VELTKAMP THROWS THREE TOUCHDOWN PASSES AS SOUTH WARREN IMPROVES TO 7-1 OVERALL
HOPKINSVILLE — South Warren’s Eldar Dervisevic grew up playing soccer, chasing the ball around the field and looking for a path toward the goal.
Little did Dervisevic know that his career in athletics would take a sharp turn in middle school, when future South Warren football teammates such as Mason Willingham, Preston Parks, Kobe Martin and Luke Burton convinced him that he might have a future in their game.
Turns out, he does.
Dervisevic, a 6-foot, 175-pound senior, does a little bit of everything for the second-ranked Spartans. On Thursday night, Dervisevic returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and did his part in the passing game as South Warren rolled to a 51-20 victory over homestanding Christian County.
South Warren improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in KHSAA Class 5A, 2nd District play. Dervisevic also serves as the Spartans’ punter, placekicker and wide receiver, and he plans to walk on with Western Kentucky University’s football team as a kicking specialist after graduation.
Unless his speed gives the Hilltoppers’ coaching staff other ideas.
“Eldar is an extraordinary athlete, a great example for our younger players,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith said. “He didn’t start playing football until he was in eighth grade.”
That’s when Willingham, Parks and Co. convinced Dervisevic that he could help the Spartans on the football field. Dervisevic’s older brother, 23-year-old Fahrudin Dervisevic, plays soccer for the Bowling Green Football Club in the UPSL.
“Mason Willingham and I had PE together, and we started throwing the football around,” Dervisevic recalled. “Preston Parks, Kobe Martin, some of the other guys convinced me I might like playing football … I did. Tonight, I really just wanted to take advantage of my opportunities, do anything I could to help our team win.”
Dervisevic had two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the first half, both of them covering more than 90 yards. He also scored on a two-point conversion on a trick play, when the Spartans lined up in PAT formation before Dervisevic took a pitch and scored on a sweep to the end zone.
The Spartans had little trouble establishing their dominance in the first half against Christian County, but they did have several holding calls on the offensive line, much to Brandon Smith’s chagrin when it was over.
“Honestly, I thought we kind of followed last week’s game (a 41-0 victory over McCracken County), where we made way too many mistakes,” Smith said. “The focus, and the execution, really wasn’t there. I’m not sure what the issue is, but I’ve got to figure it out.”
Smith, the former WKU quarterback, is a perfectionist. His senior quarterback, Caden Veltkamp, is also headed to Western on a full scholarship. Veltkamp hit South teammate Tyler Snell for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and he later found Spartans junior Keegan Milby for a 25-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Milby came up with a juggling 48-yard touchdown reception for the Spartans’ final touchdown of the night. Milby said it was the first time he has scored two touchdowns in a single game at South Warren.
“We really have a lot to work on, we can’t take anything for granted,” Milby said. “I think we’ve got to start faster in the first half.”
Veltkamp made a similar observation.
“It was nice to put 51 points on the board,” he said, “but we really have a lot to clean up in practice.”
Preston Parks, the Spartans’ veteran offensive tackle, admits the team has had trouble matching the intensity that carried South Warren to an impressive 36-7 victory over Bowling Green High School on October 1. BGHS has knocked South Warren out of the KHSAA Class 5A playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
“We played our hearts out in that game, we did,” Parks said. “We’ve talked about it, as a team, as a senior class. This is our chance to leave a legacy, for the younger guys. That’s something we take to heart.”
Parks and most of the Spartans interviewed after the game said they plan to catch Bowling Green’s game with crosstown rival Greenwood on Friday night. Greenwood has never defeated the Purples in football, with a lifetime record of 0-31. The Gators (6-1, 1-0 in district play) get a chance to end that streak at home against the Purples, who have lost three straight since their 38-7 victory over Hopkinsville on September 10.
Bowling Green is 3-4 overall and 0-1 in district play.
“I’ll be there. Definitely,” Parks said with a smile.
South Warren plays host to Greenwood on October 22 before traveling to play Class 4A power Logan County (6-2 overall) in its regular-season finale on October 29.