The defensive lineman has scholarship offers from several Division I colleges.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Everything changed for Keilen Dykes on Nov. 3, 2000.
He remembers the pain, how he cried all night, how his team's dreams were shattered.
"They broke our hearts in front of 15,000," said Dykes, a defensive end and tight end at Chaney High.
Dykes' Cowboys took an undefeated record into Stambaugh Stadium for a first-round playoff game against Niles.
"We had all the superstars -- the Brad Smith's, Marcus Patton's and Thandi Smith's," Dykes said. "We were in the locker room talking about state, how we were going to run through Niles."
The game went to overtime. Chaney scored but missed the extra point to take a 20-14 lead. Niles then scored and kicked an extra point that ended Chaney's season, 21-20.
"That was the first loss and that was the last loss," Dykes said, "because we were done."
Goes full speed now
Only, Dykes' football career was just beginning.
"I ain't gonna lie, I used to slack on the track" during conditioning, said Dykes, now a senior. "After that [loss], I started going full speed."
Dykes swears Chaney's loss to Niles during his sophomore year changed his whole outlook as a football player.
"It hurt me a lot and I was like, man, I've got to do something about that," Dykes said. "Before then I was just a player in the crowd. For me to stick out, I had to step my game up.
"That loss to Niles really did it," he added. "After that I wanted to work harder and do what I have to do to get better."
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Dykes improved so much -- he had 18 sacks last season and was named All-Ohio -- that Division I colleges began to offer him football scholarships.
"He's got size, power, speed and he's smart," said Roy Guy, Chaney's defensive ends and tight ends coach.
"He's a complete player. He can block, he can run, he can rush the passer and he can defend the run," Guy added. "He doesn't really have a weakness."
Out of countless telephone calls and letters from coaches, Dykes has narrowed his choices to Cincinnati, Clemson, Louisville, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Toledo and West Virginia.
Dykes, who is being recruited as a defensive end, said he will make his decision after the season.
"I want to take my visits and all that. I'm in no rush," he said. "I'm playing for the Chaney Cowboys. People ask me what college I'm going to; I play for Chaney right now."
The attention from college coaches has made an impact on Dykes. He admits that he wasn't always the best student, but the thought of getting a Div. I college scholarship has changed that.
"I'm getting all these letters now, so I have to get my head on straight," said Dykes. "Everybody looks up to me, so you've got to be perfect at what you do. A lot of eyes are watching."
They certainly will be in 2002 as Chaney tries to follow up on an unbeaten regular season and a playoff berth. The Cowboys beat Walsh Jesuit in the first round before losing to Green.
"Every year there's high expectations in Chaney football," Dykes said.
For Chaney to be successful again, it will have to rely on Dykes' maturity and commitment to the game.
"I like to watch film a lot. That's the most important thing to it. I like to watch the guys and the way they step," Dykes said of his opponents. "My main strength is that coaches get me prepared for the offensive players."
Those coaches know what Dykes is capable of doing. "He has to anchor our line and he has to become unblockable at times," Guy said.
With Chaney opening its season against Austintown Fitch, Dykes will be matched against Falcons tackle Mike McGlynn, who has committed to Pittsburgh.
"A lot of players like to go in there and make plays," said Dykes, breaking down his philosophy. "If you just keep to your keys, the play is going to come to you. You're going to make your plays, no matter what's going to happen."
Dykes, who expects to be double-teamed often, hopes to make plays along a defensive line that he said has the potential to be the area's best. Dykes teams with Josh Rosa (6-5, 255), Salih Robinson (6-2, 270) and Ed Molina (6-1, 260).
"This is going to be the biggest D-line here in a while," Dykes said. "All of us are pushing over 250 and benching over 300."
There was a time when Dykes was in the background, lost in a sea of players. Not anymore.
This is the new Dykes, changed from a heartbreaking loss two years ago.
"I used to always be in the back of the line when we came out on the field," Dykes said. "Leaders don't lead from behind; they lead from the front."