CENTRAL - Central High quarterback Sam Kenerson may have to choose between football and baseball for good at some point, but the choice he made over the summer was one that will benefit him regardless of what sport he plays.
A junior left-hander, Kenerson opted out of playing travel ball, choosing instead to keep his baseball activities local. It allowed him to focus on physical preparations for the coming football season, something he feels has helped him be a team leader.
So far, the results show that Kenerson’s work ethic has paid off.
After a jamboree win over St. Amant, which included his rushing touchdown and a 56-yard TD pass to Destin Franklin, Kenerson turned in his best career rushing game in a season-opening 36-34 loss to The Dunham School.
The Wildcats fell behind early before Kenerson’s feet gave them a chance to score the go-ahead points late in the game. He finished with 198 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.
“My offensive line was a big part of that,” Kenerson said. “They’ve improved in the offseason, too, and I’ve got confidence in them.”
Kenerson’s improvement began when he decided to stay close to home and work on his conditioning. It was a change that Central football coach Sid Edwards says will be a long-term benefit to Kenerson’s athletic career.
“He didn’t play as heavy a summer (baseball) schedule because he wanted to commit himself to the weight room,” Edwards said. “Sam never missed weights because he wanted to. He’s a rather unique talent in baseball and has an opportunity to go play around the country.
“But, I think he saw a need, not only for football but baseball, just from a physical conditioning and strength standpoint.”
It wasn’t hard for Kenerson to get noticed on the baseball field, especially with Central winning its second consecutive Class 5A state title last season. The team’s starting center fielder, Kenerson batted second in the lineup where his average was higher than .350 for the season.
In Central’s 4-0 championship game win over Sulphur in May, Kenerson collected two hits. Still, he was looking to prepare himself for football better than he had in previous summers.
“I hit the weight room harder than I ever have,” Kenerson said. “I’m not going to lie. Last year, I think I could have done more in the weight room, but it’s made me become a leader on the field.”
Edwards sees Kenerson taking strides mentally as well as physically. After seeing playing time two years ago, Kenerson is now in his third year playing quarterback for the Wildcats.
“I remember when he was a ninth grader, he started the last couple of games for us,” Edwards said. “I remember seeing that deer in the headlights look, but he has grown. He is understanding defenses better and seeing the field better.”
Kenerson is more succinct and uses one word to describe the difference between his freshman and junior seasons – maturity.
“Since freshman year, I’ve seen cover two, cover two reads, cover one man, cover three, cover four, I mean everything,” Kenerson said. “I’m pretty good at reading defenses now. That’s definitely improved.”
Kenerson’s passing numbers against Dunham were a modest 3 for 15 for 33 yards. Also, LSU defensive back commitment Derek Stingley, Jr., made a game-clinching interception on Central’s final possession of the game, but Edwards knows those numbers aren’t indicative Kenerson’s capability of playing.
“He’s certainly been a catalyst for us,” Edwards said. “As far as the passing (against Dunham), you take into account drops, and you take into account how that passing came to be. We threw a pick, but we were playing behind the clock and trying to make big plays.
“I know Sam is a much better passer than he’s been the other two years. It’s just putting it all together.”
For Kenerson, putting it all together will mean turning people’s heads on the football field and the baseball diamond.