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2015 Tiger Track and Field Event-by-Event Preview: Sprints

Colin O'Daniel will be all over the leaderboards in the sprints this season. | Photo by Jana Bollinger

Colin O’Daniel will be all over the leaderboards in the sprints this season. | Photo by Jana Bollinger

Part four in a 5 part series previewing the 2015 St. Xavier Track and Field Tigers: Sprints

 

EVENTS

100 meter dash

200 meter dash

400 meter dash

WHERE DID THEY FINISH LAST YEAR?

100 meter dash – Taijon Smith (5th at Region), Cedric Miller (6th at Region)

200 meter dash – No participants at Region

400 meter dash – Colin O’Daniel (5th at State), Joe Butler (6th at Region)

KEY RETURNERS

Taijon Smith – 100 meter dash

Colin O’Daniel – 400 meter dash

Joe Butler – 400 meter dash

OVERVIEW

The Tiger Track and Field has never been know for their sprinting, but with experience and talent coming back, this could be a big year for the Tiger Sprinters.

Senior Taijon Smith will lead the Tiger Track and Field team in 100 meter dash. He failed to make State last season, as he finished 5th at Region. He is the 3rd best returning 100 meter sprinter in the Region this season, so he could make some noise and possibly make it to Lexington.

In the 200, Juniors Colin O’Daniel and Joe Butler are two of the best St. X has to offer, and they would be the most likely representatives in this event. O’Daniel will most likely not run in the 200 this year at Region and State, as he will probably run in the 400, 4 x 400 and 4 x 200 meter relay along with jumping in the High Jump. So, that probably leaves Butler as the only likely candidate to run in the 200 this year at Region. There is always the possibility that they will just not put anyone in the event, however, like they did last year.

O’Daniel is coming off a very impressive sophomore campaign. After finishing 4th at Region, he shocked the Kentucky High School Track world with a 5th place showing at State. Now, as a Junior, O’Daniel will no longer be looked over. He will be one of the favorites for a podium finish this year.

“I am very excited for the 400 this season,” said O’Daniel. “With my experiences last year I know how to properly train for it and know what it will take to run the best I can. I think with my hard work I can take #1. Also my goal is to drop a second from my PR and get the [400] record at St. X.”

Who could surprise people this year, though?

“Sophomore Ricky Garr could be a good 100 runner this year,” said O’Daniel. “Max Masterson for the 200. [Jonathon] Coats also for both 100 and 200. Patrick Ritter has also improved greatly on his 400 and is one of our top competitors.”

Next up: Distance

2015 Tiger Track and Field Event-by-Event Preview: Relay Teams

 

Junior Colin O'Daniel will be an integral part of multiple relay teams this season. | Photo by Jana Bollinger

Junior Colin O’Daniel will be an integral part of multiple relay teams this season. | Photo by Jana Bollinger

Part one in a 5 part series previewing the 2015 St. Xavier Track and Field Tigers: Relay Teams

 

EVENTS

4 x 100 m
4 x 200 m
4 x 400 m
4 x 800 m

WHERE DID THEY FINISH LAST YEAR?

4 x 100 m Relay Team – Finished 5th in Region 3A
4 x 200 m Relay Team – Finished 9th in State
4 x 400 m Relay Team – Finished 7th in State
4 x 800 m Relay Team – Finished 3rd in State

KEY RETURNERS

Josh Russell – 4 x 100 m, 4 x 200 m
JR Johnson – 4 x 100 m
Taijon Smith – 4 x 100 m
Colin O’Daniel – 4 x 200 m, 4 x 400 m
Joe Butler – 4 x 200 m
Patrick Ritter – 4 x 200 m, 4 x 400 m
Eli George – 4 x 400 m
William Mulloy – 4 x 400 m
Ben Kleine-Kracht – 4 x 800 m

OVERVIEW

Last year was a good year for the relay teams, but this year they have a chance to be great.

The 4 x 100 m relay team had a very difficult end to their season last year. A dropped handoff led to 5th place at Region and no trip to Lexington for State. They have a great chance to redeem themselves this year, though. They will be led by three seniors in Josh Russell, J.R. Johnson and TaiJon Smith. They have the memory of failure from last year and will be looking for that trip to Lexington this year.

The 4 x 200 m relay team was oh so close to finishing top 8 last year and scoring at State, 0.42 seconds to be exact. Like the 4 x 100 relay team, the 4 x 200 has great experience coming back. All four from last year’s 9th place relay team are back this season. Russell, the lone senior on this team, will lead the charge along with juniors Colin O’Daniel, Patrick Ritter and Joe Butler.

“It all comes down to the starts and handoffs,” said O’Daniel. “If we don’t get a good start off of the blocks, it is hard to make up for lost time there. Also, having quick and smooth handoffs are key to a fast 4 x 200, and we didn’t execute that well last year.”

The 4 x 400 m relay team is also returning all four members of last year’s team. Seniors William Mulloy and Eli George, along with Ritter and O’Daniel, will look to improve on last year’s 7th place finish at State.

“I hope to pick up where we left off and improve from there,” said O’Daniel. “We have all put in lots of hard work during the pre-season, and I’m sure all we can do is get better from there.”

“We have a lot of talent between Colin, Ritter and Eli,” said Mulloy. “If we can find the right day and order, I think the school record is just there waiting to be broken.”

The 4 x 800 team had the most success last season, as they finished 3rd at State. Senior Ben Kleine-Kracht is the only member of last year’s State relay team to return to the team this Spring. Look for George, senior Tyler Just and junior Matthew Thomas.

What does the 4 x 800 team need to do to reach that level of excellence?

“Commitment,” said Kleine-Kracht. “We have to stay committed, stay healthy and work hard like we always do and success will come with it. Matthew Thomas and Eli George have always been great at the 800, but they were needed in other events last year so look out for them. Also, watch out for Just, who is new to this level of competition in the 800, to step up and surprise some people.”

“We have the talent for [a state championship],” said George. “It’s going to take dedication. Not only going to practice but also in appetite and keeping ourselves healthy. Last year’s team wasn’t as good as it could have been. Injuries and illness came up before state that kept key runners out of the 4 x 800. Matthew Thomas is one of those key runners who has been injury free lately. I also hope to see a big step up from senior Tyler Just as well.”

Next up: Field Events

St. X vs. Trinity Positional Breakdown: Running Back

TaiJon Smith could have a signature performance Friday night. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

TaiJon Smith could have a signature performance Friday night. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

The running game is the strong suit for both offenses heading into Friday night. It could very easily come down to which star tailback can find holes in the opposing defense.

St. Xavier Depth Chart

– #22 TaiJon Smith- 5’9”| 177 lbs.| Senior

– #34 John Martinez- 5’9”| 180 lbs.| Junior

– #23 Chase Rowan- 5’11”| 167 lbs.| Junior

 

St. Xavier Overview

Historically, St. X is a school that breeds outstanding running backs. Victor Anderson, Deuce Finch, Lamont McMurry, Devontae Beach, Austin Davis, Treyveon Percell, Charles Walker. I could rattle them off all day long. Soon, another young man will be added to that list of legendary St. Xavier running backs. His name is TaiJon Smith and he is ready to run all over the Rocks tomorrow. All year long the Tigers have depended on Smith to carry them on offense, especially when it was struggling. TaiJon has been there in every game and has not disappointed. In the two losses on the season where the Tigers were shutout, Smith was the only positive on offense. He gained a combined 101 yards on 35 carries in those two games. He knows how to read a defense and says he has no plans to slow down on Friday night.

“I plan on playing the game the way I know and constantly looking to move the ball down the field,” he says.

Simple enough, TaiJon. Smith’s breakout game was against Bryan Station when he shredded the Defender defense for 178 yards on a whopping 32 carries. He has scored four touchdowns on the season and couldn’t have done it without his backfield mate, John Martinez. At a solid 180 lbs. for his 5’9” frame, Martinez is a load and is hard to take down once he gets moving. He is the perfect complement to Smith and can provide a much needed change of pace for the running game. Martinez is capable of reeling off 50+ yard runs in the blink of an eye and can be a dynamic, game-changing back. He had a field day against Bryan Station as well, gaining 82 yards and scoring a touchdown on just 10 carries. If the offensive line can hold up, which it has in the run game up to this point, then watch out for this powerful one-two punch coming out of the Tiger backfield.

 

Trinity Depth Chart

– #19 Donald Brooks- 5’11”| 185lbs.| Senior

– #34 Jailen Reed- 5’10”| 200lbs.| Junior

– #3 Jody Osborne- 5’6”| 150lbs.| Junior

 

Trinity Overview

Donald Brooks is a beast. That is honestly the best way to describe him. Through 6 games, he leads the state with 924 yards and has scored 12 touchdowns. If you think those numbers are staggering, get this: he is averaging 154 yards per game on the ground. That’s more than some high school offenses can gain in an entire game. Brooks is without a doubt the center of the offensive game plan for the Rocks and is the number one player on the Tiger defense’s radar tomorrow night. Stopping him is a must in order to win. Brooks is the clear-cut feature back for Trinity and will get the bulk of the carries tomorrow night. The thing that makes him so dangerous is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and turn it up the field in no time. His complement in the backfield is junior Jailen Reed, who makes the most of his opportunities when he is in the game. Reed’s ability to relieve Brooks is important because his running style is different and slows the game down for the offense.

