Homecoming week is a special time. From the start of spirit week, to the parade through town, to the 30 minute halftime where a queen is crowned. there is not a shortage of important things going on.
For junior linebacker Nick Kastner and the Graham G-Men, the most important thing was securing a homecoming win vs. Princeton in front of their home crowd at Mitchell Stadium.
The leader of the G-Men defense helped Tony Palmer’s team do just that.
Kastner came away with 11 tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage, to hold the Princeton to less than 60 yards rushing and a mere eight points.
For that performance, the Graham linebacker was voted CoalfieldSports.com Week 6 Defensive Player of the Week.
“Being voted defensive player of the week is really an honor and honestly it just makes me want to work harder and harder everyday,” said Kastner. “Thank you to all who voted for me!”
You could say the award was a long time coming for the G-Men junior. Kastner enjoyed a successful sophomore season playing next to all-state linebacker Dante Vineyard, before taking over full-time this season where he’s averaging close to 13 tackles per game. The junior has attracted the interest from Division 1 programs such as Louisiana Tech & Appalachian State.
Kastner attributes the hard work in the off-season and weekly preparation to his personal success.
“Going in to every game I prepare myself mentally to have a big game. Defense for me is really played through my mind more than my body,” he said. “As a linebacker you have to read what’s going on, the linemen, the backs. I feel good whenever I’m on the football field.”
That preparation has led to results on the field as the G-Men are only allowing 13 points per game since the opening season loss vs. rival Bluefield.
“After our loss to Bluefield the first game of the season, we did not like the feeling,” Kastner mentioned. “Every week since then we have been hungry and working so we don’t have to go through another loss.”
So far, so good. The G-Men are undefeated since the hiccup against the Beavers.
“Princeton was a tough team, but it was homecoming so we knew we had to bring it home for our fans,” said Kastner. “Playing at Mitchell is always a great time because we get to have our home fans and students who get crazy! It’s just a great feeling to get a win at home.”
Winning in general is a great feeling the G-Men are getting accustomed to it. Since the start of the 2016 season, the G-Men are an impressive 27-5. Players such as Ben Meade, Jamorya Cousin, Taymon Cooke and the before-mentioned Vineyard were key contributors for many of those wins. However, those players have moved on to the next level.
Helping the cause this season has been quarterback Cameron Allen who has averaged over 300 yards and three scores per game. Jaziere Reed, Tre Booker and Devin Lester have also proved capable of contributing at a high level, with many scores themselves. The G-Men defense also have received a big boost in two new additions. Mason Raley will be suiting up on on the defensive line again after a prolonged inury, and recent Princeton transfer Aaron Edwards will slide next to Kastner at linebacker. That’s something that Kastner is particularly excited about.
“The new additions we have received will be great,” said Kastner. “We brought in another linebacker so the middle is really gonna be hard to push back. We have another defensive lineman healthy and ready to play, so it’s looking good for the rest of the season.”
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