New Lexington Football Provides Small Teams With More Experience

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NEW LEXINGTON, Ohio — High school football is at the heart of fall in Southeast Ohio.

But the smaller schools in our region have a hard time competing with larger teams. There just aren’t enough players on the roster to challenge varsity lineups in practice.

That was the case for the New Lexington Panthers.

“We’ve got a roster of about 43, so our [starters] are going against freshmen and sophomores,” head coach Kevin Board said.

This year, Board wanted to change that. Nearly a dozen schools are traveling to Perry County this month for the New Lexington seven-on-seven summer league.

“To get [our starters] to come out and compete against other guys, juniors, seniors, it’s an opportunity for us to get some good competition as well as the other schools,” he said.

With fewer players on the field and none of the hard-hitting action, it’s a completely different sport. But it serves as an opportunity for offenses to test their playbooks, and for defenses to work on coverage schemes.

And for the Panthers, it’s a chance to build chemistry with a new starting quarterback.

“It’s a time for me to connect with my receivers … I haven’t thrown to these guys in-game,” senior Hunter Kellogg said. “Last year too, we didn’t get that time to throw with our guys, so now I’m throwing to them against really high-level competition on other varsity teams.”

Board says he spread the news via social media and mass emails in an effort to reach teams outside of their conference.

He also reconnected with old coaching friends in the region, including Warren head coach Matt Kimes.

“He reached out, said he was doing this. I said why not, we’ve got a bunch of young skill guys we’re trying to break in and get work in,” Kimes said. “It’s always better to go against someone else than yourselves.”

But it’s more than just an opportunity for New Lexington and friends to rebuild. Board said that he wanted to extend a hand to the region’s smallest football powerhouses.

“Trimble’s a real small school, and Nelsonville-York … the reps they’re getting here, they’ll play four games tonight, and that’s reps they’re not able to really get in practice,” he said.

Board said he looks forward to seeing his young lineup of skill players fill the gaps left by last year’s graduates.

As for the road ahead, he has high hopes for the league’s future.

“I would love to keep it going. We’re not trying to make a buck off of it — I told the coaches it’s free, it’s just free reps, and that’s really what it’s about,” Board said. “I’d love to make it a bigger deal where we bring in 16 teams and have it at two different fields and really make a day out of it.”

The league will continue at Jim Rockwell Stadium for two more weeks before the last and largest session July 28.