Quarterback Ryan Young said each of the Shamrock tailbacks has a certain skill.

“Donald’s strength is his power and quickness through holes, Jailen is more of a power back, and Jody is a straight speed back.”

Young appreciates his running backs’ abilities, and he should, because they help relieve him of pressure and make defenses respect them.

EDGE: In a comparison of two fairly equal backfields, I have to give Trinity the edge in this one. There are a few key advantages that the Rocks have over the Tigers. The first is that Brooks is simply averaging a lot more yards than any Tiger tailback and seems to be on top of his game right now. This is not a knock on Smith who is playing very well this season, but Brooks has been dominant. The second advantage is that the Rocks have three backs that are all healthy and are all logging minutes in every game. Chase Rowan has been the starter for the first two years of his St. X career and has been very good, but has been battling constant injuries this season that have kept him from seeing significant playing time. Once he is healthy, look out. So I’m giving Trinity the edge here because they have three fully healthy and fully experienced backs whereas the Tigers have one that is still getting back into the groove of things. Just because I am giving them the edge does not mean that I think Smith, Martinez and Rowan can’t be better than Trinity’s trio tomorrow night. You can never count out a Tiger.

CJ Features the Tigers’ Featured Back

Taijon Smith | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Taijon Smith | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Everyone knows of the great running backs that have worn the X on their helmets in past years. It is this year’s tailback that is trying to make a name for himself.  Senior Taijon Smith is our leading rusher and has been looking up to guys like Deuce Finch and Vic Anderson his whole life, but now it’s his time.

The Courier-Journal’s Steve Jones spoke with Smith earlier this week and got his thoughts on being a member of a great list of tail backs to play at St. Xavier along with what he will be expecting this Friday inside Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium as his Tigers take on the Shamrocks of Trinity.

“Every year I know who’s the next running back who’s coming, so for me to be a part of that list is very special,” Smith said. “They inspired me to really show out and attempt to carry the team. I know I can’t do it all by myself, and I don’t do it all by myself, but those guys, their work ethic, and what I saw them do on the field back when I was younger really pushed me to try to do great things.”

Really want to add your name to the list of these great backs, Taijon? Beat Trinity Friday. That will do it.  Read the rest of Jones’ piece on #22 by clicking on the link below.  There is also a video interview on that page.  Take a look!

[Taijon Smith latest in long line of solid St. X running backs]

Tiger Football Team Preview

Will Wolford will lead the Tigers into battle for the second season. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

It will be Will Wolford’s second season leading the Tigers into battle. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

It will be an interesting year for Saint Xavier High School Football to say the least.  The 2013-2014 Tigers finished the season with a disappointing 6-6 record.  Year one of the Will Wolford Era did not go according to plan.

However, year two will no doubt be different–if only because so many new faces will be on the field this season.  Only two starters return from last season. Everyone else graduated.  That means we are going to see a lot of new guys make an impact on this year’s team.  What’s good is that a lot of these new guys look like they’re going to be pretty good.

The offense looks poised to do some great things.  The two returning starters from last season, senior tackle Tyler Haycraft and senior center Nathan Scheler, will anchor the offensive line.  That group should be solid in both run and pass protection, which is very promising, because if the big guys up front are stout, this offense will be special.  It all starts with senior quarterback Noah Houk.  He’s got great size, a cannon for an arm, and pinpoint accuracy.  He will be fun to watch this year.

If he can stay healthy, Chase Rowan will be a barn-burner in the backfield. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

If he can stay healthy, Chase Rowan will be a barn-burner in the backfield. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Behind Houk are two stud tailbacks.  TaiJon Smith, a senior, and Chase Rowan, a junior, are very rare talents.  Smith is a gazelle in the open field; he has crazy speed and agility.  Rowan can also turn on the jets and has unbelievable quickness.  Both of these backs are super shifty; they can change direction in a heartbeat and turn on a dime.  The challenge for those two will be to stay healthy.  If they can avoid the injury bug, they will repeatedly break ankles and turn heads throughout the season.

The receiving corps is vastly underrated.  Jaylon Hibbs could be a star; he has the speed to take the top off of opposing secondaries and the size to win jump-ball situations.  Slot receiver Michael Ackerman is a quick water-bug in the open field and will wreak havoc on opposing defenses.  When you think of Ackerman, think of former stand-out Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas; when the ball gets in his hands, there will be problems.  Additionally, senior tight end Davis Kannapell will be hauling in passes over the middle all season.  Look for this group of receivers to prove a lot of people wrong this season.

