Hoxie, Kennedy consistent on offense with new personnel

Hoxie QB Jared Kennedy runs with Osborne's Darrien Holloway in pursuit. (by Everett Royer)
By: Conor Nicholl for Kpreps.com
Sep 11, 2018

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HOXIE – Osborne coach Brandon Wise’s game plan was to force Hoxie to beat the Bulldogs with the passing game. Senior quarterback Jared Kennedy had played in 21 career contests and served as the starting quarterback for last year’s Division I state championship team.

Entering this year, Kennedy had 1,279 career passing yards with a 19/17 TD/INT ratio. In Week 1, he threw for 112 yards in a win versus Tribune-Greeley County, his third-highest total.

“We loaded up the box there,” Wise said. “Kind of went to a non-traditional defense. Really wanted to take that run away or at least limit them to three, four yards instead of six or seven like they are accustomed to getting.”

Osborne opened the second half with its second straight touchdown and closed to within eight points. Then, Hoxie quickly faced a 3rd-and-7 from its own 34-yard line.

Kennedy made a great 10-yard throw to junior Ben Aumiller for the first down. The following play, he hit Aumiller, closely guarded, on a perfectly placed deep pass for a 36-yard touchdown.

Aumiller finished with three catches for 66 yards, his first career receptions.

“I just remember looking short and looking deep, and he is open, and I threw it, and he caught it,” Kennedy said.

After the play, Hoxie led 34-20 and went to capture a 52-20 home victory Friday in a marquee matchup of top-five eight-man schools. Hoxie, No. 1 in Eight-Man, Division I, moved to 2-0. Osborne, second-ranked in Division II, dropped to 1-1.

“That was really a morale boost for us,” senior Colton Heskett said. “That was a great pass, that was right in the ‘ol bread basket, and Ben made a great catch on one of them. It’s really good to see that we have a pass game this year, and that we are really coming around with that. It’s good to have that in our arsenal.”

In a program known for defense, Kennedy is among multiple players – especially on offense - who have stepped up after Hoxie graduated running back Latham Schwarz, the classification offensive player of the year, all-state lineman/fullback Chris Cox and standout end Luke Schippers.

“We didn’t want to be hesitant on we won state championship last year, we just didn’t want to quit at that,” Kennedy said. “We wanted to get another one, and everyone has really stepped up.”

Schwarz had an eight-man best 1,718 rushing yards with 35 scores, and tied for the team lead with 12 catches. Hoxie had to replace 81 percent of its rushing yards and 80 percent of its receptions. It’s rare for an offense to graduate a prolific running back and then start strong offensively the following year.

According to MaxPreps rushing lists, 11 eight-man teams had a senior last fall rush for at least 1,100 yards. In the first two weeks of last season, six of those 11 started 2-0 and were a combined 15-7 with 43.1 points per game.

Pending the outcome of Hartford/Southern Coffey County, Hoxie, Northern Valley and Bennington were the only teams to start 2-0 after they graduated the standout back. Those teams have combined for 32.9 points a contest and are currently 11-10.

Hoxie has 96 points in two games, third-best among those teams through two 2018 games. Hoxie had 100 points in the first two contests last year, both shutout wins.

Before this fall, the last time Osborne permitted more than 52 points in a game was the 2015 season finale loss to Hanover.

Through the first two games of ‘17, Hoxie, against a softer schedule than this year, averaged 7.3 yards per play. This season, Hoxie is at 7.3 yards per play again.

“They gave us a little bit of a different look than what they showed last week on defense,” Hoxie coach Lance Baar said. “That caught us off guard and had to make a little bit of adjustments there, but we kind of did it on the run, and our guys picked it up and did a really good job.”

Thus far, the Indians have had big performances from Kennedy, Aumiller, junior running backs Wylie Weems and Dylan Weimer and senior lineman Sam Bretz.

Weems delivered 19 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown in the opener. He had 29 carries for 159 yards and three scores Friday, all career bests. Before this year, Weems had one 100-yard performance. Bretz delivered another big game, most notably for a huge sack in the fourth quarter.

Similar to former South Carolina great Jadeveon Clowney’s famous viral hit against Michigan, Bretz exploded off the line, and immediately hit Osborne quarterback Steele Wolters. Bretz knocked the ball loose, and Hoxie recovered. Bretz added a tackle for loss in the first half, too.

“It’s really good,” Baar said. “We knew Sam was going to be there. He’s been our next man up the last couple of years and he’s been begging to get onto that field, and he is going to bring it, he is going to be our energy guy all year, I think.

“Ben Aumiller is stepping in there, and he is doing a good job, and Wylie played some big games for us last year especially on defense, and now he is running the ball,” he added.

Senior Taye Washington (6-foot-5, 335 pounds) made several key plays again after four tackles for loss in Week 1.

“He’s really improved,” Heskett said. “He has really got some speed under him this year, and he has gotten faster.”

Washington ran to the sideline for several plays and had a critical stop on 4th-and-2 on the first play of the second quarter at the Osborne 28-yard line. Hoxie converted the turnover on downs into a score.

“It’s good to see,” Baar said. “Last week, we had some energy issues, and we weren’t coming out of our stances, and we were flat, and tonight, to see that, these guys were up for a game, and they just need to play like that consistently no matter who we are playing.”

Senior Jarrod Dible shifted to end, and Heskett returned after he missed the opener with an ankle injury.

Dible collected two catches, recovered a fumble, had a sack and a quarterback hurry. They helped hold Osborne quarterback Darnell Holloway to just 27 rushing yards and 114 passing after he tallied 450 total yards in the opener. Holloway missed part of the third quarter and all of the fourth because of a team violation.

Heskett sprung a 33-yard run late in the third quarter when he delivered a big block on the left side. In the fourth quarter, he had a 36-yard scoop-and-score off a fumble for his second career touchdown.

“It’s like one of the best parts of the game in my opinion,” Heskett said. “I don’t get the ball very much, so it’s pretty good when I do.”

Junior Dylan Weimer entered this season with just 34 career rushing yards and had mainly been on special teams. He had no carries in Week 1, though had 12 carries for 77 yards Friday. Baar labeled Weimer “probably the biggest surprise” with “huge” improvements in strength and speed. Weimer is now winning a lot of the sprints at practice.

“He is another guy that’s going to give it his all all the time,” Baar said.

Kennedy had eight carries for 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including an excellent ball fake on a 62-yard score in the first half. In the season opener, he had 13 carries for 129 yards and four scores.

Last year, he recorded 45 carries for 110 yards and five rushing TDs.

“Run the ball hard,” Kennedy said. “I have not had to run the ball much the past few years, so really try to run hard is the man thing, taking care of the ball mainly.”

Kennedy finished 6 of 8 passing for 100 yards and two scores, with the game-turning play coming in the third quarter.

“If we had the guys, the athletes to run a straight spread, and just throw the ball around, he could definitely do it,” Baar said of Kennedy. “He has a precision arm and good decision maker, so he played really well for us tonight.

“Absolutely, I think going from his junior to his senior year was big just because he now has that confidence to just step up and be that guy,” Baar added. “Last year as a junior and even the year before that as a sophomore, I don’t think he felt ‘This is my team.’ Now, this is his team. I think he can really feel like that and take ownership of it.”

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