The last time the Connersville football team had a winning record, first-year head coach Adam Kelly was a high school freshman at the school.
That was 1992.
“We were 5-4,” said Kelly, who took over a program that had won 19 games over the previous 15 years.
Kelly’s impact in his first season has been nothing short of incredible. The Spartans are 7-3 going into Friday’s playoff game at No. 1-ranked Columbus East.
About the Spartans
EAST’S OPPONENT: Connersville Spartans
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday at Columbus East High School
RECORD: Connersville 7-3 after a 21-13 win against South Dearborn in the first round of the sectional Friday
MOST RECENT MEETING: Lost 54-13 to Columbus East in 2007
KEY PLAYERS: QB Brady Hertel, TB Blake Evans, LB Brady Bolos, LB Drew Huffman
CONNERSVILLE COACH: Adam Kelly
“I’ve had a great group of seniors,” Kelly said. “I’ve just tried to keep everything simple with basic fundamentals. This summer, we got into the weight room, and we tried to mimic what we do on the field.
“We did nothing but explosive movements. We don’t have the size of Columbus East, so we’ve been working on football movements since I was hired in April.”
Kelly said he didn’t mind taking over a program with a history of losing. “I wanted a blank sheet,” he said.
The sheet is no longer blank.
The squad has won three in a row and four of five.
“They are very sound,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “This guy (Kelly) has done a good job. They block well and tackle well. They’ve been very consistent without many penalties or turnovers.”
Everything starts with quarterback Brady Hertel, who “manages the offense” for Kelly. Although Kelly said Hertel has a big arm, it’s a run-first offense with tailback Blake Evans carrying the load. Evans just went over 1,000 yards rushing even though he was missed two games due to injuries.
On defense, linebacker Brady Bolos leads the way. “He is a hammer,” Kelly said.
Linebacker Drew Huffman also is a force on a defense that is nicked up due to injuries.
Even with the program’s turnaround, Kelly said he is realistic. He knows his squad is a big underdog going into Friday night’s game.
“The first thing I did when I met with the team is that I talked to them about expectations.,” Kelly said. “I asked, ‘How many of you expect to win?’ I think two guys raised their hand.
“We were going to expect to win no matter who we play. I know that Columbus East has a team that is big and strong. They don’t do a lot of trickery. They just line it up and say, ‘Here we come.’ But our guys expect to win.”
Gaddis said the Spartans’ rise has gotten his attention.
“Our emphasis is that we have to defend the perimeter,” he said. “They are going to try to run the football, and that guy (Evans) is a good tailback. Their skill guys are very good.”
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