Senior left tackle Kyle Meadows believes this could be the year that Lakota West returns to the postseason after it has suffered back-to-back losing seasons.
“Right now, we are at the bottom of the totem pole and we want to go to the playoffs. Ever since Jordan Hicks signed (with Texas after 2009 season), we wanted to get back there,” Meadows said recently after a summer practice session.
“Expectations are very high. We are going to work more than 100 percent … we will not stop at all. It is unbelievable the talent we have. We just have to put it to good use.”
As evident by the numerous college scholarship offers, Meadows is among the most talented players on the roster. The senior anchors an offensive line, which still doesn’t know who will be under center to start the season.
“The best thing I got right now is that I got two real good quarterbacks,” Lakota West head coach Larry Cox said of his two junior QBs Malik Grove and Tyler Jones. “I have a luxury and I am going to use that luxury.
“To be honest that is something that won’t play out until the end.”
Last summer, Cox made the decision just days from the season opener to start Jones over Grove and then junior Dustin Parker.
Despite losing six of his seven starts, Jones finished fifth in passing yards in the Greater Miami Conference, threw nine touchdowns and rushed for three more in 2011.
In Week 7, Grove replaced Jones and nearly led the Firebirds to an upset victory over Colerain. In that game, Grove completed 14-of-23 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
After the heartbreaking defeat, Grove would start the remaining three games for Lakota West and helped lead the team to wins against Hamilton and Lakota East.
“It is kind of like the Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez situation,” Grove joked about the current quarterback controversy at West. “We are both getting work at wide receiver too … it will be alright.”
During summer practice, the quarterbacks have been competing against the other. At the same time, they have also been completing passes to each other and are in agreement – they just want to do what is best for the team.
“It is tough, but like he (Grove) said, he is willing to play anywhere on the field and I am willing to play anywhere on the field,” Jones said. “As long as I am helping the team, that is all that matters to me.
“We just have to be consistent, keep working and push each other every single day.”
Another player, who hopes to help the team, is incoming junior Mikel Horton. The running back, who is listed at 6-foot-1 230 pounds by Rivals.com, has transferred in from Lakota East where he led the team in rushing with 662 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011.
This spring, Horton turned some heads at the Ohio Nike Football Training Camp in Columbus. ESPN scribe Michael White, who witnessed the camp, wrote of Horton – “Big back with good quickness for his size. Performed at a high level in every drill. Impressed coaches with willingness to block, which he did very well.”
Horton called it a “great experience” and could start receiving offers if he earns the starting running back job at West.
As far as offers already made, Meadows leads the team with offers from Louisville, Ohio, Youngstown State, Toledo, Pittsburgh, Akron, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, West Virginia, Northern Illinois, Florida State, Purdue, Kansas, North Carolina State and Kentucky.
His teammate and fellow senior Mike Kelly, who will play linebacker and tight end this fall, received his first offer earlier this week from Lafayette College. The senior, who is the brother of University of Alabama offensive lineman Ryan Kelly, also has a 3.9 GPA and has attracted the attention of Ivy League programs like Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Cornell. Mid-American Conference schools like Ball State and Miami have also shown interest in Kelly.
“I am ready to do whatever it takes to win some games and not go 3-7 again because that is not happening,” Kelly said.
“We are looking good. I like the way our team is playing together right now as opposed to last year. We have a lot more chemistry.”
After making the postseason with a 9-1 regular season record in 2010, the Firebirds have finished 3-7 in each of the past two seasons. Another losing season in 2012 would mark the first time in the program’s history where it has had three straight losing seasons.