CLAYTON — After back-to-back successful seasons that saw Northmont advance to the playoffs the Thunderbolts hope to mount another playoff run in 2019.
In 2017 the Thunderbolts went 8-3 overall losing to Pickerington Central 41-21 in the first round of the playoffs. Last year Northmont won its first round playoff game 42-20 over Hilliard Darby before losing to Pickerington Central 33-7 on a freezing cold night at Springfield.
Entering his fifth year as head coach, Tony Broering has compiled a 25-18 record in his first four seasons. He is optimistic about the season, especially in light of a solid group of receivers and a senior quarterback who has been very accurate throwing passes during preseason scrimmages and practice.
This year’s team includes more than 20 seniors, which will provide plenty of leadership.
“Our seniors are a great class. They have done nothing since they have been here except win and we are excited for them for their senior season,” Broering said. “They are a great group of kids. You couldn’t ask for better boys. They work hard, they are good kids in the school, outside of school, they listen and really have a great work ethic and have great attitudes. A lot of them have been three year starters for me. Most of them played last year. A couple of them it will be their first chance to get on the field so we are excited for them.”
The offensive line has been completely rebuilt with tackle Seth Frantz (6-2, 288) the lone returning starter.
“The good news is he is a three-year starter. The bad news is he our only returning offensive lineman from last year,” Broering said.
Returning at receiver is Jazz Keys (49 receptions, 580 yards, five touchdowns) who Broering says is the fastest player the team has ever had. Also back at receiver is Justin Golson who led the conference with 908 yards on 48 receptions and 14 touchdowns, which was a new school record for most TDs in a season.
Returning at running back is Michael Franklin who rushed for 953 yards on 166 carries and 13 touchdowns. He broke the single game rushing record that stood for 52 years with 280 yards on 23 carries vs. Tippecanoe.
“We have some very talented kids back, we just have a lot of spots to fill,” Broering noted.
Keaton Kesling will take over the quarterback duties this year after playing backup to teammate Miles Johnson, who led the conference with 2,214 yards passing and 26 TDs last year and 2,068 yards and 23 TDs in 2017.
“Keaton has been looking great,” Broering said. “He can zip the ball and the ball comes out of his hand quick and accurate. He is a great passer, a great leader and a great kid. The truth is he would have been the starter the last two seasons if Miles Johnson hadn’t transferred in from Fairmont. Miles was a little bit bigger and stronger, so Keaton has really had to be a good teammate and leader and kind of wait his turn. Now he has his chance so he is making the most of it and is doing a great job.”
Senior Devin Chattams (5-7, 150) will see action at running back along with Christian Cvetnic (5-11, 171), who is also a three-year starter at defensive back. Broering says Cvetnic is a natural tailback but will continue to start as defensive back.
“We’ve got some kids that can run it in there,” Broering said.
Senior Breant Kendall (6-5, 230) moved from defense to offense last year. He played some at tight end and this year will play offensive tackle. He has already received scholarship offers.
Defensively the Thunderbolts lost some great talent like Michigan recruit Gabe Newburg and Iowa recruit Jestin Jacobs.
“I know everybody talks about losing the Big 10 guys, which obviously you can’t replace those guys, but more importantly we lost Aidan Reaman who led the team in tackles,” Broering said. “That has been our focus. Who is going to make all those tackles at linebacker?”
On the defensive line will be senior Jaiden Cameron (6-5, 225) who is a Big 10 commit (Northwestern). Senior Shaun Myers returns at linebacker (5-11, 208) who Broering says has taken over as the leader of the defense and who he hopes will take over leading the team in tackles. Junior Rod Moore returns at safety (5-10, 161). Cvetnic anchors the defensive backfield as a three year starter at corner. Senior Andrew Knick returns at defensive back (5-10 , 161) as well, a player Broering says many people was one of the team’s best players.
“We have some young kids that are stepping up and have done a decent job,” Broering said.
Junior Eli Newburg (6-1, 185) also returns on the defensive line.
“We are still filling in a couple of spots, but the defense is looking good. When the offense goes against them they have a lot of problems because our defensive players are fast and get to the ball, so we are looking for big things out of them,” Broering stated.
Above all else Broering feels his special teams have been the best feature the last few seasons, and this year will be no different.
“Andrew Knick is our long snapper, Keaton Kesling is our holder and Brandon Goodwin is our kicker and they do an outstanding job and have been doing it for three years, so that is really the strength of our team,” Broering added.
Goodwin made 43 of 45 extra-point attempts and went three for six on field goal tries and averaged 33.5 yards on 32 punts, which was deceptive because many of his punts were made inside the opponents 50 and often pinned the opponent inside their five yard line. Goodwin owns the school record for most career extra-points with 86.
The Thunderbolts open the 2019 season on Friday, Aug. 30 at home vs. Dublin Coffman.
Ron Nunnari can be reached at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@aimmediamidwest.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind