Kendrick’s Class 1A Division II state championship victory against Carey on Saturday capped off a 9-2 season and ended several droughts along the way.
But the road was bumpy along the way, especially early, to get the Tigers' first state title since 2001.
In Week 3, Kendrick lost 52-0 to eventual Class 1A Division I state champion Oakley and looked out of sorts after starting the season 2-0.
“When we got Oakley on the schedule, we got excited to play against a quality opponent,” Kendrick coach Zane Hobart said. “A game like that gives the kids a better look than we usually get in our league games.
“They play at a whole different speed. We knew if we were going to be playing in the state championship game, that was the speed we had to play at.”
After that loss, the Tigers went on to win seven out of their final eight games and outscored their opponents 418-98.
“We’re not very big but, after that loss, I think we found out that we have good team speed,” Hobart said. “We just drove home the idea that if you do your job, the guy next to you will do his job as well.”
The offense was at the forefront of Kendrick’s playoff run. But its defense deserves some credit as well. The Tigers came into the playoffs allowing a remarkably low eight points per game.
In the postseason, despite the opposition scoring 20 points per outing, the defense recorded multiple turnovers in each of the three games.
“The turnover margin is something we discuss every week and talk about how important it is especially in the playoffs,” Hobart said. “It’s something we do work on in practice with the first guy securing the tackle and the second guy coming in trying to rip the ball out.”
Against Carey, sophomore quarterback Ty Koepp was sacked twice, which was noteworthy because Kendrick's offensive line hadn’t allowed one in the playoffs. The young front line, which played at a high level, will return all of its starters next year except for Maison Anderson.
“I think we had one of the better lines in the state,” Hobart said. “The big thing that you saw in the playoffs was them gel together as a unit. They were also focusing on being more physical and winning at the line of scrimmage, which I think we did during every game in the playoffs.”
The Tigers, who lose just one player off this team, prepared like seasoned veterans, according to Hobart.
“I’ve been around these kids since they were in seventh grade and knew how intelligent they were,” he said. “In preparation, they worked really hard in practice and in film to get ready for the week ahead.”
Freshman running back Sawyer Hewett, who took his first varsity snaps in the postseason, will be back in 2022. He saved his best performance for the championship game where he had 15 carries for 101 yards. He credits the middle school football program for him for the next level.
“They’re coaching them the same things that we’re learning here,” Hewett said. “We’re going to have a bunch of good youth coming up and I’m looking forward to it.”
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