ASHLAND The Eagles Nest will become the Dog Pound this summer.
Gridiron fans won’t have to wait until fall for their football fix. The Kentucky Huskies are a new semi-pro team that was formed last year and will play its home games on Fairview’s football field. It will compete in the Premier Amateur Football League.
Head coach and Raceland alum Jarrod Walker has coached semi-pro for several years and said many of his players have shown interest to bring this brand of football to the bluegrass.
“There has always only been teams in Ohio,” Walker said. “I had some guys from Lexington that have played for me before on the Portsmouth team. They said they want to play in Kentucky, and if I would do that, they would be with me. So we made it happen. So, we have area players and players from Lexington, Richmond and Berea, as well as players from all over this side of the state.”
Walker said the interest has been overwhelming. He gets messages every day inquiring if he has any open roster spots. But the personnel that followed him to Kentucky have made for a smooth transition as they get the organization started.
The Huskies have been practicing since September, meeting twice a month in Ashland and twice more in Lexington.
“We had to get approved (by the league) and submit our financials,” Walker said. “It’s an established league. We have a new commissioner and he’s trying to change the way semi-pro looks, get rid of the bad stuff and make it more family-oriented again. We had to get insurance. We already had players who wanted to play for us and we had to recruit more. Four more signed (on Saturday) and that will put us at 48.”
One of those players is Fairview grad Taylor Castro. He played for the Eagles and graduated in 2018. Castro will play outside linebacker and said he will love the chance to play semi-pro on the same field he did in high school.
“From elementary school to high school I watched great players come out of Fairview,” Castro said, ”and to get the chance to play semi-pro ball on that field is amazing.”
Walker said the Fairview school system has been very supportive.
“Fairview has been outstanding,” Walker said. “ Mrs. (Superintendent Jackie) Risden-Smith has been so great. Jason Morrison, the facility manager, has jumped through so many hoops to get us in there and get everything finalized.”
Castro has played in semi-pro since high school and said it was quite the adjustment period.
“Coming straight out of high school, it was pretty hard getting used to playing football with grown men,” Castro said. “I’ve been growing as an athlete and my I.Q. in football. It’s really been fun coming from different teams. Out of all the teams I’ve been on, this the closest it’s been to family.”
Former Ashland player Shane Davidson didn’t have to worry about the commute Saturday morning to pro football practice. He lived just a block away.
“It’s been really cool,” Davidson said, “being in town and getting to play where I’m from. It’s a great experience to play with guys that really want to play and we get to hit some people, so it’s really good.”
Davidson graduated in 2011 and believes that “everybody is putting in the effort to become one solid unit.”
Quinn Walker and Michael Clay played high school football in Lexington and have excelled as teammates in semi-pro. Walker will quarterback Kentucky’s spread offense.
“We have a whole lot of speed,” Walker said. “We have some nice linemen, so you will see a little run, but we run the spread, so you never know. You just have to try to catch us.”
Walker played at Henry Clay and Clay at Lafayette. The speedy wide receiver has already garnered interest from Virginia Tech.
“(The fans) are going to see a lot of different things,” Clay said. “We will also run a few special things that I am not going to say right now. It’s definitely going to be well worth it. We are ready to play.”
Jarrod Walker has coached both players from Lexington and they already knew what to expect during training camp.
“This will be my fourth year of semi-pro football,” Quinn Walker said. “Second year with coach Jarrod. It’s been fun. I’m playing with a lot of the guys that I grew up with. They didn’t play with me because we were at different high schools. It’s great to come together and play because we have so much talent.”
“We are going to have a great team,” Clay added. “We have been working hard and trying to get a great connection as a team. It’s good I know how he is as a coach and he knows how I am as a player. It’s easy to know what kind of offense and defense that we will run.”
Jarrod Walker said the team has meshed well together and team consists of experienced veteran players. They have been active in the community, helping the CASA at Christmas and giving out presents to foster kids. They participated in the Ashland Christmas parade.
The Huskies will play several games not far from home. Many road games are within driving distance, including one in Ironton and Cincinnati and two in Dayton.
“We are very disciplined,” Jarrod Walker said. “We always pick each other up and move on to the next play. We want to provide a family atmosphere. That way, people are comfortable to come and watch us play on Saturdays. It’s in the summer so everybody will have the opportunity to come out and watch some good football.”
Kentucky has a scrimmage with the Port City Spartans on March 28 before opening the season on May 9.
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