LB Kern a human highlight reel
BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend Panther middle linebacker Trenton Kern is a gentleman off the field.
But when the Friday Night Lights turn on, Kern owns his defensive personality.
“My favorite part of football is hitting people,” Kern said. “I knew I loved it once I started playing tackle football.”
Kern blocked a punt, forced a fumble and saved a shutout with a tackle on Dodge City quarterback Alan Flores.
His best defensive play occurred on the game’s opening kickoff with a tackle that forced a fumble by Dodge City’s Tochi Okoro. The Panthers scored first in a 28-0 shutout over Dodge City.
“My best play was the kickoff return when I hit the Dodge City guy,” he said. “I set the tone.”
His second-best play was a blocked punt that teammate Cooper Liles returned 60 yards for a touchdown. The touchdown was nullified on Kern’s illegal block.
“Knowing the flag was on me, I felt bad for Cooper,” he said. “Blocking a punt is hard. You’ve got to time it up. You watch the punter’s hands and know when he’s ready.”
His third highlight play was a fourth-down tackle when Dodge City’s Flores was racing for a first down.
“He was going to get a first down, but when I saw their quarterback roll out, I started moving,” Kern said.
Kern ranks third in the Western Athletic Conference with 50 tackles, five for losses. Kern has recovered two fumbles, tied for first.
He prefers a run game and reads the guards or fullback for a tendency.
“I love flying around the field hitting somebody,’ he said. “You’ve got to find the football. When you see counter, you’ve got to stop cutbacks and run to the football.”
Great Bend (3-2, 1-1 WAC) will travel to Liberal (5-0, 2-0 WAC) for the ultimate test against the WAC’s leading passer. Brooks Kapplemann has thrown for 1,195 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“Passing is tricky for the linebackers,” Kern said. “You’ve got drop to your zone, watch the running back and keeps your eyes on the quarterback to make sure he doesn’t roll out.”
Offensively, Kern anchors an offensive line averaging 166 yards rushing and 342 yards per game.
“My favorite play is a screen pass to Ian Premer when I get to block a cornerback or safety,” he said. “When we run 6-minute drives, I love running the football. If you run the football, they’ll start doubting themselves.”
Kern believes the Panthers’ best football is down the road.
“We’re getting closer,” he said. “Our defense is playing 11 men surrounding the football. It’s awesome getting two shutouts. We’re getting defensive guys back healthy. Our goal is to win out and head off to the playoffs.”
The only thing Kern hasn’t accomplished is talking head coach Erin Beck into being part of the kickoff return team.
“I get upset when I’m not on the kickoff return team,” he said. “I love being on the field. I love playing every play.”