Last season things did not begin well for starting quarterback Aubrey Nelson and the Montgomery County varsity football team as they lost their initial three games, including two at home to Winfield 28-16 on Aug. 25 and 13-6 to Van-Far/Community R-6 in their Eastern Missouri Conference opener.
To make things worse in that first league game of last year on Sept. 1 the Wildcats also lost running back Corey Kroll to injury for what amounted to the rest of his prep career and then went on to finish 4-6 overall, 4-3 EMO, without their best player.
While head coach John Klekamp and staff believe the season had much better things in store for Montgomery County if that one mishap hadn't happened, the way things ended was with consecutive losses to North Callaway 55-21 to end the regular season and 60-7 in the round one of the playoffs.
Now, while they might not have had a signing day during their days as Wildcats, Nelson and Kroll have a chance to literally take things to the next level because they've both signed their National Letter of Intent to play for the Westminster College Football Team in Fulton starting this fall.
"Corey Kroll was our most dynamic offensive threat going into last season. Corey played a unique position for us as our main ball carrier and one of our main receiving targets," said Klekamp "Corey finished his junior season as a 1,300 yard rusher and many would say that most of those yards came against second string players and bad teams. If you go back and watch film during his junior season, Corey made big plays against every team and against the best that those teams had to offer."
During that trio of contests Corey Kroll did play for the Wildcats last year, he gained 242 rushing yards on 28 carries with one touchdown. He also had three receptions for 64 yards and a pair of scores and he punted eight times for 257 yards. Kroll paid his dues on defense, as well, making six tackles with one fumble recovery according to www.maxpreps.com.
"Corey was one of the only proven offensive playmakers that we have fielded over the past three years," Klekamp said. "During week three, the same week we lost our starting quarterback, Corey suffered a major lower leg injury that end up being season ending. On the defensive side of the ball, Corey was slated to play safety and cornerback for us. Corey's biggest strength would be his overall natural strength and explosiveness."
One thing working in the favor of Kroll and Nelson is that there are already several other local players on this roster. That includes Vandalia's Lucas Robinson, Community R-6 grad and Mexico native Anthony Fairchild, Centralia's Tyler Dorman and former Bulldog's Matthew Huffman and Jonathon Grubb.
"Corey's brother Kyle attends Westminster College and plays football. That is how we became aware of Corey," said Westminster head coach John Welty. "Jake White recruits so he is also familiar with Corey. Corey is a very good football player with grades to match, which makes him not only a good fit for the football program but Westminster College, as well."
Last season the Blue Jays, which compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Div. III, finished with a record of 6-4 overall, 6-3 Saint Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Highlights included home wins over Iowa Weslyan 27-21 on Nov. 4, on Oct. 28 Westminster beat MacMurray 21-13 and on Oct. 14 the squad defeated Crown (Minn.) 56-15. The team also won 24-14 on Oct. 21 at Greenville.
"We look at Aubrey as another great fit for Westminster College both in the classroom and on the field. We have watched film on Aubrey and he has the potential to be a very productive football player," Welty said. "To comment on what he needs to improve on would be unfair to him. We look forward to seeing what Aubrey brings to the table and how we as coaches can help him improve."
During his final campaign as a Wildcat, Nelson completed 116-of-187 passes for 1,643 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 intyerceptions. He also ran the ball 163 times over the course of 10 games and was able to pick up another 742 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"The coaching staff planned to have Aubrey step right back into this defensive role with last seasons team. This plan quickly changed as our starting QB was injured during our week three contest," said Klekamp. "When this happened, Aubrey put himself in position to challenge our other QB for playing time. Aubrey is a special athlete and one of the more competitive players that I've coached. Aubrey went on to be our starter at QB, a position he never played, and lead our team to a 4-3 record."
This senior year for Nelson came after promising freshman and sophomore seasons with the team. The problem was he couldn't complete his second year of varsity football or play at all in year three because of injury, so until they got him on the field and saw what he had to offer the coaches truly didn't know what Nelson was working with regarding athletic skills. Considering the fact he went on to earn First Team All EMO accolades as a signal caller, it seems as though everything worked out just fine.
"Aubrey Nelson came back to the football program as a senior after taking a year and a half off following a major concussion during his sophomore season," Klekamp said. "Aubrey was a solid defensive player for us at the varsity level as both a freshmen and through the beginning of his sophomore season prior to his season ending injury. Aubrey's biggest strength as an athlete was always his competitiveness and an unwillingness to back down from an challenge athletically"
Both of these players don't have long until their skill sets are put to the test because Westminster begins the 2018-19 season on Sat., Sept. 8 at Millsaps at 1 p.m., on Sept. 15 the team hosts Iowa Wesleyan in its league opener at 1 p.m. and at noon on Sept. 22 the squad is at St. Scholastica. From there the Blue Jays welcome Greenville for a 1 p.m. SLIAC game on Sept. 29 followed by a trip to MacMurray on Oct. 6 for another 1 p.m. conference matchup and on Oct. 13 in league competition Nelson, Kroll and company travel to Martin Luther for a noon bout.
"Corey and Aubrey both have developed a high level of competitiveness in all of their athletic pursuits at Montgomery County," said Klekamp. "Although injuries slowed both their football careers, they were huge parts of our basketball program over their careers at Montgomery County. As they begin their college careers, their biggest challenge, like most successful high school athletes, is the level of commitment and time that they will have to dedicate on the practice field and in the weight room."