Since taking over the Campbell County football program, head coach Steve Lickert has taken the Camels to levels never experienced before in South Alexandria. The Camels have won back-to-back 6A District titles and are coming into this season off a 7-5 campaign where they advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Camels were also open the new season with a brand new football field and facility that allows them to finally play on the high school campus.
"A lot of kids are coming out," said Coach Lickert. "We’ve had some success and the kids are excited to play on our new field. We’ve won back to back district titles and we want to keep doing that."
One of the big reasons for the success for the Camels over the past two seasons was quarterback Tyler Durham. Last season he put up 1,371 yards through the air and also rushed for 1,800 yards. That type of production will be tough to replace as Durham has graduated and moved on. Still, Coach Lickert is excited about the offense of this year’s team.
"We’re not going to replace him (Durham) with one guy," said Coach Lickert. "There’s three guys battling for that quarterback spot and it’s going to be kind of like money ball as far as who’s rushing the ball and who’s throwing the ball."
The three guys battling for that quarterback spot include senior Avery Wood, junior Preston Spicer, and 6’7 sophomore Matt Wilson, who is also a standout for the basketball team. Wood played tight end last season and returns as a two year starter with a lot of toughness and football savvy whereas Brown is a more of a thrower that is working on being consistent. Wilson is the wildcard in the equation. At 6’7, he has all the tools to be very good in the future.
Returning at the running back position includes Alex Howard, who started at running back last season, Josh Carroll, and Brandon Morris. Morris and Carroll are a little less experienced, but Howard rushed for 490 yards a season ago on 90 carries.
"We’ve got two spots (at running back) and all three of those guys run the ball well," said Coach Lickert.
Despite having a new quarterback this season, the Camels should be able to continue to have success through the air as they return Nate Hess and leading receiver from last season, Jake Zabonick, who had 28 catches for 731 yards and 7 touchdwowns a year ago.
"Jake Zabonick is a fantastic football player, " said Coach Lickert. "We are really excited about him."
The strength of the Camels offense, however will be up front where they return 4 starters from last year’s group. That group includes Logan, Schnider, Josh Griffith, and Jordan Mason but it is the transfer of 6’7 335 lb Shemar Wise that will make this group stand out.
"He’s (Wise) got really good feet and is working himself into shape," said Coach Licket on the Withrow transfer. "We’re really excited about our offensive line."
With that type of experience back, expect the Camels to have a very good run game and be able to spread the ball around enough through the air to keep the defense honest.
Despite the excitement about the offense, it is the defense that should be the 2013 Camels as they return 7 starters, including all of their linebackers.
"We expect to be very good up front defensively," said Coach Lickert. "Patrick Berkemeyer and Earl Sebastian return and at linebacker we return 5 guys who played a lot of football last year."
The Camels will put a lot of speed out on the field and with the type of experience they return at linebacker and up front, should have a very good run defense.
Leading the defense will be Joe Kramer who is going to be a 3 year starter, along with safety Dustin Turner who will also be a 3 year starter. Those two won’t be the only ones making an impact, however as linebackers Nick Sauerback, Austin Metz, and Austin Meyers return to go along with defensive back Eli Matthews.
The Camels will open their season August 23rd when they christen their new home field against Newport. After that, Steve Lickert’s team will play at Highlands, home vs Newport Catholic, then away vs Cooper and Conner before opening up district play and closing with Holy Cross.
What do the non-district opponents have in common?
"Those schools have played for state titles or won titles in the past 5 years," said Coach Lickert. "We’re really excited about playing those schools because they’re going to make us better for our district and that’s the goal. If we want to be champions, we have to be able to beat champions."
Every team is different as Coach Lickert alluded to with a Nick Saban reference but expectations are still high in Alexandria and the Camels expect to once again be right in the thick of things come the end of the season when they are competing for a district championship.
"This is a new team. A new personality," said Coach Lickert. "But what these guys do is they work so hard. Our goal is to be the last team standing in our district. The better our district gets, the better our chances are at going to play for a state championship and that’s gotta be the goal."
With Steve Lickert leading them, expect anything to be possible for this year’s version of the Campbell County Camels.
Players to Watch:
Avery Wood (TE or QB) - Wood has started at tight end for the past two seasons and is a physical kid with great hands. Whether he plays quarterback or tight end, expect him to be a great leader either way.
Joe Kramer (LB) - Kramer returns as a 3 year starter and is like having a coach on the field. Great football player but an even better leader and student of the game.
Jake Zabonick (WR) - Zabonick is a tall, fast receiver with great hands that is great after the catch. He recently broke the school record in the 100M dash in track.
Alex Howard (RB) - Strongest pound for pound kid on the team, and very fast.
Patrick Berkemeyer (OL)- Great work ethic, improved speed and strength. Ultimate team player.
Logan Schneider (OL) - Strong with very good feet. Could dominate the line of scrimmage.
Dustin Turner (SS) - Turner is a 3 year starter that has matured a lot and should have a great year.
Nick Sauerback (LB) - Nick is your typical Sauerback Campbell County linebacker. Fast, strong, and athletic.
Austin Myers (MLB) - Myers is a state champion wrestler. Very big and strong.
Eli Matthews (DB) - Mathews is described as the most versatile player on the team and an athletic freak.