After two seasons of a non-region schedule, and without the benefit of having a senior class, River Ridge ended spring practice Thursday working toward its first season as a member of the new Region 7AAAA (A).
“We have a lot more intensity,” rising senior outside linebacker Will Redding said. “We came out knowing we would have to play some bigger, badder opponents. In years prior, our practices had been more flat. We came out to practice just to practice.
“This year, we really came out against each other. We knew it, when we came out against each other, we would get to play in game situations. Everyone is very optimistic about our future coming off a really good year. We just want to open up this year’s region schedule and show people who we are. We want to show Cherokee County that we can be a good asset as a new school.”
Though River Ridge has had to forego having the leadership that senior classes provide, they have not had to deal with the pitfalls that come in the form of graduations. The Knights have all their starters returning on both sides of the ball.
“Probably one of the most encouraging things is that we are starting to see a little bit of leadership,” River Ridge coach Robert Braucht said. “I think (the seniors) are seeing some of that leadership. We make sure they are realizing that, ‘Wait a minute, I only have five more days — four, three, two, one — of spring football ever. I’m not guaranteed that I will get to play college football,’ and all of that.
“We can screw this up and rest on what we’ve done rather than understand what we’ve done is only going to lay the foundation for what we do next. That’s the next step or our leadership that we’re going to have to get to.”
On that note, Braucht said he was not impressed with his offense this spring. After having a stellar season last year led by running backs E.J. Ellis and Austin Terrell, the offense fell behind the defense this spring.
“I think, offensively, we’re just a little high on our horses thinking that we’ve accomplished something with the way we ran the ball,” he said. “They’re having a little bit of a hard time because you have to practice hard and not just play hard.
“We’ve got some guys that need to come to practice and show up mentally — not just on the days we are scrimmaging. As a coach, I need to see my offense, defense and special teams needs to show up on every rep, not just when something is on the line for a competition.”
At the quarterback position, there’s no problem with motivation, with a battle brewing for the starting job.
Last year, Steven Spears was at the helm of a mostly option-based ground game and used his superior athleticism to move the chains.
This year, Jackson Weeg will return to the gridiron after breaking his leg before the team’s final preseason scrimmage. Weeg, who was a part of the Knights’ first varsity team in 2010, specializes more in throwing the ball downfield.
“We’re letting Weeg and Spears battle it out,” Braucht said. “Kids get used to one kid, but I’m not ready to say that one of these two is the quarterback at River Ridge just yet. We’ll take (Thursday’s) scrimmage game into consideration and go from there.”