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Preseason Football Preview: Strong Line Play Powers Karns City

High school football preview: Karns City Gremlins

Wide Receiver Kaden Scherer (Photo courtesy of Jared Bakaysa)

Karns City Gremlins

Head Coach: Joe Sherwin (3rd Season)

Last Season: 8-4, Fourth in D9 Large School Division

Key Returners: Kaden Scherer (495 receiving yards, 6 TDs), Austin Brown (2 sacks, 16 tackles for a loss), and Colton Craig (5 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss)

Quick Hit

Karns City is coming off an 8-4 season that was dominated by their solid running game and top-level defense. Despite graduating their two biggest running threats, Karns City possesses tremendous experience on their offensive line, which should keep the freight train moving. Defensively, Karns City returns almost all of their top producers in sacks and tackles, making the Gremlins’ defense a serious threat for even the most veteran opponents. While Karns City came up just short of a D9 title last season, playmakers like wide receiver Kaden Scherer should provide the Gremlins with the finesse needed to complement their power up front, putting Karns City firmly in contention for the D9 crown.

What to Watch For

Coach Joe Sherwin is entering his third season in charge of the Karns City Gremlins, and it’s safe to say that this pandemic-affected season presents a unique challenge to head coaches everywhere. However, Sherwin hasn’t let COVID stop his team from getting better, and in fact, Sherwin believes that the pandemic practice rules have allowed him to focus more on specific areas of player development: “We divide the players up into smaller groups, so it’s really allowed us to focus more on certain groups of kids and really getting them to learn our system. At the same time, smaller groups of kids are [also] working in the weight room, so we get to focus on those kids a lot more. We’re doing our conditioning work as well too, [and] we get to focus on those kids a lot more. [The pandemic practices] allowed us to get a little bit more specialized in some of the things that we do throughout our program.” To be successful, every football team needs physical strength coupled with mental discipline, and the Gremlins are focused on training their players in both areas in this turbulent preseason.

Karns City’s biggest strength this season is their strength and power up front. Sherwin is particularly excited about the Gremlins’ fusion of durable veterans and fresh underclassmen depth: “We got a lot of experienced guys coming back this year on both the offensive and defensive lines, and I like the depth that we have there.”  Sherwin explains/continues, “I think we can go possibly eight [or] nine guys deep on the offensive and defensive lines, so that if guys get a little tired, we can get somebody else in there and they can do just as good of a job.” Strong depth on the line is a boon for any team, as it can help them mitigate the fatigue that sets in when many players play on both offense and defense. Being able to plug in backup linemen at any time should allow some of Karns City’s most impactful players to take some plays off, leaving them fresh for a strong fourth quarter push.

The quarterback position is a big question mark for Karns City this season, as they will look to fill the void left by Anthony Kamenski, who threw for 739 yards and rushed for a team-high 1301 yards. Brayden Christie and Eric Booher are set to compete for the starting role, which Sherwin highlights as up-for-grabs during the early portion of the season. “They’re both sharing the reps as quarterback right now, and we’ll see how it goes throughout the scrimmage and first game,” said Sherwin, who wants to see his quarterbacks perform in the heat of battle before coming to a decision on a starter. Either way, Kaden Scherer should provide solid production from the receiver position, as he hopes to surpass last season’s total of 495 receiving yards.

No matter which quarterback asserts himself as the starter, Sherwin wants to make sure that his offense is more balanced than it was last season: “I think we need to do a better job of mixing in the pass than we did last year. We were a were good running team, but I think we need to be a little bit more balanced to be able to mix in the pass this year. Both of our quarterbacks are doing well, and I think we have some talented receivers we want to try to get the ball to as well.” Sherwin also expects to call less quarterback runs this season. Having a balanced offense helps keep opposing defenses on their toes and further establishing a passing game should help the Gremlins in games where they fall behind and need to save time as they mount a comeback.

Last season, Karns City dealt with a ton of injuries on the defensive side of the football and was forced to give young players playing time to replace injured starters. This year, Sherwin believes that his now veteran players will reap the benefits of the added experience: “You hate to have injuries, but at the same time it gives kids opportunities and chances to gain some experience through those injuries. One benefit from last year was getting those kids a lot of playing time, so they’re more comfortable with our system. The more comfortable you are with the system, the less thinking you have to do, and you can just react and play football.” Triumphing over last year’s rash of injuries should improve Sherwin’s squad in the long-term, and they will also be prepared if injuries strike again this season.

Sherwin has glowing praise for inside linebacker Nathan Waltman, characterizing him as a “coach on the field.” “He gets us into our sets up front and our coverages, and he’s just been a great leader for us throughout this whole offseason. He’s the guy who we look toward on defense.” Strong leaders like Waltman should allow the Gremlins to be well organized, reducing mistakes and increasing their defensive turnover potential.

The Gremlins possess tremendous power, returning most of their offensive and defensive linemen, as well as their heavy hitters on defense. While they have some key offensive vacancies, including at quarterback, Karns City’s strong depth should keep them rolling. The Gremlins’ defense is as strong as ever, and I expect them to boost Karns City’s chance to win the district title. Good luck to Karns City this season!