Spring football

Owensboro’s Kenyata Carbon picks off a pass from Frederick Douglass quarterback Samuel Cornett before running it back for a touchdown on the first play of the game during the semifinal round of the KHSAA Class 5-A playoffs on Dec. 11, 2020, at Rash Stadium.

Owensboro High School has always encouraged its athletes to play multiple sports.

“You can talk about wanting kids to play multiple sports, or you can be about it,” OHS football coach Jay Fallin said.

A lot of athletes who played football last year for OHS also played winter and spring sports. There are 20 athletes out for the OHS track and field team alone.

What that leaves the Red Devils with during spring football is a focus on younger players who might not get a lot of reps during the run of the high school regular season.

“We get them some instruction on fundamentals — catching the football, running routes, pursuit on defense, angles and tackling,” Fallin said. “We had seven practice sessions, which was a good chance for us to experiment from a scheme standpoint, and take a look at things we got from coaching clinics. Spring is a time that you don’t feel pressure to prepare for an opponent.”

The Red Devils had a superb season in 2020, going 12-1 and reaching the Class 5-A state championship game before losing to Bowling Green, 17-7.

A lot of the attention in this offseason was on quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and where he’d be committing to play college football. The rising senior did that via a commitment video dropped at the end of spring break in early April, picking Rutgers in New Jersey.

By contrast, a lot of the focus in the spring was on those who could be catching passes or running the football for the Red Devils when the season starts back in August.

“We have an idea about who can be where, but we’re limited with so many on spring sports in doing a lot of evaluations,” Fallin said. “Our focus is on getting everybody as many reps as possible. We try to coach and prepare everybody, and not focus on one or two key guys, because you just don’t know. I really believe in my heart that if we go into fall practice with 80 guys on the roster, we believe we will need all 80 guys before the season is over to be successful.”

Some of those players will be on special teams, some will be on the scout team, and OHS wants players up and down the roster to be the best they can at their jobs.

Paying attention to all players and giving encouragement are keys in keeping everybody on the team engaged.

OHS uses a lot of rotations in different spots. That gives starters rest and allows reserves to get reps in game situations.

“For critical moments late in the season, you want to develop continuity, but to build up to that point you want to be rotating,” Fallin said. “You may have to call somebody’s number in a state semifinal or regional final, and getting them reps in competitive moments through the season will get them ready.”

Ryland Chaney, who started every game at center in 2019 as a sophomore, got hurt against Muhlenberg County in the fourth game last season and was out for the rest of the season.

Zach Humphrey, a senior, and freshmen Jerrick Williams and Jak Lindsey had gotten work in practice at center, and that helped OHS get through the season. Chaney will be back for his senior season.

The only returning wide receiver, Kahlil Rogers, was with football for spring practice. Three of OHS’s top four receivers were seniors, along with its top running back.

OHS must also replace both inside linebackers.

There will be work to do in replacing those graduated players, Fallin said, but there is talent to work in those spots — and there are opportunities for some surprise standouts along the way.

For example, Nick Avery was going to be a wide receiver as a senior, and he ended up at inside linebacker.

“This time of year, I sort of have a vision for where people are going to play,” Fallin said. “But somebody is going to surprise us and play a lot better somewhere we might not have thought of.”

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