With the close proximity between the schools, and the fact that River Ridge pulled students from Woodstock’s territory when it opened six years ago, one might assume there would be a natural rivalry.
One of the coaches doesn’t think that is the case.
“I don’t know if you can ever say that playing them will ever be a rivalry,” River Ridge coach Robert Braucht said. “I really don’t know if you can say that. Etowah is Woodstock’s rivalry. It has been, and will always be, Woodstock’s rivalry. Then, you’ve got Sequoyah, which, as people have told me, has been a rival of Cherokee for many years. Right there is four of the six. That leaves Creekview, who you would think would be a natural rivalry for Sequoyah, because that’s where they came from, and then there’s us. To say there is a rivalry, I just don’t see that or feel that.”
Woodstock coach Brent Budde thinks his program has room for another rival. The Wolverines scrimmaged the Knights each of the last two years in order to start cultivating that.
“We have seen each other the last two years, and I think that is kind of the idea,” Budde said. “They are the next-closest school to us other than that other school (Etowah), and they pulled kids from Woodstock when they opened. We’d like to make it a game that we can continue to play.”
Braucht said he doesn’t need a rivalry to get his players excited about the game.
“It’s the first game of the year,” he said. “I don’t have to do anything to get them excited, just because it’s the first game of the year and we are ready to play a real football game.”
Woodstock and River Ridge are both trying to get their respective programs back on track.
The Wolverines have had seasons of success scattered through their 17-year history, but the last time they qualified for the state playoffs — and the only time with Budde as the head coach — was in 2010.
The Knights’ history, although much shorter, has seen one gradual rise, followed by a fall. After going 8-2 in 2011, they finished just 2-8 last year.
Woodstock switched to a spread offense last season, and after a year of practice, quarterback Justin Agner has a solid grasp of it.
“Justin did a good job last year, and I know he understands more about it this season,” Budde said. “We have some young linemen that are still catching on, but we returned all our skill players, and they understand what they need to do.”
River Ridge made its own changes this year, although Braucht hasn’t gone into much detail. He said the team’s scrimmage was used to get some of the kinks out, and he treated it more like a live practice than a game.
“We learned about ourselves as individuals, the coaches as well as players,” Braucht said. “We have been working on those things all week, and I believe there will be an increase in production. We did things in the scrimmage that we would never do in game. We didn’t worry about the score at all because of that.”
River Ridge and Woodstock will both have their full rosters available after making it to the start of the season without any injuries.
“A couple weeks ago, I couldn’t really say (we were healthy), but we are healthy right now,” Budde said. “We just have to execute and can’t give up the big plays.”