FKHS football team aims for first winning season in 16 years with improved culture, increased talent pool
Story by G. Anthonie Riis on 08/21/2019
Almost 50 students tried out for the Fort Knox High School football team this year, despite the program’s not having a winning season in more than 15 years.
Players said second-year head coach Wes Arnold started the football fervor last season and that his enthusiasm is infectious.
“The buzz all comes from the head coach. He promotes this program a lot,” said Sydney Gradney, a senior who plays running back. “He’s gotten us in contact with Garrison and gotten them excited to support us. The post has really become a community with a small-town feel [where] everyone is coming together to support us.”
Arnold said the momentum began slowly and was built through relationships.
“I didn’t take a lunch break one time last year. I was in the gym, in the cafeteria, I went to every basketball game and track meet because I wanted to talk to the kids,” Arnold said. “If you have relationships with the kids, that’s what is going to get them out to play. It was being there every day to develop those relationships.”
Arnold said it was a tradeoff that has produced numbers.
“Football is a numbers issue in a lot of places, but we’re very fortunate here, Arnold said” “The school is smaller than it’s ever been in its history, but we have almost 50 kids on the team this year. We’re extremely athletic with multiple [track and field] titles we’ve got just about everybody from the basketball team this year.
“We have raw talent that we’re developing. They’re athletes [who are] becoming football players.”
It’s this reserve that coaches and players alike said they believe will give Fort Knox an edge later on.
“Last season, we had 20 guys and that was with 14 guys playing both ways [defense and offense], and that makes for a long and hard season,” said quarterback Trey Rowsey, a senior and the team captain. “That really tires out a team. We expect that by the 3rd or 4th game, these guys will really start to step up, and starters on offense won’t have to play defense so much. That will really make a difference.”
Rowsey said a deep bench could make all the difference as the team learns to play the game better.
“Right now we’re a defensive team, but we’re showing glimpses of our passing and running game in our scrimmages. It’s coming together and once we hit our stride everything will start clicking.”
It’s a lesson that Arnold has learned from experience and one of the things he’s counting on.
“When I was the assistant coach, there were times that we forfeit games due to low numbers,” Arnold said. “As the season goes on and the smaller teams wear down, we’ll have the numbers to propel us into the second half of the season. We might look rough at the start, but we want to look good when the district schedule hits.”
The groundwork has been done, and Arnold said he wants to build a winning program for years to come.
“We’ve totally reset this team. With all new coaches, an all-new offense and defense and some great senior leadership with Trey Rowsey as our leader, we’re going to be a fun and entertaining team to watch,” said Arnold. “We hope this makes people want to live on post and choose [to come] to Fort Knox High School.”
A new team slogan expresses the team’s energy best.
“We haven’t had a winning team since 2002 and we haven’t beaten our rival, Fort Campbell, in 16 years, but we’ve got the team to get over that hump and become a competitive program again,” Arnold said. “Our new motto, Lock the Gate’ is on our shirts and throughout our halls. It means we lock the gate behind you. We’re going to war and we’re going to battle until we come out on top.
“That’s our attitude. These guys are super athletic and they believe they can win.”
The team begins its football season with an away game against Paris. Fort Knox players will debut new white uniforms, and they encouraged fans to wear white in a show of team support.