KENNETT SQUARE >> In each of the previous two full football seasons, Kennett is averaging 9.5 wins per campaign. That’s a level of success the Blue Demons program hasn’t seen before. But one thing is missing: the American Ches-Mont title.
“We want to get to that point,” Kennett head coach Lance Frazier said. “This is the next step.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind. Children really want – they want a banner. We have been at a certain level for several years now, but how do we move to the next one?”
After finishing the season 8-4, Kennett isn’t shying away from lofty goals for 2022. And with a strengthened interior line, a pair of elite running backs and a well-deserved reputation for fielding solid defensive units, who’s to say this isn’t the year?
“We’d like to win league, win districts and go to states,” massive two-way lineman Connor Tuke said. “We want to go further than any Kennett team has ever gone.
“This season we are more rounded. We have a bunch of veterans coming back and new guys ready to play.”
However, there are some problems. Depth is an ongoing issue for Kennett, and that means most of Frazier’s starting lineups will play both ways. And then there’s the matter of trying to replace the head coach’s son, Cullen, who was one of the most versatile athletes ever to come out of the school.
“We’re always rebuilding just because we have about 40-50 players,” Frazier said. “Unionville is only five minutes down the road, and they don’t have the volume issues we have. It’s just something we have to overcome.
“Our conditioning in the offseason is more important than anything else. This group was good with details and the older guys did a good job of policing the locker room — setting expectations.”
Cullen Frazier is currently playing at Indiana (Pennsylvania), and his absence has created a big void on the field. He played several positions in the offense and was one of the best defenders in the area.
“Replacing the production for (Kalen), on both sides of the ball, is going to be hard to do,” Frazier said. “But we’ve been here before. We’ve had the same conversations with guys like Sam Forte and Gareth Cox.”
With a new quarterback breaking in, most of the early load will likely fall on senior running back Julian Sparacino, who burst onto the scene last fall and gained more than 1,000 yards. He took over that role when David Lillis suffered a mid-season knee injury.
“Julian worked hard. He ran track in the offseason to work on his speed and explosiveness,” Frazier said.
“It wasn’t given to me – I had to work for it,” Sparacino added. “I started as a blocker last season and when David Lillis retired it gave me a chance to shine – and I did.”
Now a junior, the speedy Lillis is also back, potentially giving the Demons a fearsome 1-2 punch. But he may need some time to fully recover from the injury.
“He’s been released and he’s definitely going to be a weapon for us,” Frazier said.
“It will be like thunder and lightning. It’s a great two-man tandem at the back. When he’s ready, we’re looking for him to make the jump.”
Whoever holds the ball will have a group of veteran blockers in front of them. The anchor is 6-foot-5, 290-pound Tuk, a tackle who had a great offseason. Gritty senior center Ryan King also returns, and junior guard John Pardo is also a standout at tackle.
“(Pardo) is athletic enough to carry the ball and maybe catch it, too,” Frazier said.
The rest of the unit includes sophomores Kaden Keys and Jacob Thompson, who are projected to be future stars.
“This is the most veteran group we have and the largest both in terms of size and numbers,” Frazier said. “We are deeper up front and this is our most committed group. And this is where football begins and ends.”
That’s all good news for projected senior quarterback Brett Kaufman. He transferred from Malvern Prep a year ago, but was injured for much of the 2021 season.
“He’s trying to understand what we’re doing and he’s shown some promise in camp,” Frazier said. “He’s a leader, a vocal guy, and he wants to be in charge. His teammates love him.”
The team’s biggest question mark is in the receiving corps. Aging players like tight end Jackie Goode (Jr.) and tight end Colin Jung (Sr.) and senior Josh Barlow in the slot.
The defense has a lot of the same names, and once again, strength up front. With Tuck and Pardo inside, Jung and senior Luke Finfrack on the edge, Kennett’s defensive line is formidable.
“It’s a solid group,” Frazier said. “I feel them well. They will be the strength of our team.”
King, Sparasino and Barlow lead the linebackers, and the secondary will include new corners in Hood and sophomore Xavier McGrell (So.), with senior Ty McMillan at safety.
“We’re going to go on defense and come at you,” Frazier said. “These guys are confident in what we’re doing.”
Another strength of the team is special teams. Senior kicker Ryan Barker has already committed to Penn and will also handle punting duties.
“Historically, Kenneth hasn’t been great on special teams,” Frazier admitted. “We spent a lot of time on it and our guys are proud of it.
“(Barker) is going to be a game-changer for us both at the backcourt position and putting points on the board. We expect a lot of touchbacks on kickoffs and a lot of field-changing punts in addition to field goals.”
This will be the fifth year under Frazier, who has transformed the program from a perennial underdog to a top-flight contender.
“This was the first offseason where the guys did even more than what was assigned by the coaches,” Tuke noted.
“Our opponents are actually taking us more seriously. Instead of planning for us to come home, they better prepare for us.”
Friday, August 26 — at Upper Dublin, 7 p.m
Friday, September 2 — vs. Oxford, 7 p.m
Friday, Sept. 9 – at West Chester Henderson, 7 p.m
Friday, September 16 – vs. West Chester Rustin, 7:00 p.m
Friday, September 23 — at Downingtown East, 7 p.m
Friday, September 30 — at Interbora, 7 p.m
Friday, Oct. 7 — vs. Unionville, 7 p.m
Friday, October 14 – at West Chester East, 7 p.m
Friday, Oct. 21 — vs. Sun Valley, 7 p.m
Friday, Oct. 28 – vs. Great Valley, 7 p.m