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West Jessamine aims for turnaround under new head coach, erase memory of winless 2019 season

(KyForward is previewing the upcoming football season for many high school programs in Central Kentucky. The season is scheduled to begin Sept. 11.)

By Chad Hensley
Special to KyForward

The kickoff to the Kentucky high school football season is three weeks away, and West Jessamine is looking to turn around the program with a new head coach.

Scott Marsh has taken over a Colts football program that went 10-22 in three seasons under John Gilliam, including an 0-10 campaign in 2019. Marsh returns to the Bluegrass State after having grown up in Ashland and playing college football at Morehead State.

While Marsh may be new to coaching in Kentucky, he is a veteran of the sideline after having been the head coach at three Indianapolis schools. Marsh also spent time at T.C. Howe (2008), Perry Meridian (2009-15) and Roncalli (2017-19).

Scott Marsh

The restrictions that have been put in place for high school football by the KHSAA have greatly affected every team. Those same restrictions, however, might have aided the implementation of new offensive and defensive schemes for the Colts under a new head coach.

“We were able to slow things down and teach more than normal,” said Marsh, who led Roncalli to a 7-6 record and Class 4A Section 22 title in 2019 after starting the season 0-4. “It actually hasn’t been bad.”

One player that Marsh will be counting on for big numbers on both offense and defense will be Jackson Green. Green, at 6-foot, 185-pounds, plays both wide receiver and defensive back. He is used to juggling multiple responsibilities as he is also a star on the Colts baseball team, batting .400 as a sophomore in 2019.

Green also plays basketball and helped guide West Jessamine to the 12th Region Tournament title last season. With the success from both baseball and basketball, Green will be looking to add a successful senior campaign on the gridiron.

Green was one of the lone bright spots for the Colts in 2019. He finished with 853 receiving yards on 63 catches and scored 13 touchdowns, all of which were team highs. Despite only having 18 tackles as a defensive back, his presence was felt with his pass defense as he tallied four interceptions — two returned for touchdowns. Green also added a kickoff return for a score.

Marsh expects Green to challenge for all-state honors by the end of the season.

Along with Green returning on offense, the Colts bring back four other starters including juniors Carlos Plascencia (OL) and Ernest Stanfield (WR) as well as seniors Jackson Campbell (OL) and Hayden Rowland (RB).

Rowland will be called upon to increase his rushing yardage from 2019 after he gained only 169 yards on 76 carries. West Jessamine averaged just 60.9 yards per game last season. Rowland caught 11 passes out of the backfield for 76 yards.

Stanfield will also be called upon for more production after tallying one touchdown on eight receptions and 141 yards.

Noah Reliford put up the best numbers of the four quarterbacks last year. Unfortunately for Reliford and the Colts, the numbers he produced were in six games during his senior campaign. Reliford threw for 1,014 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Replacing Reliford as the primary signal caller for the Colts will be Jacob Jones, who like Marsh is new to the program. Jones saw limited action while on the Henry Clay High School football team in 2019, but the sophomore has already been offered a scholarship by University of Kentucky assistant football coach Vince Marrow.

Should Jones eventually go to UK and play in three years, he would be doing so following in the footsteps of his father and 1989 Kentucky Mr. Football winner Pookie Jones. When the younger Jones suits up for the Colts, it will be the second time that a member of the Jones family and a member of the Green family would have been teammates.

In addition to being a star on the football field for the Wildcats, Pookie Jones was also a member of the baseball team and a teammate to Chad Green in 1994. Chad Green is the father of Jackson Green and is the summer baseball coach for both his son and Jacob Jones.

The defensive unit gave up 280.9 yards rushing per game last season and will need to improve without the help of any returning lineman. Six players return on defense for the Colts, including Green and fellow seniors Caden Dowlen (LB), Bryson Scott (LB) and Willy Milfort (DB) in addition to juniors Hunter Chastain (LB) and Ian Fain (DB).

Dowlen led the defense with 68 tackles, while Milfort (40), Fain (34), Chastain (17) and Scott (12) all contributed valuable minutes. Scott was also the leading rusher on offense with 177 yards.

Marsh said his team will need to build depth as the season progresses, but pointed out that the team’s biggest strength will be its returning skill players.

“We have a good group that can run and catch,” said Marsh, who will bring along his son Luke to add much-needed depth on the defensive line and tight end positions.

West Jessamine competes in Class 5A District 7 with Collins, East Jessamine, Madison Southern and Woodford County. West has not defeated East since Sept. 19, 2014, when the Colts defeated the Jaguars 28-25.

The 2020 non-district schedule is littered with schools ranging from Class 3A (Mercer County) to Class 6A (Dunbar) and will be challenging enough for the Colts to know that they will be battle tested by the end of the season and ready for the playoffs.

This fall may be one of those building block-type of seasons for the Colts to learn Marsh’s systems and he wants his team to be students of the game no matter what the outcome of the season should be.

“Learn the game and learn to practice hard and execute on Friday nights,” Marsh said of his goals for the team.

Sept. 11 – SOUTH LAUREL, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 – PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 – @ East Jessamine*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 – WOODFORD COUNTY*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 – SCOTT HIGH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 – @ Madison Southern*, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23 – COLLINS*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 – @ Mercer County, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 6 – @ Lincoln County, 7:30 p.m.
* = District Game






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