The Knights (1-7, 0-3) won’t be competing for a state playoff spot this season, like they did last year when they went undefeated in Region 7AAAA (A). In fact, they haven’t had fewer wins in any varsity season than they do now.
It would be easy to say that River Ridge has taken a few steps backward after its 5-6 finish of 2012, with the first state playoff appearance in program history, but Braucht feels that isn’t the case.
He feels that it isn’t fair to compare this team to the last since it’s a different group of players on the field.
“In some aspects, it’s hard (not to look back), but in some aspects, it isn’t,” Braucht said. “I think that you always want to see where you were, and if you are going to try to build a program up, you have to look from year to year to see what your status is. You want to achieve more than last year’s team did, but the kids that played on last year’s team aren’t playing now. That’s a whole different aspect. It’s not like you are preparing the same kids that you did.”
Braucht started the program at River Ridge in 2009. The team began playing a varsity schedule in 2010, and it played with the same group for the first several seasons.
Last spring, though, the Knights graduated their first class of players and have since found out what it’s like to have to rebuild for the first time.
“For our kids, they have found that they no long compare themselves to last year’s team,” Braucht said. “Last year’s team graduated, and even though we have some kids back, it’s taken some adjusting. We need to remember that.”
For now, Braucht’s goal is to see his players continue to improve each time they take the field, be it in practice or a game.
“We are going forward and trying to get on the right page every day,” Braucht said.
That brings the Knights to Friday’s game against Pickens (5-3, 1-2). It’s the final scheduled game of the season, with River Ridge playing a region crossover game next week, against an opponent still to be determined.
A year ago when the Knights and Dragons met, River Ridge came away with a 28-26 victory. A repeat will be a tall task, but not impossible.
The River Ridge offense has improved steadily, while the defense kept Knights in the game for the first half of last week’s visit to Gilmer.
“Our biggest goal is go out and play smart,” Braucht said. “We need to believe in each other and play on the fact that these kids have a lot of heart. We were in the game early last week, and now we just need to concentrate on finishing.”