The sorrow has faded a bit.
The pain still remains — and always will.
The emotions, though, began to shift as the time to return to the field drew closer.
“The kids talk about Manny every day,” Madison Central football coach Mark Scenters said. “It’s not in a sad sense anymore. It is now that motivating factor for them in a positive sense. Our guys are very cognizant of their responsibility to work hard each day and get an opportunity to play for themselves and play for him.”
The Indians have embraced that responsibility with heavy hearts.
“Everything we do this season is for him,” Central senior Zach Holbrook said. “We wish he was here playing with us.”
Emanuel “Manny” Prewitt died in June while swimming with friends in a lake in Boyle County.
The shy, smart, well-liked young man, who seemingly always had a smile on his face, was only 17.
“Manny doesn’t have the opportunity to play his senior year and our kids don’t have the opportunity to play with him,” Scenters said.
The tragic loss of a teammate and friend is just even more motivation for a team that won just one game last season and fell in the first round of the Class 6A Playoffs to long-time rival Clark County.
The Indians lost only 11 seniors from a season ago and return starters at almost every position — who are extremely eager to get back on the field.
“We aren’t trying to prove other people wrong,” Central senior safety/quarterback Nathan Storie said. “We know what we can do. We know what we have worked for. We just have to prove it.”
Madison Central’s 29 seniors certainly have something to prove.
“A ton of guys got meaningful minutes and a chance to play last year,” Scenters said. “Hopefully, that pays off moving forward.”
The Indians were dealt a series of devastating injuries last year. Eight players had season-ending setbacks, resulting in seven major surgeries— including quarterback Canon Scenters.
He suffered a gruesome right knee injury on Oct. 25 against Bryan Station. The quarterback tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
It was feared Scenters would not be able to return for his senior season.
However, after an aggressive rehab program, the quarterback is back.
“I’m super proud of him,” Mark Scenters said of his son. “He has really shown some grit going through this process and shown a lot of qualities that you want to see not only as a coach, but a dad.”
Scenters completed 75-of-171 passes for 1,087 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions before the injury.
Storie stepped into the line-up at quarterback for the final regular-season game. He also had two touchdown passes in the playoff game against Clark County.
Scenters has not yet been cleared for contact, so Storie may once again be called on to run the offense.
“We were really pleased and proud of him for the job he did last year,” Scenters said of Storie said. “He stepped into a very difficult situation with very limited reps. He jumped in and did a valiant job.”
Madison Central’s offense struggled badly at times last season.
The Indians scored the seventh-fewest points of any Class 6A team in the state (181) and were limited to seven points or less four times.
Central also had 32 turnovers, including 18 fumbles.
The Indians have several options at running back, including two returners, but are certainly hoping for better ball control out of the backfield.
Senior Adrien Parks led the team in rush attempts (127), rush yards (458) and rush TDs (two) last year.
Senior Matt Jones played in only three games in 2019, but had 148 yards on the ground against Dixie Heights.
Joe Burton had 127 carries last year has been moved to wide receiver, leaving an opportunity for a trio of younger players to get a chance to carry the ball this year — junior Blake Snyder and freshmen Brady Hensley and Kenyatta Hardge.
“It’s a work in progress,” Scenters said of the running back group. “We’ve got several guys who we think have the potential to help us, but until we get in pads and see who is really going to be able to hit it with someone trying to get after it, you never know.”
The Indians had only three receivers with more than three catches last year — one of which graduated (Ashton Hulberg).
Holbrook (31 receptions, 371 yards, three TDs) and senior John Landsaw (28 catches, 345 yards, four TDs) are back.
Burton should add some depth to that receiving core, along with several younger players, including juniors Keith Clark and Trent Nassida Jr., sophomore Jayden West, junior Andre Smith and senior Dylan Taylor.
“We may be two or three games into the season before we know who is going to be productive,” Scenters said of the receivers. “We’ve got two solid guys who we know will catch the ball and make plays. We believe strongly Burton will add to that mix.”
Jaylen Davis adds something to the mix at receiver too.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore is athletic and will be a match-up problem for defenses.
“He has the ability to give us a completely different type of receiver than what the other guys are,” Scenters said of Davis. “It’s a nice compliment.”
The Indians have options at tight end as well.
Junior Peyton Dandaneau is a solid run blocker and can also catch the ball.
“He has a chance to really help our team,” Scenters said of Dandaneau.
Senior Cameron McAlpin broke his leg against Madison Southern last year, but is back and will contribute at tight end also, along with senior Tanner McIntosh.
Central returns three starters on the offensive line — seniors Sam Arthur, Neal Martin and Aaron Saylor.
Arthur has gotten stronger and Saylor is also thicker, while Martin has trimmed down after going through an offseason surgery.
“He is in great shape,” Scenters said of Martin. “He may be moving as well as he has moved since we got him. He moved really well as a sophomore and last year he battled a knee injury and battled through it.”
Malachi Woods is set to break into the line-up on the offensive line this year. The sophomore is 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds and according to Scenters, “He’s got all the tools.”
Junior Evan Dexter is back after an offseason surgery. He joins a deep group of offensive linemen that includes junior Chris Turpin, senior John Dause and sophomore Paul Mills.
Central’s defense line returns a talented trio on the offense line.
Junior Edgren Sweat earned all-state honors after racking up 17 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks last season. He also had 52 tackles and six quarterback hurries.
Junior Noah Shipley had 36 tackles and 3.5 tackles-for-loss last year and senior Kyran Jackson finished with 42 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss and a team-best five sacks.
“We had a rough season, but Edgren was a standout and part of the reason why he was a standout was because of Kyran Jackson and Noah Shipley,” Scenters said. “The three of them work extremely well together. They are just tough, hard-nosed, get-after it kids.”
Arthur and Elijah Carter will also be big pieces of the rotation on the defensive line too for the Indians.
Linebacker Treyvion Parks had a team-best 64 tackles last year with 10.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack.
The senior may be switching roles this season, though.
“We are working with him at strong safety a little bit to see if that gives him the opportunity to help us in a different way,” Scenters said of Parks.
Even without Parks, the Indians have plenty of options at linebacker, including experienced seniors Anthony McLaughlin (24 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss), Brayden Prewitt (39 tackles, 4.5 tackes-for-loss, one sack), Caden Ellington (28 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss), McIntosh and juniors Ayden and Logan Pierson.
Central’s secondary has proven leaders as well.
Storie had a team-best two interceptions last year and is set to start for the third-straight season. The senior might move to defensive back at times, if Parks stays at strong safety.
Jeffrey Kinley (34 tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss) also returns at safety. The junior is bigger, stronger and could be set for a breakout season.
“I’m really impressed with Jeffrey and how much he has grown,” Scenters said. “He hit a growth spurt and bulked up. He’s a good leader in the secondary.”
Junior Cooper Mullins, West and senior Courtney Brooks will also see playing time in the secondary.
Patrick Moren jumped into the role of Central’s starting kicker last season as a freshman and was very dependable.
He hit 5-of-8 field goal attempts and 6-of-8 extra-point attempts.
Moren also punted six times for an average of 35 yards.
“Hopefully, he will be even better,” Scenters said of Moren.
The delayed start to the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Central not having a game for the opening week of the season (Sept. 11).
The Indians will still play eight regular-season games, and having that first week off might actually be an advantage.
“It’s going to help, for sure,” Scenters said.