For the first time since 2013, the Minford Falcons football team has started an undefeated 5-0. But from the attitude of the captains of this years Falcons team, and from head coach Jesse Ruby, you would not assume that this was a team who feels like they have already accomplished something. In fact, it feels like quite the opposite effect has overtaken the players, a feeling that has pushed them to work that much harder to continue their winning ways. That is not to say they are not proud of the progress they have made at the half way point in the 2018 season, but they know there is much more to accomplish as they prepare for their SOC II opening game against the Portsmouth West Senators this Friday night.
“It’s a great honor” said senior captain Chase Workman, “We’ve really been working hard all season and so far, it’s really been paying off.” Workman’s sentiment was shared by his teammates following their practice and film sessions Monday afternoon. “It’s really exciting” said another senior captain, Luke Lindamood, “We have a really good mindset in the locker room. Every week, we try not to look ahead too much. We try to take it one game at a time.”
Senior captain Ethan Lauder said that even though it’s a pretty surreal experience for himself and his teammates, they’re still working as hard as ever and not overlook any game this season. “It’s unreal, really” said Lauder, “This being our senior year, we haven’t really had a season like this. I think we’re all enjoying it. But we’re trying to take it one game at a time, focus on what we can do, and try to sharpen our play every week.”
This season marks the third of head coach Jesse Ruby’s tenure in the head role, but before that he was an assistant coach under the last Minford coach to start 5-0, Brent Daniels. In Ruby’s first two seasons, the Falcons finished with records of 5-5 and 4-6, meaning that so far this season his club has already matched his highest win total since he became the head coach. Ruby said he feels the excitement level coming from his kids thanks to their great start so far this year. “It’s a much better feeling when you come out to practice and you’re 3-0 or 4-0, versus having a losing record” said Ruby, “The kids are a lot more optimistic and excited to come out and work hard for us as coaches, and that’s something we’re glad to see.”
Ruby said also that the community support for his team has been very exuberant in the early stages of the season. “I see a lot more people in the stands” said Ruby, “It seems like the more people I talk to, the more upbeat people are about the things we’re doing. The Minford community has always been very supportive of our football program, even in years where we might not be doing as well, and I’m very thankful for that. Student section, cheerleaders, and the band have all been great for us. And even the teachers, community members, former players; everyone seems to be very supportive of us.”
The 2018 iteration of the Falcons are very strong on both sides of the ball in that they are outscoring their opponents on average by a score of 35.4-6.6 through their first five games, a differential that is large enough for second best in the SOC II only behind the Waverly Tigers.
The Minford offense is led by senior quarterback Kelton Kelley who leads the team with 566 yards 7 TDs and 1 INT in the air and is second on the roster in rushing yards with 338 yards through his team’s first five games.
The leading rusher for the Falcons is Ty Wiget, who is second in the county in rushing yards only behind Portsmouth’s Talyn Parker with 553 yards and 10 rushing TDs through his team’s first five games. Wiget is also second on the Falcons roster in receiving yards and is tied for first in receiving touchdowns with two on the year.
The leading receiver for Minford is Matthew Risner, Kelley’s favorite target on the outside. Risner, on the season, has 12 catches for 209 yards and 2 TDs as well. Someone who has also played a large role is backup quarterback and all-around playmaker, Elijah Vogelsong. Kelley beat out Vogelsong in a quarterback competition this past offseason, a decision that has benefited both players as Vogelsong continues to shine in the backfield and as a receiver as a vital role in the Falcons undefeated start.
On the season, the Minford defense has only given up a total of 33 points, which is by far the best in the county and their conference. “We put a lot of hard work into our defense” said Lauder, “We try to put a lot of hours in film and give it our all when we’re out there on the practice field. Coach Matiz does a great job putting us in the right spots and telling us what to do, so I definitely think our hard work is paying off.”
Leading Minford’s defense in tackles and tackles for loss is Luke Lindamood who has amassed 61 tackles and 5 tackles for loss in his team’s first five games. Lauder and Vogelsong each are second and third on Minford’s roster in tackles this season with 39 and 29 respectively.
Kelley knows how important it is to have such a strong defense to be able to rely on no matter the circumstance. “Coach Matiz has done a great job with our defensive guys to put them in a position to make plays” said Kelley, “I feel really comfortable knowing that when I come off the field, they’ll be able to make the plays they need to make.”
Standing between the Falcons and that illustrious 6-0 is county rival and conference foe, the Portsmouth West Senators. The Senators stood in the way of the Falcons chance at a 6-0 start back in 2013, the Falcons last attempt in which they were one game away from starting 6-0 as well. In the Senators most recent game against northeast Kentucky powerhouse, the Raceland Rams, the Rams were able to steal a road victory against West because they were able to control both lines of scrimmage.
Ruby believes that that will be the key to his team’s chances heading into this Friday night’s heavyweight match-up. “Control of the line of scrimmage is very critical in this game” said Ruby, “Limiting mistakes: offensively, limiting turnovers and defensively, limiting big plays. It’s going to be a tough and close ball game. Many of the years I’ve been here, West-Minford is always a tough close ball game.”
For the players and coaches, they’re hoping local fans will come out and support them this Friday in both teams’ opening conference game. “It’d mean a lot to have a packed stadium” said Lauder, “It’s going to be homecoming night, first SOC game. 6-0 sounds a lot better than 5-1. The more people that come out, the better it’s going to be for us.” Fellow captain Chase Workman agreed with Lauder’s sentiment. “We need the stands to be packed and for everyone to be loud” said Workman, “It’s homecoming, we just want everyone to come out and support us and hopefully support us to a win.”
Ruby said he expects there to be a great atmosphere for Friday night’s contest on their home field with the Senators coming to play. “I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere” said Ruby, “It’s going to be pretty good weather, no rain. I think that, and the homecoming activities will bring a lot of people out to support us. The fact that West has had a good season, the fact that we’re having such a good season, I’m sure there will be plenty of fans on both sides of the field.”
Kickoff for Friday night’s contest between the Falcons and the Senators is slated for 7 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT