STORY BY: JORDAN MESEROLE
– BRYAN – A new football season always brings new hope to any fans, regardless of whether it’s high school, collegiate, or professional.
The Rudder Rangers 2012 squad is hoping to erase the memory of 2011, and find a way to its first ever playoff berth in the school’s history.
“No doubt, last year was tough,” said Rudder head coach C.M. Pier. “We had the incident with (David) Wilganowski, and we kind of recovered from that. But right after that we ran through a string of injuries, including losing our first two quarterbacks, lost a couple of our lineman, we were riddled with concussions, and as all that was happening our kids just kind of lost heart. And they’re only human. So when we got chipped up bad, it took us down.”
Coming off eight consecutive losses to end the 2011 season, Rudder literally gets to hit “reset”, as it lost 32 players, many of who were starters in the relatively new program. One of the largest question marks for Rudder has been who would replace Jamarcus Davenport under center, who created a lot of plays with both his arm and legs last season. But Pier says, he’s already tabbed his main guy.
“Luke Piper has stepped up, and emerged late in the spring during 7-on-7,” Pier said. “Luke is a smart kid, and can run the ball. He does not have the escapability that JD (Davenport) did, but in a lot of ways he’s better mechanically.”
One big name working in the backfield with Piper this season will be returning starting running back Tre Guyton, who rushed for 1,043 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2011. Pier said he is even more encouraged by what Guyton can do this season, bolstered behind an offensive line that looks stronger to Pier than last season.
For the defense, Rudder is hoping to improve on its ability to prevent the “big play” from happening as it allowed too often in 2011, and let small leads turn quickly into large defecits a handful of times. And Pier said assuredly, their defensive secondary is stronger than last season.
“Our outside linebackers and inside linebackers will be key to our defense. Those kids can play. I’ve got a few linebackers, Bear Reeves, Kendall Lewis, and Sergio Vargas that can play,” Pier said. “Secondary, we’re having to put that thing together. Mark Davenport and Isiah Johnson back there, along with Jordan Anderson – they’ve got the capability to do what we need to do.”
Though Rudder has moved into a new district – 18-4A – they will face off against an old 17-4A foe in their first game on August 31, lining up against Elgin.
Rudder will be looking for revenge against Elgin, who in 2011 stacked up 21 unanswered points in the second half to erase a 14-14 halftime tie that Rudder had notched up heading into the lockerroom.
The Rangers will have the task of containing senior quarterback Te’Rel Simmons, who tallied up more than 200 yards through the air and the ground, and added three scores in the 2011 matchup.
But Pier said, they’ll be ready the second time around.
“Elgin will hit you with a lot of formations, and gadget plays, so we have to be heads up on defense,” Pier said. “Their quarterback is a good player, and so is their tailback. So we’ve just go to play. We’ve got to take advantage of situations, and not give up the big play – that’s going to be key.”
Rudder kicks off against Elgin at 7:30 at the Wildcat’s home stadium in Elgin.