Discover more from Brett Esch
RGR Spotlight | 'It's only an excuse if we make it one': WR Keon Edwards gears up for a bounceback season
Part of the RGR Spotlight series. New installments every Monday leading up to kickoff of the 2022 season.
NOTE: If you’d like to receive email notifications of new stories from only this section — as opposed to the entire publication — or if you’d like to stop receiving email notifications of new stories from this section, this can be managed (as a subscriber) by visiting the ‘My Account’ page on baesch.substack.com.
Prior to an Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division 1 showdown between Newton and Salina South on October 15, 2021, wide receiver Keon Edwards made his way onto the field at Fischer Field Stadium in Newton — but he wasn’t suited up.
Instead, he stood on the sidelines and watched with a walking boot on his leg as his teammates prepared to capture what would end up being just their second win of the season. It was a tough scene for a sophomore who had spent the past few weeks seeing his number called and was gradually becoming a more integral part of one of the state’s most statistically potent 5A passing attacks.
Simply put, injuries defined — and derailed — what was shaping up to be an impressive debut varsity season for Edwards. And as he builds rapport with his teammates heading into 2022, he’s confident history won’t repeat itself — and that his expectations should reflect that.
“My expectations for this team are very high,” Edwards said. “I believe with a great new coach, the players we have, and maintaining our health, the sky’s the limit.”
Maintaining health is a sure focal point for the Railers this upcoming season as the team had to navigate depth issues all season long as a result of injuries a year ago.
However, that isn’t in a coach’s or player’s control. All Newton can control, as Edwards notes, is everything else. And head coach Greg Slade, who joins the Railers program with years of leading programs under his belt, knows this better than anyone.
“We have such great athletes in every class and Slade has been an amazing coach so far,” Edwards said. “He’s a great balance of making sure we’re working super hard and having enough fun while we’re getting after it.”
That balance has already loomed large as the fall grows closer. Echoing the sentiment of his teammates, Edwards is encouraged by the bond that’s forming within Newton’s locker room and the wide receiver corps itself through team camp, a multi-team camp at Benedictine College, and the school’s offseason weights program.
“I believe the chemistry [that’s been built] so far this offseason is great,” Edwards said. “The team bonding we’ve done during our team camps and even during weights or training with the team has been very fun. I really see everyone feeling the brotherhood of the team and understanding that if we sweat and put in the work together, the outcome can be great.
We’re all [moving] as one unit. The receiving corps right now looks great with Isaac, Ryan, and Cam all returning and leading us. It’s great for the team and I’m really excited to have opportunities to join them [on the field].”
And when Edwards receives those opportunities, he wants to make the most of them — and knows what it’ll take for that to happen. “I have a lot to improve on,” he said. “I’m very proud of my blocking ability as a receiver and my ability to be physical and find ways to use strength to my advantage. But I would say my biggest focus [for improvement] has been route-running and footwork.”
For the Railers as a team, one could make quite an extensive list of all the group’s doubters and skeptics. And, objectively, the hesitation for support is warranted as Newton has had less than ten winning seasons in its history.
But for Edwards and this team, that couldn’t matter less.
“Our mindset is, it’s only an excuse if we make it one,” Edwards said. “We know who we have and what we can do, there’s no reason to fear any other team. It’s a new season with a new roster and a new expectation — same as everybody else. And if we need to prove it to anybody, it’s to ourselves and the people of Newton.
We have a great opportunity with a new coach. I know if we can max out our potential this season we can start a new expectation not only for this class, but for every kid who becomes a Newton Railer.”