ELNORA — The North Daviess Cougar football team looks to begin its second season under coach Trent Fine. Fine took over for Scott Helms before last season and the Cougars went 2-8, after a pair of 1-9 seasons under Helms the two previous seasons.
The Fine Era begin last year with a win over Tecumseh and added a win over West Vigo. They also came very close to beating Washington, but fell 24-28 in a game that lasted into the early hours of the morning after multiple weather delays. Unfortunately, the Cougar season ended with a loss to Tecumseh in the opening round of sectional.
The Cougars take the field with 46 players and feature several names that may be more closely associated with ND basketball. Kirk Wagler, Jack Townsend, Jalen Knepp and Daryn Lengacher have all joined the football team and provide additional athleticism to their skill spots.
“We have really high expectations. We have about eight kids back on each side of the ball and we have had a year to said understanding what I am trying to put in,” said Fine.
Fine said that they will continue to use the Spread Offense and will generally feature just one back. Fine will be returning D.J. Owens at tailback. Owens (5’9, 170 lbs.) returns over 700 yards from last season. In the slot will be Ted Lamson and Josh Krusenklaus, in in the sets that feature an H-back, Jacob Milley and Matt Keith should see the field in that package.
Quarterback is still a spot that is still up in the air, but junior Tanner Reed, senior Townsend and freshman Austin Webster have all been taking snaps.
“We are going to go forward until we find the right guy,” said Fine.
The offensive line returns four starters, including 6-4, 275 lb. Alex Steffey at right tackle. Brandon Clark (5’9, 245 lbs.) started seven games at center last season, while Keyshaun Alchesay (6-1, 210 lbs.) will play left guard and Chase Webster (5-10, 195) will play on the right side. In the mix for the other tackle will be Matt Keith and Hunter Goodpaster.
The offense does not feature tight ends, but will have plenty of options and length at wide receiver. Kirk Wagler (6-3), Jalen Knepp (6-4) , Hunter Fine (5-11), Daryn Lengacher (6-2) and Justin Fox (6-1).
“Fox is a high jumper and he can really go up and get the ball,” said Fine. “What has been really exciting about the new (basketball) players is that they have really come in and accepted their roles. They know they have a lot to learn about football, but they are very coachable and very receptive to learning.”
The kicking game is expected to be handled by Owens as the punter, and Lamson doing most of the kicking.
The defense is expected to be a multi-front defense. Steffey will return as a nose guard or a strong tackle, according to which front is used. Spencer Strong (5-8, 160), who started as a freshman will also be on the interior, with Jake Milley (5-11, 215) and Matt Keith (6-1, 235) as defensive end.
Junior Dante Hopkins will be at one the linebacker spots, with Krusinklus at strong safety and Kobe Owens (6-1,130) at free safety, while Lamson and DJ Owens will handle the corners.
This season again opens with Tecumseh and North Central on the road, before hosting Eastern (Greene) and Washington. The Cougars then go on the road for West Vigo and Linton-Stockton, but finish the year with three straight home games. Last season, with the loss of Wood Memorial from the schedule, ND picked up a game with Brandywine, Michigan to fill the gap, however this year the additional game will be with Rock Creek Academy.
They will also have a new addition in the sectional, as Perry Central now joins the fray. North Daviess home games will begin at 7 p.m., except the Washington game, which will start at 8 p.m.
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