2020 Fall Preview: Liberty Football

By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

For the first time since 2003, MV-BT/Liberty will not have Darin Acklin at the helm of its football program.

The all-time wins leader in program history (129-69) departed this offseason to join Steve Ary’s staff at Mountain Home in Arkansas. That began a unique offseason that first saw the program shift to an unknown name before a familiar face returned.

Dan Davis was originally hired out of North Dakota to succeed Acklin, but health issues forced him to immediately resign his position. That opened the door back up to assistant coach Brock Kenaga, who accepted the job after initially choosing to leave the staff.

Kenaga, who will not continue as boys basketball coach following the hire, cites the opportunity to have so many familiar coaches and former players on staff as a big reason for the change of heart.

“I have the people around me that I feel we need to be successful,” he said. “These are guys that are familiar with the system. We have been doing this for a long time. I have been here for 25 years, and they know how things work. Once I was able to bring them in, that really made the position more appealing.”

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The coaches that will join Kenaga include Jansen Acklin, a recent graduate from Evangel University, Justin French, a player on Kenaga’s first team at MV-BT/Liberty, and Chris Holland, who moves up from junior varsity to take over as offensive coordinator.

Kenaga captured nine district championships and five South Central Association titles under Acklin, but has a load of work ahead as the Eagles look to get back to that success. They return six starters from their 5-6 squad last fall, three of which come on the offensive line. Kaden Daniels (6’6”, 270 lbs.), Lucas Barnes (6’2”, 290 lbs.), and Braden Gastineau (6’1, 260 lbs.) will anchor the unit that Kenaga expects to be a strength of the team.

Junior Tyler Watts will get his shot at quarterback following the graduation of Jaris Acklin. He saw most of his action at running back last fall, carrying 55 times for 403 yards and one score. His pure physical ability is what motivated Kenaga to give him a shot under center.

“He is going to bring a lot to the table. He is an extremely athletic player.”

Watts also returns as the lone All-SCA selection after leading the team with 107 tackles and five sacks at linebacker.

Zeb Cornman will add another big weapon as he comes back for his senior season following a broken foot last year. Even with missing his junior campaign, he is still one of the elder skill position players the Eagles have. Kessler Heiney, Noah Jester, and Jentry Acklin enter the season as juniors after all contributing nine combined touchdowns to the passing game last year.

“We are heavy in the junior class,” said Kenaga. “We have a lot of skill players, but the skill is young.”

How well that crop of skill players can capitalize on their experience and gel with their new quarterback could determine how successful the first year of this new regime will be.

“We aren’t big on expectations. We try to just take care of ourselves and the little things. We feel if we do that, everything will work out in the end.”

MV-BT/Liberty is scheduled to open the season against Strafford on Aug. 28.