Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Dixie's success due to seniors


21 classmates carrying load for Colonels

BY MARK SCHMETZER
Enquirer contributor

[dixie captains]
Dixie Heights defensive captains: Scott Stamper, Bob Zeller, Andy Schneider, Chris Richie and Brent Blackwell.
(Josh Biggs photo)
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        Dixie Heights lineman Brett Blackwell has been able to leave most of the Colonels' leadership duties to the skill-position players this season.

        But there have been times the senior offensive tackle knew he had to say something. That's part of the role he and his 20 classmates have accepted in Dixie's most successful season in years.

        “We were down 3-0 at halftime of the Conner game,” Blackwell said. “The coaches were pretty frustrated with us. They came in and told us what we needed to do, and then they left. They said they were leaving it to the seniors.

        “So I took it upon myself to step up and point some guys out. I guess I kind of raised my voice. I got on some guys. I challenged them, and we came out in the second half firing.”

        The Colonels won that game 27-9 and the next week beat Covington Catholic, their first win over their Dixie Highway neighbor since 1977. Two more Class AAA playoff victories have followed.

        “Brett's our leader,” coach Tom Spritzky says. “He's the most mature and intelligent player on the team. He has helped the coaching staff keep the rest of the team in line and focused on the game that week.”

        Dixie (10-2) visits defending state champion Highlands (11-1) Friday in a regional final. Entering last year, Dixie hadn't even reached the playoffs in seven seasons.

        Much of the credit for Dixie's success goes to its senior class. Eight seniors are captains: Blackwell, tailback Jason Soden, fullback/linebacker Scott Stamper, quarterback Chris Unkraut, receiver Tom Unkraut, linebacker Bob Zeller, receiver/defensive back Andy Schneider and defensive lineman Chris Richie. Said Spritzky: “Each one of them has probably improved in one area or another, but what's probably most noticeable is their maturity. Each year they've gotten a year older and a year wiser. They've handled the pressure of being considered one of the best teams in the area. I think they've met the expectations that have been laid out for them. They handled the expectations of all the attention, which Dixie has not had in a long time, with great maturity. They've stayed focused on the task at hand.”

        The accomplished class will leave its mark on the Colonels' record book. Chris Unkraut has set the single-season record with 1,788 passing yards, and school officials are trying to determine if he's closing in on the career record. Similarly, Soden's 1,731 rushing yards either are or are close to the school single-season record.

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