The game-week preparation for Defiance takes a sharp turn from week three to week four as the 0-3 Bulldogs follow a smash-mouth Lima Shawnee squad with the traditional aerial assault of the Kenton Wildcats, Friday’s Western Buckeye League foe at Fred J. Brown Stadium.
Defiance’s 7-0 loss to Shawnee showed the potential of a young Bulldog defense, one that allowed just one score on a short run set up by a pass interference call on fourth down that gave the Indians life.
The offense, which has scored 33 points in three games, found some sparks against the Indians with multiple drives into Shawnee territory before stalling and finishing points-less.
Both units will need to be up to the task against Kenton (2-1), which appears to have found a groove following a 51-28 win against Celina last week that saw QB Blaine Huston throw for 487 yards and seven TDs.
“There’s opportunities there (against Shawnee), we just didn’t take advantage,” said DHS coach Kevin Kline. “We’re doing a lot of the right things, we’re just unable to take advantage of opportunities and that’s what we need to do to be a good team.
“Kenton relies a lot on the preseason to get their timing worked out and they didn’t have those 7-on-7’s this year to get their timing and reps in. That offense is going to get better as they go along. I thought they looked really good on film last week offensively.”
Co-league champions last season and D-IV playoff participants, the Wildcats have eyes on another successful go-round with seven returning starters. The main connection in the Wildcat passing onslaught is from Huston to four-year starter Jayden Cornell, both of whom were first team all-WBL and second team all-Ohio in D-IV last season.
Huston passed for 4,281 yards, 38 TDs and 24 interceptions last season and is on the same track this season with 1,146 yards, 11 scores and four picks this season.
Meanwhile, Cornell has proven to be one of the most lethal targets in the state with 31 catches, 525 yards and four touchdowns in just three contests, including an eye-popping line of 10 receptions for 270 yards and four TDs against Celina.
Cornell, who has offers from Division II Tiffin, Saginaw Valley State and Pioneer League schools in Dayton and Valparaiso, has 262 career receptions, seventh all-time in state history. Along with the catches, Cornell has 4,281 career yards (fifth in state history) and 52 touchdown catches (fifth all-time).
“Cornell is really good, I don’t know how else to say it,” said Kline. “He’s been a starter for four years, plays on both sides of the ball. Any place they can put a threat against you, they’re going to put him there. Obviously I don’t think we can go in and completely shut him down but you have to limit him and his yards after catch.”
Cornell is far from the only target for Huston, as Ada transfer Zac Swaney has caught 23 passes for 327 yards and four scores while Jacob Eversole has 20 catches for 229 yards and two scores following an 815-yard, five-TD season in 2019.
For Defiance, much of the key in defending Kenton’s offensive attack will come from the Bulldogs’ own offensive unit.
“When you play them, you have to value the football and extend drives to keep their offense off the field as much as possible,” explained Kline. “That’s the key, to put yourslef in position to win. You have to play smart football against them.
“When we’ve done that in the past, we’ve been competitive with them. When we haven’t, they can turn it on pretty quick.”
The Bulldog defense held Shawnee to just 92 total yards, including just 58 rushing yards from WBL leader Tommy Spyker. The Bulldogs found some offensive sparks with a 46-yard completion on a trick play from Simeon Sweeney to Kam’Ron Rivera, along with 53 yards rushing from Sweeney.
Rivera (12 catches, 160 yards) and Drew Kellermyer (four catches, 106 yards, one TD, 18 rushes, 79 yards) will be weapons for Drew Davis (21-of-43, 290 yards, two TDs, five INTs), along with Sweeney in the offensive attack.
“I don’t think it’s any secret, we’re going to have to grind out some first downs,” admitted Kline. “We really do have to take care of the football, that’s the biggest thing. We have to create some turnovers of our own, honestly. I’d like to see our offense put together one of those Army-style, 19-play drives.”