It’s time for Hornet football and this year’s team could be one of the best in years. Hancock County opens the season this Friday night when they travel to Harned to take on the Breckinridge County Fighting Tigers.
Head coach Bobby Eubanks begins his eighth season as leader of the football program at HCHS. The team won seven games in 2021 and they’re going for more this year.
“We’re excited. We have 16 seniors this year and a lot of those guys have been playing since they were freshmen. We have over 50 kids on our roster, which is the most we’ve had since I started as an assistant coach here in 2010. It’s really good seeing these numbers and to see people catching on and getting pumped up for Hornet football,” Eubanks said.
This season also marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the football program at Hancock County.
“The community is kind of buzzing about that, too,” the coach said.
The Hornets run a hard nosed offense with a pounding running game, but they can also beat teams with their aerial attack.
Cole Dixon is back at quarterback after missing most of last season with a knee injury. The senior went down during a 27-14 loss to Crittenden County last September. Dixon can move the ball on the ground and through the air. Drew Lyday stepped in for Dixon last year and did an admirable job. Lyday is expected to be utilized at QB in some sets and he is a starter on defense.
In the past the Hornets, like most high school teams, have a run based offense with a limited passing attack. But coach Eubanks opened up his playbook last year and ‘aired it out’. Even with his QB1 going down for the year early in the fifth game the Hornet offense racked up nearly a thousand yards through the air in 2021.
“We base our offense on what our kids can do and this group of kids has really been able to take everything we’ve thrown at them,” Eubanks said. “This year you’ll see the culmination of their growth over the last four years.”
Fans will see an aerial attack again in 2022 but opposing defenses will have to stop the fullback if they want to stay in the game.
“When you have guys like Logan Willis, Jack Duncan and Alex Basham who are 200 plus pounds running the football it’s exciting to watch. And Kaleb Keown can get on the edge. He’s really changed his body and he catches the ball well. He’ll be a big part of what we do.”
Fullback Logan Willis is back for his senior year and will again man the featured running position for the Hornets. Willis led the team with 1,197 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Senior Jack Duncan will also see action at fullback after late game heroics in an overtime win at Butler County and in the playoffs at Todd County. Both guys start at linebacker on defense. Duncan was second on the team with 132 tackles.
Aiden Weatherholt is back after leading the Hornet defense with 134 stops in 2021. The reclassified junior had a team best 10 QB sacks and he’ll be a big problem for opposing offenses in 2022. Aiden can also be a valuable asset on offense as his speed allowed him to cross the goal line five times last year.
Austin Volocko is another senior known for making acrobatic interceptions and of course for his long hair. Austin led the team with four picks and added 55 tackles. He is the team’s leading returning receiver.
Kaleb Keown is a big senior at 6–4 and was the team’s second leading receiver last year. He’s played multiple positions on offense including tight end, wide receiver, running back and quarterback. He was tied for the team lead in 2-point conversions (Willis) last year and he can be utilized in the defensive secondary if needed.
Another returning starter is reclassified junior Alex Basham. Alex can carry the pigskin, but his biggest impact has come on the defensive line where he made 52 tackles, with four sacks, 11 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries last year.
Colin Johnson came into his own last year defensively with 43 tackles and three stops for loss. He’s back for his senior season at linebacker along with starters Braydon Wathen and Aiden Embry (D-line) and Evan Ferry (wide receiver). Landen Garrison (junior) is a player who could make an impact this season in the backfield on both sides of the ball.
Seniors Kaleb Swihart (205 lbs.) and Aaron Garrett (220 lbs.) are back and are mainstays on the Hornets offensive line. They make everything go, along with sophomores Luke Pritchard (210 lbs.) and freshmen Tristan French (245 lbs.) and Cade Herndon (265 lbs.). Freshman Cooper Jones is set to start at defensive back. Hornet defenders racked up more than 60 tackles for a loss last year and sacked opposing quarterbacks 24 times. Fans can expect to see more of that this year.
“It’s going to be exciting to watch those guys play. They fly around the football,” Eubanks said. “The guys up front are really fast and it seems like our linebackers have been playing since they were born. It’s been really tough to move the ball against them in practice.”
Six home games this year
The Hornets will have six regular season home games in 2022. After beginning with road games at Breck and Muhlenberg counties the boys will start a 5-game home stand.
“We lucked out when we added Tell City to our schedule. That added an extra home game and it should be fun. For our 50th anniversary – if you want to watch Hornet football you’re going to have plenty of opportunities here at home.”
Eubanks has a quality coaching staff who have been with the program for many years. Most played for Hancock County during their high school days.
Brice Duncan is the defensive coordinator, along with assistant coaches Jeremy Estes (D-line), Ernie Garrison (Linebackers), Trevor Garrison (offensive coordinator), Jared Taylor (O-line), Ethan Hughes (Strength and conditioning) and Devin Thomas (O-line, D-line). Chris Garrett, Chris Richards and Trinity Hinton do the filming, Kirk Shearn in on stats and Brady Eubanks is the manager.
“We have a great coaching staff. They’re experienced and they love Hornet football. It’s a real benefit for the kids to have the coaches we have.”
By Steve Wimmer