Things certainly haven’t gone the way that Braucht and his players would have liked.
After finishing 5-6 and reaching the state playoffs last season, Braucht was hoping to see the program continue to advance. Instead, River Ridge has struggled for much of the season, playing to a 1-6 record overall and 0-2 in Region 7AAAA (A).
But that isn’t to say that all is lost.
The Knights, who graduated their first class of players last spring, has had to make several adjustments. Running back E.J. Ellis isn’t as productive as he was a year ago, while the offensive and defensive lines have lacked discipline at times.
For that reason, Braucht isn’t measuring success by wins and losses. He is measuring it by the improvements his players are making on and off the field. Focus and discipline are among the goals.
“The kids are working very hard and have done a great job of being focused and just doing everything that we have asked of them,” Braucht said. “You expect to see the kids more focused as the season goes on, and I’m getting out of the kids, from a focus standpoint, what the expectation is supposed to be.”
Braucht is also happy to report that all of the players remain healthy, even after a tough loss to Cass a week ago.
“It’s always good to have all of your players healthy,” he said. “We still have (lineup) changes every week, even if we are healthy, though. It seems like one kid shines above another. Our kids are challenging each other and continue to try to make each other better. Right now, it isn’t about staying healthy as much as it is how to work each other and they are doing a good job at that.”
River Ridge will make the trip north to Ellijay to face Gilmer (6-1, 2-0) tonight.
While the teams have played to opposite records this season, there are several similarities between the Knights and the Bobcats. Both employ ground-based offenses led by veteran quarterbacks, and both were bounced in the first round of the state playoffs a year ago.
“They are a very simple Wing-T offense,” Braucht said. “They are just very disciplined and big and strong.”
Aside from being shut out 31-0 by Dalton in the middle of September, Gilmer has dominated its opposition. An 18-6 victory over Southeast Whitfield was its smallest margin of victory, as in most cases the Bobcats have won by more than 20 points.
Still, Braucht plans to approach Gilmer like any other team. The Knights’ defense will try to slow down the Bobcats’ rushing attack, while the offense will make the most of its opportunities with the ball, without giving Gilmer any extra chances.