Knights coach Robert Braucht said it will be a bittersweet night for the seniors, but probably more bitter than sweet for a group that he has been with for five years.
River Ridge opened its doors when Braucht’s current crop of seniors were eighth-graders at neighboring Mill Creek Middle School. Since River Ridge only had freshmen on campus, they practiced with the middle school team, with Braucht overseeing the group.
In many ways, this year’s seniors have been more a part of the program than the first class, which graduated in May. After all, it’s the seniors on this team who played four full years of varsity football.
“Some of these kids have been practicing with me and a couple of the other coaches for five years now, not just four,” Braucht said. “For those kids and the coaches that have been with us since we opened up the school, it’s going to be a delightful night, but a sad night seeing those kids one more time on the field. It’s also going to be another chapter in the book written here at this school about these kids who have been here for the long haul.”
The group has seen ups and downs, not only this season but over their careers.
In their freshmen year, they went 2-7 in varsity play. As sophomores, they improved to 8-2 but weren’t eligible for the playoffs because they played a non-region schedule. As juniors, they finished 5-6 but made the state playoffs for the first time.
Now as seniors, they are hoping to earn a season-closing win and improve to 2-8.
Braucht said he hasn’t talked with his seniors about how they will handle their final game. The group was recognized last week during senior night.
“I don’t think that it will really hit them until Friday night or Saturday or sometime next week,” Braucht said. “Some are going to get hit differently than others and some will be more emotional than others.”
Braucht said it’s been a good week of practice preparing for Heritage (1-8). The Knights have been working through a series of injuries that led to senior quarterback Steven Spears, who started the first eight games of the season, moving to receiver last week and his younger brother, sophomore Marcus Spears, replacing him under center.
Braucht didn’t say whether the arrangement with the Spears brothers would continue Friday.
“With the injuries and different kids being out for sickness, it was something we felt that we had to do to be competitive,” Braucht said. “We felt we needed to be able to utilize Steven’s talents and abilities on the edge to be able to have a chance to be competitive. It was just a chance for us to get an athlete out there in space.”
Braucht said moves like that would not be possible without versatile players like Steven Spears.
“It takes a special player to be able to pick up a position that they haven’t played since eighth grade and play it well,” Braucht said.