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2022 Prep Football Previews: Ryle wide receiver expects to ring up bigger numbers this season

The NKyTribune is featuring players on each of the 21 high school football teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties leading up to the first games of the 2022 season on Aug. 19. We will then provide focused coverage of our local teams throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

By Blake Lehmann

NKyTribune sports reporter

Ryle senior Kaden Gardner expects the Ryle football team to pick up where it left off last season when the Raiders posted a 9-4 record and made it to the quarterfinals of the Class 6A state playoffs for the first time since 2016.

“We have a good shot at making state again this year,” said Gardner, a wide receiver and defensive back. “I think we can make it further into the playoffs.”

Ryle senior Kaden Gardner was the team’s leading pass receiver last season with 786 yards and seven touchdowns.

Three of Ryle’s four losses last season were by 10 points or less and came against teams at the top of their respective classes, including eventual Class 6A state champion Louisville St. Xavier.

Gardner said the Raiders need to enter this season with the mentality that they belong among the top dogs in the state.

“We’ve got the talent and we’ve got the potential,” he said. “We also have to have that mentality of being one of the top teams in 6A because starting last year we didn’t have that mentality going to our first game, which ended up being our first loss. Then we picked it up and ended up in the quarterfinals.”

Ryle had a balanced offensive attack last season, passing for more than 2,300 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 2,136 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Gardner was one of the Raiders’ main offensive threats, racking up a team-high 786 receiving yards and scoring seven touchdowns. He has received scholarship offers from several colleges, including Indiana State, Dayton and Thomas More.

Despite the likelihood of defenders trying to key in on him, Gardner expects to be even more productive in Ryle’s high-energy offense during his senior season with his teammates getting in on the action as well.

Kaden Gardner

“I feel like I can put up even more numbers,” he said. “I’m shooting to put up more than a dozen yards receiving (per reception). I know teams are going to be focusing on me, but we still have other weapons as well.”

With Gardner returning alongside junior quarterback Logan Verax, the passing game looks to be Ryle’s strong suit. Even though two of the team’s top three rushers last season have graduated, Gardner said opponents can’t overlook the Raiders’ ground game.

“I believe that we’re going to be a big passing team, but we can also run it as well,” Gardner said. “We’ve been going through three different running backs, one who’s really fast, a couple of guys who are power backs.”

The Raiders lost three seniors on their starting offensive line, but their replacements must be stepping up. Gardner said the new group has been “protecting the quarterback well” in preseason scrimmages.

Last year, Gardner ranked third among the team’s leading tacklers with 59. The two ahead of him were linebackers Jackson Belk and Savage, who had a combined total of 295 tackles in their final season.

“We’re still running the same defense, but I think a big part for me is trying to step up and take accountability for them leaving,” Gardner said. “They want me to fly around and to make a play almost every time, but if not then to encourage other players to do their job and we’ll be just fine on defense.”

2021 SEASON: 
 9-4 record, lost in third round of Class 6A playoffs.
DISTRICT:  Class 6A, District 4 with Campbell County, Cooper, Simon Kenton.
HEAD COACH:  Mike Engler (56-37 in eight seasons at Ryle).

Aug. 19 – at Lexington Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 – at Conner, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 – COOPER, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 – DAVIESS COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 – HIGHLANDS, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 – at Louisville St. Xavier, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 – CAMPBELL COUNTY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 – DIXIE HEIGHTS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 – at Simon Kenton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 – COVINGTON CATHOLIC, 7 p.m.

Other NKyTribune prep football previews:


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