The 2013 version of the Holmes Bulldogs will be very different from the 2012 version. In 2012, the Bulldogs finished 6-5 with huge wins over 2A state champion Newport Central Catholic, as well as 1A state semi finalist, Beechwood. Heading into this season the Bulldogs will look to replace not only seniors, but also last year’s head coach, as Ben Nevels takes over the program in his first season as Holmes’ football head coach.
"It’s been a growing experience for both the kids and myself," said Coach Nevels. "Just laying the foundation of what expectations are going to be, how we’re going to change things, what we want them to do, and how we want them to do it."
For the most part Coach Nevels has been pleased with what he’s seen from his team throughout the spring and now summer leading in to his first year as head coach, after being a defensive coach at Holmes the past few seasons. Coach Nevels has always been a "players’ coach" and that philosophy was on display when he first met with them.
"I told them I really don’t want to take up all of your summer, but when we are here we have to get after it. It’s really just them getting used to the tempo and style that we are going to play, but more than anything and above football is that we are going to be good people and do things the right way. They seem to be doing all the right things so far."
One of the biggest strengths this year for the Bulldogs should be an offense that returns a lot of speed at the skill positions, led by running back Jon Scruggs, who currently holds an offer from Austin Peay.
"The first name out of everyone’s mouth around Northern Kentucky is Jonathon Scruggs," said Coach Nevels. "He’s a playmaker, for my money he’s the best up here that I’ve seen in person. He’s a good kid, hard worker in the weight room, and he can just flat out make plays."
The Bulldogs offense will be centered around Scruggs’ play-making ability but there are some unproven kids that Coach Nevels feels can help Scruggs’ out and take some of the defensive focus off of him.
Freddie Warlaw will be a senior leader that should be able to make a name for himself, along with Mikekale Thomas, who is a transfer that looks the part but Coach Nevels is still waiting to see what the kid provides and where he can be a help to the team.
One of the best battles throughout the off season has been at the quarterback spot, where Coach Nevels is excited about the way his two signal callers have battled.
"We’ve got a little bit of a quarterback battle brewing right now being Fred Vickers (Junior) and Dashawn Brumfield (Sophomore)."
Both are athletic quarterbacks but bring different aspects of the game.
"Dashawn has a little better arm, whereas Fred might be a little quicker," Coach Nevels explained when talking about the differences between the two. "It’s really fun to just sit there and watch them learn the system and battle and get better every day."
One of the biggest surprises thus far, however, and someone that Coach Nevels is really looking forward to getting in the system is Shondell Mincey who will be a sophomore receiver this season.
"We will be very young this year, which is both a problem and a blessing at the same time," said Coach Nevels. "We’ve got a lot of young talent on offense and he’s one of the fastest kids around."
Defensively the Bulldogs will feature some of the same names and faces that will be seen an offense, mentioned above.
"One of the first things I told my assistant coaches was we’re looking for a solid group of kids who will do what we ask them to do."
It’s the little things that Coach Nevels is looking for as they may start the season with 35-40 guys. Some of the other young, talented players that will be competing for playing time include Shawn Sudlin and Brendan Johnson.
"Shawn is just a coaches dream," Coach Nevels said. "He’s a straight A student, works his tail off in the weight room, gets after it on the field. and really is the type of kid that we’re trying to build our program around."
In terms of changes, the schedule is something that will also be different this season for the Bulldogs as they play Holy Cross, Scott, Lloyd, Walton Verona, Beechwood and Bellevue before heading into 4A district play against Harrison Co, Covington Catholic, and Highlands. Holmes will close out the season against a foe that they haven’t seen in quite some time in Newport.
Coach Nevels talked a little about the schedule.
"We open with our cross town rival in Holy Cross, which is always a heated battle. Week two we will go to Scott, who for the past three years Scott fans have been circling this season as a force to be reckoned with. After that we will go to Lloyd, which is my old stomping grounds and has a new coach from Boone Co. That will definetly be a good game. Week 4 we will bring in Walton, who have a quiet storm brewing out there with what Coach Barth is doing. We then play Beechwood and Bellevue comes to us. Bellevue is Bellevue. Hard nose, gritty kids who will fight you from beginning to end. Our last game out of district will be against Newport. A lot of our kids know each other, which should be an exciting game for our program and city."
With all new coaches, comes new expectations but Coach Nevels takes on a different mantra.
"I try to go in everything with no expectations. We know what we want but won’t be upset or get frustrated if things don’t pan out. Biggest thing we want to do is keep on loving on our kids and make sure they continue to get better. We play in one of the toughest districts in the state but as long as our kids focus on the little things that we are teaching and focus on becoming better people, things on the field will take care of themselves."
On Coach Nevels' board is a sign that says "Be patient, but never lower your expectations." If the Bulldogs can follow the new head man, expect them to continue to get better throughout the season and by seasons’ end be a tough opponent for an opposing district in the playoffs. The Ben Nevels era will kick off August 23rd at home against Holy Cross.
Players to watch:
Jonathon Scruggs - The senior running back is arguably the fastest back in Northern Kentucky and should be able to make a lot of plays for Holmes in every facet of the game as he will return kicks and punts, play multiple positions on offense, and anchor a defensive secondary. With his speed and athleticism, expect Coach Nevels to get him the ball in space a lot this season.
Fred Vickers - Vickers is a kid battling for the quarterback position but could be used elsewhere on offense due to his speed, quickness, and explosiveness. These same attributes are the reason he will make a name for himself defensively, as well.
Dashawn Brumfield - Brumfield, who is only a sophomore, is a part of a young and talented group that will be seen on Holmes roster this season. Brumfield is a quarterback with a good arm but could also be seen at the wide receiver position.
Shondell Mincey - Mincey is another sophomore wide receiver that has a lot of potential because of his speed and athleticism. Expect him to be challenged early to make plays.
Shawn Sudlin - Shawn is a defensive kid that will use his work ethic and will to play for every one he goes against. He is a kid that stays in the weight room and simply goes hard every play, on top of being a straight A student in the classroom. "A coaches’ dream" as Coach Nevels explained.
Brendan Johnson (OL/DL) - Brendan is the big man up front. On film he jumps out at you due to his quickness and size and is already receiving interest from colleges. Coach Nevels feels he has the opportunity to do some special things at Holmes.