,” Ford said. “And hopefully that transfers to the field. Freshmen (through) seniors, they care. We’ve seen the difference in practice. Our kids really bond with each other better than they ever have.”

The team has 46 players, a slight increase from the 42 that finished last fall. The roster includes 27 returning players, 14 of whom started at least some games last year.

Among the 46 current Blackcats, there are 14 seniors – compared to five last year – and just seven juniors, so the remaining 25 are ninth and 10th graders.

“We have a bigger senior class than we normally have, which is a good thing with this group,” Ford said. “They have really taken a leadership role and we’re really happy with them. That was one of our goals. We have got to teach kids to be leaders. We’ve got to do whatever we can to do that.”

Ford says the leadership shows in a lot of little things, like calling kids to make sure they’re going to be at practice.

“Like the other day, it was super hot, and we were doing our conditioning, and some of the seniors were trying to pump the younger kids up,” Ford said. “It’s little things, but they’re very noticeable in the grand scheme of things.”

Eleven of the seniors will be starting for the Cats this season, as fewer players will be playing both offense and defense in 2018.

“We came in with a platoon system,” Ford said. “And we were going to stay with it, because we knew we were going to be young. We’re bound and determined to go as far as we can with 11 separate kids.”

Ford was quick to add that they will all “filter in” on special teams and play some on the opposite side of the ball “as relief.” He noticed the platoon system has made practice go smoother, because the players are not as tired.

The exception to the system will be on the offensive and defensive lines. A shortage of linemen has caused the need for two to play on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Ford said sophomore “Evan (Burrows) is the quarterback, right now, and the backups are Noah Korokis and Ethan Flanagan, and we’re pretty happy with both of them.”

The Blackcats will operate from the “I” formation. Running backs in that set will be Tristan Casby and Malachi Kyle, in addition to defensive starters Logan Bowling and Braeden Stockmann. The fullback is C.J. Lord, who will also serve as a linebacker.

They will run behind a young offensive line with three sophomores, including center Mason Adams and tackles Brayden Lee and Seth McDowell. The guards are senior A.J. Orman and junior Trevon West.

Receivers will be Flanagan and Korokis along with Bret Chitwood and Alex Sikes.

Ford expresses a little more uncertainty on defense. Linebackers will be a combination of Bowling, Joseph Price and Peyton Francis with Jeffrey Couch and Malachi Kyle patrolling the outside. Corners are Stockmann and Cade Ethington, and the two safeties are Hunter Hennen and Reece Francis.

Ford said, right now, the two defensive ends are Holden Sikes and Brett Seper. Orman and McDowell will also be used there. Brycen Buchanan, Lee and West man the interior spots.

Colten Jordan, who drilled a school record 47-yard field goal at Central, will handle all kicking and punting duties. Leading kick return candidates are Korokis, Flanagan and Kyle.

Ford said last year, the team worked a lot on the passing game, but “this year, our big push has been the run game and play action pass off it.”

The coach said the team showed some ability to run the football effectively during the offseason.

“And last year’s linemen have grown up a little bit,” Ford said. “They’re so much more aggressive right now. I think Coach (Brenden) Jones and Coach (Gavin) Krueger have done a heck of a job with them, and they’ve really responded. They’re short on numbers, but they work hard. They do what lineman always do. They’re not in the limelight, but they work hard.”

The Blackcats have some continuity among the coaching staff. The only change is the addition of Jones, who joins Krueger in guiding the offensive and defensive lines.

Ford will handle the defensive coordinator duties. Jason Mills returns as the offensive coordinator and associate head coach. Jon Clauser coaches special teams, and Riley Bumgardaner in in charge of wide receivers and defensive backs.

Fredericktown begins the season at Kennett, and draws Herculaneum for their home opener in week 2. The next five opponents — Central, Perryville, Potosi, De Soto, and Ste. Genevieve — are familiar.

Changes start in week 8 with North County and St. Mary’s gone from the schedule. In their places, the Blackcats host first-year varsity program Doniphan before traveling to East Prairie.

Head Coach – Chuck Ford (2nd year)

2017 Record – 1-9 (0-4)

Key Returning Players:

Noah Korokis, sr., WR/S; Ethan Flanagan, jr., WR/CB; Colten Jordan, sr., K/P; Cade Ethiington, sr., WR/CB; Holden Sikes, sr., DE; Malachi Kyle, jr., RB/OLB

2018 Schedule:

Aug. 24 – at Kennett

Aug. 31 – Herculaneum

Sept. 7 – Central

Sept. 14 – Perryville

Sept. 21 – at Potosi

Sept. 28 – De Soto

Oct. 5 – at Ste. Genevieve

Oct. 12 – Doniphan

Oct. 19 – at East Prairie

Noah Korokis

Noah Korokis

Colten Jordan

Colten Jordan

Logan Bowling

Logan Bowling

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