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Thomas Nelson’s initial foray into varsity football last season was a difficult one as the Generals lost their 10 games by an average margin of 52-6.
As first-year coach Kyle Boblitt gets his team ready for Friday night’s season opener against Spencer County, he has set a different type of goal for his team.
“First of all, I wanted to get our numbers up,” said Boblitt, a former assistant at Nelson County and a TNHS assistant in 2012. “We wanted to get 60 kids out for weight training because that is such an important time to show them what hard work is, and it’s a good way for the kids to bond together.”
The Thomas Nelson roster has hovered around that 60-man mark, and Boblitt has convinced several players to return to the team after sitting out last season.
He’s hopeful that the larger roster will make his team more competitive as they lost several leaders from a year ago.
Basil Sanders, Austin Price and Jacob Richards leave graduation holes to fill, while Boblitt has installed a Wing-T offense in place of the spread offense favored by former coach Greg Brohm.
“I’m more comfortable with that offense,” Boblitt said. “I think we can be more versatile out of it.”
Boblitt has handed the keys to the offense over to senior Eli Clark.
“He’s a great kid, very heady,” Boblitt said. “He’s very capable of making something out of nothing. Eli is just a great leader for our football team.”
Clark says he is comfortable with the new offense.
“I think it suits us a little better,” he said. “We’re not really a passing team but more of a running team.”
Seniors Drew Hurst and Drew Miles will start in the halfback position. Miles did not play last season while the coach said that Hurst’s work in the weightroom has paid off.
“He’s the strongest kid on our team.”
Juniors Jonathan Whiteman and Cole Barnes will split time at fullback.
The coach is very high on his senior right tackle Mason Flechler.
“He’s probably up to 6’6” and probably weighs around 300 pounds,” Boblitt said. “To be as big as he is, he’s very quick on his feet. Mason went to several camps over the summer and has some schools looking at him.”
Flechler — who dealt with a shoulder injury last season, one of several Generals hit by the injury bug — says that he has noticed a difference in the attitude of the team.
“It seems like everyone is more enthusiastic and that we are more disciplined,” he said. “All of the guys are closer to one another and have become closer. We think we can not just win a game this year, but we hope to make the playoffs.”
Senior John Michael Faulkner is the team’s most improved player since the program started, according to the coach.
The new offense has some complicated schemes and Boblitt said he is asking a lot out of senior guards Chase Downs and Austin Barnes.
“Both of these guys have accepted their leadership roles quite well.”
Junior center Dylan Gephart is playing the most important position in the offense, according to the coach.
“We’re asking him to do some very difficult things,” Boblitt said. “If he does something wrong, it’s very noticeable. But Dylan has been doing a great job.”
Jake Clark and Tanner Hilton, both juniors, will split time at wide receiver while senior Trevor Pike will start at tight end.
Curtis Franklin will be expected to play several positions for the Generals. He’ll back up Clark at the quarterback spot and will also spend time at tight end and defensive end.
“He’s just a very athletic kid,” Boblitt said.
Boblitt said that he’d be using most of the same kids on offense and defense.
“We’re going to be like a revolving door and we’ll be subbing as much as we can so that our guys don’t get worn down too much.”
Senior Nolan Berry has not played football until this year, but at 6-6 and 275 pounds, he’s going to be counted on to help man the defensive line.
Others expected to see playing time on defense include Brennen Lundy, Chase Downs, Jacob Downs, Mason McMahan, Christopher Medley and Ethan Fleming.
Boblitt saw some good things out of his team in last week’s scrimmage against Valley.
“We competed every play and I liked that,” he said. “The guys did a nice job and we saw that we have guys in positions that we’re not asking them to do things physically that they are not capable of doing.”
However, he admitted that he saw some things differently as the head coach than as an assistant.
“I know that I need to do a better job of communicating with my assistant coaches,” he said. “I wasn’t able to see as much during the game as I thought I would. I picked up a lot of things when I watched the film.”
Boblitt is also appreciative of the support he’s received from the Thomas Nelson community.
“We had a great turnout at our scrimmage against Valley,” Boblitt said. “Their people said that they don’t have that many people at their games.”