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Groves names Rangers' grid coaching staff

  • Benton High School's football coaches for 2018 includes, from left: Austin Dickson, Aron Kays, Casey McCommons, Aaron Webb, Brent Johnson, Justin Groves, Troy Knight and Josh Kinsman. Absent for the photo were Matt Brown, Robin Labuwi and volunteer coach Andy Sloan.

    Benton High School's football coaches for 2018 includes, from left: Austin Dickson, Aron Kays, Casey McCommons, Aaron Webb, Brent Johnson, Justin Groves, Troy Knight and Josh Kinsman. Absent for the photo were Matt Brown, Robin Labuwi and volunteer coach Andy Sloan.
    RICK HAYES PHOTO

 
By Rick Hayes
updated: 7/10/2018 9:07 AM

Several new faces will join some familiar ones on the Benton High School football sidelines this fall.

First-year head coach Justin Groves has assembled his staff for the 2018 season that will kick off Aug. 24 at Carterville.

Returning to the fold are Josh Kinsman, last year's offensive line coach, who will be the freshman defensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He will assist Aaron Webb, who was a freshman assistant last year. He has been named head coach of the freshman squad this season.

Another freshman coach last season, Casey McCommons, has been elevated to the defensive coordinator position on the varsity squad.

Robin Labuwi is returning to Benton High School as an assistant coach. He has over 25 years of experience, including tenures at Sesser-Valier, Pinckneyville and Hamilton County. He was at BCHS during Groves' playing days.

"He's going to be a mentor to me and an eye in the sky at all of our games. He knows how I want to do things since we coached together so many years before. He's going to be a good asset to all levels and all positions. He's going to help us in a lot of different places," Groves said.

Matt Brown, who had a storied career at Marion High School, Illinois State University and briefly in the National Football League with the Green Bay Packers, has been hired as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

"He'll be calling the shots offensively and bringing a little bit of his style and flair to it," said Groves.

Another player and former coach at Marion, Austin Dickson, will be the line coach. Dickson played at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

A former player of Groves, Aron Kays, went on to play football and ran track at Milliken University.

"He's kind of a speed guy. I coached some of our sprinters here on the track team in the past so I brought him on to help with some stuff in the secondary," Groves said.

A former assistant coach under Jeremy Clodfelter (08-09, 11-12), Brent Johnson, will be returning as a defensive backs/wide receivers coach for the Rangers.

"He had a great career at Massac County. He was the one we always had to worry about. They threw it up and he would always catch it for a touchdown it seemed like every year to beat us. He's been a great asset to us so far," Groves said.

Another new coach who has been involved in the Junior Football League for nearly a decade, Troy Knight, will coach on both the freshman and junior varsity levels. He has also agreed to help film games and "fill-in" wherever needed.

"He has a lot of football knowledge and has taken an interest in something that's important to me, film study, and making sure we get everything we can on film," Groves said.

"He's just a great coach. We're looking forward to helping us in the season. He played football in high school but has never coached. We think he'll be an asset to our program," Groves said.

Groves is a graduate of Benton Consolidated High School, where he played for and later coached with Jeff Roper. Groves played on the first playoff team in BCHS history in 1995.

He attended Millikin University, playing football until a knee injury sidelined him. He eventually graduated from the university and started coaching in Benton. He served as an assistant coach from 1998 through 2007. In addition to coaching football, he was a track and field coach under Sloan with teams that won state titles in 2006 and 2008. Groves also coached wrestling.

"I spent 12 years with Jeff Roper, three as a player and nine as coach, I appreciate what he was able to accomplish and I appreciate what Jeremy and Bob did in his two years. It's a big undertaking and it's a lot to manage and maintain," Groves reflected.

"I've said it since Day One, for me I've got a staff that I can trust in every scenario. We've got a lot of experience on the staff. We've got guys with a lot of hunger and fire. I think the kids are starting to see that. I hope it rubs off in a good way and leads to some good things in the future."

Groves said he has about 70 kids out for football, nearly half of that number are freshmen. The squad will participate in a camp starting Monday and has several 7-on-7 scrimmages scheduled.

The Gatorade game will be played under the lights at Tabor Field on Aug. 17 -- a week before the season opener.