If the offense can stay upright and play with consistency–two big problems for last year’s team–this will be a prolific unit.  They can strike in so many ways.  Houk and Smith could put up huge numbers and contend for Kentucky Mr. Football.  This offense definitely has the weapons, but they will need to prove that they can work as a cohesive unit in order to tap into their full potential.

St. X could be equally as lethal on defense.  There are game-changers at each level, and this group could definitely put up a shutout or two.

Davey Sermersheim can take away one half of the field on defense. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Davey Sermersheim can take away one half of the field on defense. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

The defensive backfield will be the strength of this unit.  Although no starters return from last year’s secondary, senior safety Tyler Boarman and senior cornerback Davey Sermersheim got a lot of playing time last season and are ready to flourish in their last year as Tigers.  Boarman (6’1, 178 lbs.) and Sermersheim (5’10, 165 lbs.) both have fantastic size for their positions and are extremely versatile; both can be thumpers and help stop the run, and they have the speed to sit back and run with any opposing receiver.  Boarman is a prototypical centerfielder in the secondary that oversees everything, while Sermersheim is a nasty lock-down corner that will draw, and likely shut down, the other team’s best receiver.  Joining those two will be senior safety Jackie Arnold and senior cornerback Brandon Blaser.  Arnold is a speed demon with excellent instincts, and Blaser is a big, physical corner that will give opposing receivers fits.

This secondary is special.  Remember last season when Bowling Green and quarterback Devin Hayes torched St. X throwing to 2014 Kentucky Mr. Football Nacarius Fant and running back Ellis Cain?  That’s not happening on this unit.  This group is the perfect mix of physicality and finesse.  They can take control of games.  They may not be Legion-of-Boom-good, but Boarman and Sermersheim certainly do a decent Earl Thomas-Richard Sherman impersonation.  It will be exciting to watch.

Here’s more for you, Tiger Nation: the front seven will be just as good.

The defensive line will be fierce.  Senior defensive tackles Carson Kehres and Christian Fell will be disruptive forces, as each will demand double teams if opposing offenses want to keep them out of the backfield.  Accompanying them on the line will be defensive ends Will Edwards and Ethan Adams.  DISCLAIMER: these guys are scary.  Will Edwards is a beast; Ethan Adams is an animal, and he’s only a junior.  These defensive ends will have their ears pinned, and they will be in constant, ferocious pursuit of opposing quarterbacks.

Outside linebacker Clark Campbell will be ruthless coming off the edge.| Photo by Jacob Hayslip

Outside linebacker Clark Campbell will be ruthless coming off the edge. | Photo by Jacob Hayslip

The linebacker corps will be a lot different than last year, but don’t expect the production to drop off.  Andrew McCormick, Malik Carr, Wes Parker, Spencer Foy, and Evan Caffee were a terrifying group of linebackers last year; they were big, strong, and fast.  This year’s linebackers won’t have the size of last year’s, but they bring everything else to the table.  Senior Connor Barnes and junior Logan Butler will be the inside linebackers, and they will be everywhere.  They play sideline to sideline and will do a lot of damage.  They will be accompanied by Dylan McFarland and Clark Campbell on the edge, two more assassins on the edges.

As a whole, the Tiger defense looks to be very promising.  Barnes and Butler will be the heart and soul of the unit; they make the players around them better.  There is so much talent here, but it remains to be seen if they can put it all together.  There’s a ton of potential, but much like the offense, this defense will need to figure out how play together.  Defensive coordinator Bart Bruner will have these guys ready to go on August 22nd, but what will separate this defense from others is if the guys on the field play for each other.

As for special teams, it’s pretty straightforward; this unit is pretty good.  Once he returns fully healthy from a ruptured spleen, senior kicker Ben Logsdon will be booting field goals of all distances through the uprights.  Senior kicker Michael “Big Foot” Bennett will regularly be kicking touchbacks.  Senior punter Mason King will constantly be pinning opposing offenses inside their own 20 yard line.  St. X has some weapons on special teams.

With so many new players in new positions, some early growing pains should be expected from these Tigers; they likely won’t be great from week one.  It will all come down to how well the guys can mesh as a collective unit.  If the players learn each other’s tendencies and play for the name on the front of the jersey, this will be a dangerous team.  If year two of the Will Wolford Era wants to be more successful than the first, team chemistry will be the catalyst for an energized and eager St. X team.