KENNEDALE — New turf was installed at Wildcat Stadium, in addition to new surfaces at Kennedale’s baseball and softball parks, in July and the whole team was loving it during Wednesday’s practice.
“The kids like it, the coaching staff like it. It’s a lot easier on your knees and your feet,” head coach Richard Barrett. “It’s a good day to be a Wildcat.”
Indeed it is. Kennedale is coming off it’s 12th consecutive playoff trip and is loaded again with tons of speed, which was on full display Wednesday during team drills on their shiny new field. That speed was also on display last spring at the UIL state meet in Austin, when the Wildcats won gold in a pair of relay events.
Two of the guys from the relay teams return to the backfield.
Running back Juwan Washington burst onto the scene in 2012 by rushing for 1,640 yards and 19 scores with an average of 8.72 yards per carry as a sophomore.
“We’re certainly proud to have Juwan on our team and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone,” Barrett said. “But someone back there who helps Juwan do what he does is Donnie Darville, our fullback. He’s got great speed as well, great quickness and a great understanding of what we do.”
Darville rushed for 852 yards, 19 touchdowns and 7.75 yards per tote last season. Wingback Ronald Hayes, who rushed for 319 yards and five scores in 2012, will get his share of carries this year as well.
“I love running the ball for Kennedale. I like the Wing-T offense, it’s a very good running offense,” Darville said. “There’s so much misdirection and the defense has no clue what you’re doing most of the time. And my line takes care of me, they’re good.”
Starts up front
The Wildcats return a veteran group of offensive linemen, most of whom will be starting for a third season, to pave the way for their speedy backfield. The offensive line is important to every team but the experience this group returns to Kennedale’s Wing-T offense, which relies on angles and precise timing, can’t be overstated.
“God has worked miracles here, He really has,” senior center Nathan Ward said. “We’ve got four good returning linemen, our backfield is just ridiculous - it’s going to be a good year. We’ve grown as a team, we have more growing to do, but I expect great things from us.”
Tackles Marshall Moody (5-11, 285) and Brent Reed (6-0, 260) along with guard Victor Vilchez (6-1, 230) and Ward (6-1, 244) return for a team which rushed for 4,864 yards at a clip of 405 yards per contest a season ago.
“The core of those guys have been there and done that,” Barrett said. “They’ve heard the same plays, called the same way since seventh grade and played the same position since seventh grade. We have consistency and names we know we can rely on in crunch time.”
Time to step up
Kennedale sent six players from the 2012 defense on to the next level, including linebackers Brett Wade (Texas A&M) and Fred Scott (UNT). Despite losing all the talent, the Wildcats still return standouts at every level of the defense and will be very fast again.
Defensive end Hunter McGahan (6-2, 214), outside linebacker Patrick Lovings (6-1, 190), another member of the state champion relay teams, along with defensive backs Ronald Brooks (5-9, 155) and Jake Michener (6-1, 170) will all be counted on to raise their level of play this season.
“There are several people I think we can look to and kind of rally around when the chips are down,” Barrett said.
One of the few new faces on offense will be under center this fall as Bradon Hull takes over for Zac Michener. Coach Barrett gushed about his new signal caller’s work ethic, saying Hull packed 10-15 pounds of muscle on his frame in the offseason, and is a natural leader.
Hull said after practice Wednesday he’s ready for the challenge, “The past quarterbacks here-Steven Rivera and Zac Michener-are tough shoes to fill, but we’ve all worked very hard this offseason and my expectations are to do the same as last season except go further in the playoffs and see how far we can make it.”
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760
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