The school will graduate its first class of seniors in a little less than two weeks, meaning the very first members of the Knights’ program are gone. But the class behind them might have even more relevant experience.
When River Ridge opened in 2009, the football team was composed entirely of freshmen and therefore did not play a varsity schedule. But when the 2010 season rolled around, and there were two classes at the school, the Knights played their first year of varsity football.
Robert Braucht, the only coach the program has known, said it’s definitely a change losing an entire class of players.
“We haven’t had that normal turnover of players,” he said. “Having those kids gone certainly makes it a little different. In some aspects, we lost a lot. But, in others, we didn’t.”
Braucht said the biggest thing River Ridge lost with the graduating class was pure experience, particularly at running back and in the secondary.
“Those are the two places we are hurting, to be honest,” Braucht said. “But our rising seniors played a lot as true freshmen at the varsity level. There are some leaders in there and we just need them to realize their senior leadership roles.”
There are 70 players out for the varsity team, with another 29 on the freshman team. While it might seem like a large number, Braucht would like to see more players come out for the freshman team, and he expects a few to come out in August.
Overall, he thinks the turnout has been good.
“I think, come the fall, we will have some kids come out that maybe never played before,” Braucht said. “I really believe, the more kids you have come out in the freshman class, the stronger the program will be. Your chances of having a strong class are stronger if you have big numbers.”
Among the top returners are Steven Spears, E.J. Ellis and Shane Smith. Braucht also noted that several players, including Seth Nama and Dalton Richards, have worked hard in the offseason and will play more prominent roles.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that work hard,” Braucht said. “That isn’t a problem of ours. Like it is for any team in the spring, it’s just finding where everyone fits in best.”
River Ridge will wrap the spring practice period with an intrasquad game Friday.