Conquerors set to reload
August 27, 2008 · Updated 10:49 AM
Dimitrius Bronson may be gone, but KW still has plenty of backfield talent
That seems to be the hot-button topic on the Kentwood High gridiron these days when it comes to discussing the backfield.
And understandably so as star running back Dimitrius Bronson has flown the Kentwood coop for the University of Washington while second-team all-leaguer Kory Rodriguez also has graduated, leaving a stable of unproven ballcarriers to fill the void.
“I don’t know that you can really replace a Dimitrius Bronson,” said fifth-year Kentwood coach Rex Norris of the South Puget Sound League North Division’s ‘07 Offensive Player of the Year. “We asked that same question before. ‘Who’s going to take over for Travis Nauta? Who takes over for Kenjamine Jackson? Who takes over for Kevin Jones?’”
Of course, ask Norris’ coaching counterparts around the SPSL North the same question and you’re sure to get the same response: Kentwood’s always has somebody coming up through the ranks capable of ripping off yet another 1,000-yard season.
“We have some talented athletes,” Norris continued. “If one can’t do it, we feel confident that we have three or four other guys who can.”
It’s that “can-do” nature of the Kentwood program, particularly with the running game, that has allowed it to become one of the most successful in the state. A matter of fact, since the school opened in 1981, Kentwood has never endured a single losing season.
One of the keys to that success has been a running game that simply doesn’t miss a beat. If one star running back graduates, the Conquerors always seem to have another waiting in the wings. In 2001, it was Jones. In 2002, it was Will Thompson followed by Jackson (2003-2004), Nauta (2004) and finally Bronson (2005-2007), who went on to establish the school’s career rushing mark with 3,683 yards.
So who’s next?
That won’t be answered for a few more weeks, Norris said, but the stable remains full of guys ready to answer the call, including seniors Darrius Coleman, Joe Angevine, Steven Warner and junior Ronnie Flowers among a handful of others.
“Dimitrius was a key player,” Angevine said. “I think it’s more of a team feel, a family feel. We’re all diverse runners who have diverse styles.”
Kentwood will need every bit of that diversity, especially in the early season when it opens with Class 3A power Kennedy on Sept. 6 in the Kickoff Classic at Qwest Field followed by league heavyweights Auburn and Tahoma.
But with the label of running back at Kentwood High comes a certain level of pressure, Coleman concedes.
“I feel like I have to step up because there have been so many running backs here,” said Coleman, a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder who received a handful of carries at the varsity level a year ago. “Kevin Jones, Dimitrius Bronson, Travis Nauta ... I feel I have to step my game up.”
And while the Conquerors don’t yet have the backfield situation officially straightened out, they do return one of the North’s top offensive lines, led by all-leaguers Hunter Blackmore (6-3/255) and Greg Humphries (6-3/240) along with Nathan Herrick (6-2/240).
Like the backfield at Kentwood, the work of the line has been one of the program’s strongest staples through the years. A staple that quietly has paved the way in helping the Conquerors finish among the SPSL’s top five teams in rushing every season since 2000.
“As the center, I don’t get much attention,” points out Blackmore, who is being recruited by Air Force, Boise State and a host of Ivy League schools. “But I take pride in hearing (the running backs) get mentioned. That’s what I love to see, them succeeding.”
For a program that prides itself on being able to run the ball down opponents’ throats — and stop it just as effectively on defense — Blackmore hopes this year’s group simply follows the blueprint of past teams.
Though, Blackmore said, there’s even more reason for optimism as senior Luke Angevine now will be in his third year as the starting quarterback. It’s the first time since the Carl Bonnell era (1999-2001) that Kentwood had had a three-year starter at the position.
“With Luke being in his third year, he’s solid,” Blackmore said. “He’s really stepped up.”
Angevine, an honorable mention selection a year ago, is ready to deliver, too.
“It’s my senior year ... I have to execute the most of any other year,” he said. “I feel I am prepared to do my job well.”
If all goes according to plan — as it generally does at Kentwood High — the Conquerors should be well on their way to a 10th straight postseason berth.
And, in the process, those questions of ‘Who’s next?’ will once again be emphatically answered.
AT A GLANCE
• Coach: Rex Norris, fifth year.
• Last season: 5-2 in SPSL North play, tied for second in the division, 6-4 overall.
• Offense: Pro I.
• Defense: 5-2.
• Returning starters (Name, year, position, height/weight): Luke Angevine, sr., QB/DB, 6-0/170; Hunter Blackmore, sr., OL/DL, 6-3/255; Greg Humphries, sr., OL/DL, 6-3/240; Nathan Herrick, jr., OL/DL, 6-2/240; Steven Warner, sr., RB/LB, 6-1/190; Henry Everett, sr., WR/OLB, 5-11/180; Brian Carlson, sr., FB/LB, 5-9/190.
• Key newcomers: Darrius Coleman, sr., RB/DB, 5-10/190; Devin St. Clair, sr., WR/DB, 6-2/180; Danny Bounds, sr., WR/DB, 5-11/165; Joe Angevine, sr., RB/OLB, 6-0/190; Robert Sims, sr., RB/DL, 6-0/260; Brian Glaholt, sr., OL/DL 6-0/255; Allain Songco, jr., WR/OLB, 6-0/190; T.J. Marcus, jr., OL/DL, 6-4/320; Triston Askew, jr., WB/DB, 5-10/165; Ronnie Flowers, jr., RB/DB, 5-10/165.
• Outlook: As always, Kentwood enjoyed a nice turnout of more than 100 players. And while star running back Dimitrius Bronson is now playing at the University of Washington, there’s no shortage of talent at the Covington school. With seven starters back on both sides of the ball, including all-leaguers Blackmore and Humphries to anchor the line, this should be a team plenty capable of moving the sticks. Unlike previous years, there’s not a single go-to running back, though the Conquerors do have ample options with Coleman, Warner, Joe Angevine and Flowers, among others. Adding to the optimism is the fact that, unlike last season, this is a rather experienced group. That experience should go a long way in the early season, when Kentwood faces Kennedy in its opener, followed by Auburn and Tahoma. When it’s all said and done, the Conquerors should be vying for their 10th straight postseason appearance.
• Can’t-miss game: There likely won’t be a more entertaining game on the entire schedule than Sept. 18, when the Conquerors play host to Tahoma. The Bears have been the one team in the North that ultimately has had Kentwood’s number, beating the Conquerors three straight times, culminating with last year’s 21-20 double-overtime thriller. That three-year stretch includes a 2005 barnburner in which Kentwood was on Tahoma’s 2-yard line with just seconds remaining, but fumbled away the ball in an epic 13-11 loss. Both teams should be in the playoff hunt and this game could ultimately decide seeding at season’s end.
LAST FIVE YEARS
DATE OPPONENT TIME
9-6 vs. Kennedy 5:30 p.m.#
9-12 at Auburn 7 p.m.***
9-18 vs. Tahoma 7 p.m.*
9-26 at A. Riverside 7 p.m.***
10-3 vs. K-Meridian 7 p.m.*
10-11 at Jefferson 7 p.m.**
10-17 vs. Federal Way 7 p.m.*
10-24 at Kentridge 7 p.m.*
10-31 vs. Kentlake 7 p.m.*
# Game at Qwest Field
* Game at French Field
** Game at Federal Way Stadium
*** Game at Auburn Memorial Stadium