Former Boyle standout in a good spot as first-year head coach
Published 7:38 am Saturday, November 12, 2022
MOUNT WASHINGTON — Keegan Kendrick knows he’s got it good.
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Less than 10 years after graduating from Boyle County, Kendrick is leading a rising football program at a school that he says feels very much like the one he attended.
His ascension to head coach at Bullitt East happened faster than he expected, and his program is ascending as well.
“It is an unbelievably good situation,” Kendrick said.
It is also a situation Kendrick didn’t think he’d find himself in quite so soon. He was 27 years old when he was named head coach at Bullitt East in January after three years on the staff there.
“I thought I would like to step into this role at some point. It kind of happened a little bit quicker than I expected,” he said.
Life has been moving pretty quickly for Kendrick lately. In the past four years or so he met his future wife, joined the staff at Bullitt East, got married and got a promotion. Three days before his first game as a head coach, he became a father.
“I felt like God opened some doors all at the same time,” he said.
Kendrick, now 28, has led a resurgence at a Bullitt East program that had won in the past before falling on hard times.
Powered by one of the top offenses in the state, the Chargers took a 10-game winning streak into their game Friday against duPont Manual in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs, and Kendrick said he believes this could be the start of something big.
“The community support is unbelievable,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of parents, we’ve got tradition here. I think people are excited around here, and hopefully we can build on what we’ve got so far.”
Kendrick was an offensive and defensive lineman at Boyle from 2009-12 who was on two Class 4A championship teams and made the Advocate’s All-Area team as a senior. He said he chose a career in coaching because of his experiences in high school, and one of his priorities is to make sure his players get as much out of football as he did.
“I loved playing football,” he said. “My goal is to give these kids hopefully the same kind of wonderful experience I had as a high schooler at Boyle County.”
He cited a number of positive influences during his years at Boyle, beginning with his head coach, Larry French.
“The teachers and the coaches — people like Katie Tiller, a teacher, (assistant coaches) Billy Goldsmith, Chris Mason, Jeff Hester, Larry French — those guys just created an unbelievably positive experience for me,” Kendrick said. “When I was in college I was weighing some different options, but ultimately what I wanted to do is replicate that for the kids that I would be able to impact.”
Kendrick said he is finding coaching as rewarding as he hoped it would be.
“Initially you’re young and you’re excited to be coaching football. But it’s the players coming back, it’s people that you’ve coached before getting excited to see you, and that’s when you really start to realize just how much of an impact you’re making,” he said.
After a four-year playing career at Lindsey Wilson College and his graduation from that school in 2017, Kendrick spent two years on French’s staff at Southwestern.
While at Southwestern, Kendrick met his future wife Amber at a friend’s wedding. She hails from Nelson County, which borders Bullitt County, so that might have been one reason that he was interested when he got a call from Mason, the former Boyle offensive coordinator who by then was the principal at Bullitt East.
“He said they were hiring a head coach and they wanted me to come be a part of a rebuild,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick joined Ethan Atchley’s Bullitt East staff as the offensive line coach and running game coordinator. He moved up to offensive coordinator in 2021, when the Chargers went 8-4 for their first winning record in seven seasons.
Atchley resigned in December, and Kendrick was named the Chargers’ head coach about a month later.
“It was something that I’d planned to do, but when it happened quicker than expected I really had to get with my wife … and say, ‘Hey, is this something we want to commit to right now?’” Kendrick said.
Once he did, Kendrick also committed to some of the principles he learned from French.
“One of the biggest things learned from Coach French was how to treat people and coaches,” he said. “You’ve got to get the right people involved. (French is) one that would never take credit to himself, but I think very much to his credit, he’s very wise in who he surrounds himself with. He’s a great judge of character, and he is a great character guy himself.”
Bullitt East won 65 percent of its game and reached the state finals twice between 1991 and 2008 — the Chargers lost the 1994 2A title game to Danville — but had only two winning seasons from 2009 to 2020.
This year’s Chargers, a senior-dominated team, lost their season opener to Spencer County but averaged 42.6 points per game in the 10 wins that followed.
Bullitt East entered Friday’s game ranked third in Class 6A in scoring, first in passing and 10th in rushing with an average of 396 offensive yards per game.
The Chargers defeated Male 24-17 on Oct. 21 to clinch the District 6A-4 championship, their first district title since moving to the state’s largest class in 2019. They had lost five district games to Male over the previous three seasons by a combined score of 267-29.
Kendrick said the players in the program are willing to work to improve themselves, and he is trying to make them understand where the bar must be set.
“The standard was built by (former coach) Chuck (Smith) and now continues to thrive at a place like Boyle, where here we’re in the infancy of that,” he said. “We’re trying to get these kids to realize if you want to compete at the highest level, you’ve got to compete like that Monday through Thursday starting in January.”
“It’s a slow process, but we’re taking the right steps.”
Mount Washington is a rapidly growing town only about 5 minutes from Jefferson County, but Kendrick said he sees similarities in the community where he coaches and the community where he played, and he said can see himself being happy there for some time to come if all goes well.
“People are excited on Friday nights. There’s a desire to change things,” Kendrick said. “It’s a big community with a small-town feel. We’re trying to get that energy going. … Our kids are great, the administration’s great, the community’s great. I think I’m in a very good spot right here.”