High School Football

Countdown to kickoff: Keller relying on stout defense, young core

The Keller High School football team enters the stadium before a district game against Northwest High School at Keller ISD Stadium. The Indians are returning six starters from last season’s 6-4 team.
The Keller High School football team enters the stadium before a district game against Northwest High School at Keller ISD Stadium. The Indians are returning six starters from last season’s 6-4 team. Special to the Star-Telegram

Keller

District 3-6A

Last season: 6-4 (3-4 District 5-6A)

Key players: DE Spencer Misko (6-5, 225), OL Alec Luikens (6-3, 270), LB Nick Roy (5-11, 195), WR Brady Marek (6-2, 185), WR Cam Jones (5-9, 165), RB Liam Ardigo (5-9, 190).

The big picture: Whether you call it rebuilding or retooling, that’s what Keller will be doing this year, following up on the program’s first winning season since 2009. The team graduated 48 seniors from last year’s squad — 12 of whom are playing college football this fall — and only three starters return on each side of the ball. Opposing offenses will have to game-plan around DE Spencer Misko. The Oklahoma State commit highlights a defense that will also be supported by returning all-district LB Nick Roy. Six players on the defensive side of the ball saw varsity minutes last season, so there is some experience coach Carl Stralow can work with. Offensively, the Indians might be a bit of mystery early on. With so much experience on last year’s offense, Keller moved at a lightning-fast pace. Whether they’ll keep that tempo remains to be seen, but Stralow hinted that junior RB Liam Ardigo, who is tasked with replacing workhorse and Texas State commit, Tyler Tutt, will, “go home tired on Friday nights.” Wide receiver, though, is a bright spot for the team with a pair of third-year varsity players in Brady Marek and Cam Jones. Newcomer Colton Nelson hopes to make his mark as a sophomore. Throwing to them will be QB Dillon Smith, who began last season as a backup before taking over the starting role following an injury to starter Caleb Griffin. Keller’s season will likely hinge on its ability to overcome inexperience and youth, but Stralow is excited about some of their young talent. “We’ll play some kids this fall who don’t have driver’s licenses,” Stralowsaid. Will Keller be able to turn it into wins in 2016? The season opens with a road trip to Abilene Cooper, which could be beneficial for the team’s return to Abilene in late October for its penultimate district game.

Quotable: “We’re going to be young and we’re going to need to grow up quick. Nondistrict is going to be about us growing up. We’ve got to improve each game in nondistrict in order to have a viable chance once we get to district play, but we’re excited about the kids we have. If we continue to progress and can stay healthy, I’m excited about our season.” — Coach Carl Stralow

“Everyone has been competing and the whole team is excited because there’s going to be so many new faces on the field next year. A lot of kids are just looking forward to finally getting their chance to get out there and play.” — QB Dillon Smith

Notable: Dillon Smith won’t be confused with the other Dillon Smith this season. Last year, Keller had two players with identical names. In fact, QB Dillon Smith and WR Dillon Smith (now graduated) teamed up for a school record 90-yard TD pass.

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