The Rolla football team hosted Waynesville, Union and Poplar Bluff for their jamboree on Friday, Aug. 11. The jamboree marks the last non-practice work for the Bulldogs as their gear up to face Lebanon to kick off their regular season.
Teams were each given 12 offensive plays and each played against the other three teams in the jamboree. Rolla opened things up against Poplar Bluff in the North end zone, following up with a matchup against Waynesville before moving to the South end zone to face off against Union. The most important note of the night was that the Bulldogs came out of the evening without any additional injuries. Head coach Jon Franks liked what he saw against some new competition.
"Well first of all we're very fortunate to get in here and get out with no injuries," said Franks. "We got to play a lot of guys and we're just trying to be really vanilla and evaluate a lot of kids. Our kids played hard, our kids executed pretty well tonight...I feel really good. The thing I was telling them when we left is that we're gonna screw up tonight, don't worry about that. I don't care, just play hard and they do that."
The Rolla offensive line has taken huge strides this summer and continued to impress on Friday night. Coach Franks has loved what he's seen from his big fellas up front and that didn't change in the jamboree.
"I was pretty excited about our offensive line," said the Rolla head coach. "We were pretty bland, so obviously we tried to run the ball and we moved the ball well tonight. Those guys opened some good holes and had some good pass protection, allowing lots of time. When we started this deal last year, we knew there was enough skill in Rolla to win, but we had to develop those linemen and those guys had a fabulous offseason. We're better in the trenches and it's exciting. It's not that we've reached the pinnacle, but for them to work as hard as they have and to see the difference, it's exciting."
Those linemen helped open the door for several players to shine offensively. Josh Pritchett continued to look great throwing the football and was able to break free for a few solid runs, as well. One of his favorite targets was Davis Buhr, who will spend more time split out as a wide receiver this year, and he had an excellent showing. Buhr caught multiple touchdown passes, as well as making a number of impressive catches both down the sideline and in the middle of the field. Behind Pritchett, Bryce O'Connor and Ricardo Hudson were able to find some room to run and made the most of it. Defensively, Rolla had a number of people playing in the secondary and several made an impact during the jamboree, such as safeties Buhr, Blaize Klossner and Elijah Young, despite having a cast on his thumb. The Bulldogs plan to go two deep at several positions, so it was important for them to have a number of people at each position playing well. The front seven also did a fantastic job of slowing down the running games of all three teams, as well as rushing the passer, as they were led by middle linebacker Josh Morris.
Pritchett, the team's senior starting quarterback, was happy with his team's final warmup before the regular season.
"We've got a lot of work to do still, but I like where we're heading," said Pritchett. "We're a lot better than we were last year, have a lot more experience, so I like where we're going."
Coach Franks wasn't too concerned about mistakes his players would make during the jamboree, but he does have a simple lesson he wants his players to take from Friday night into week one.
"Really just how to come out and compete, which they do a good job of," said Franks. "(We want) players that can handle adversity. If something doesn't go your way, how are you going to respond? Those guys did a really good job of that tonight, not letting a play bother them."
The Bulldogs will have a week of practice and then go into the regular season full-swing with a trip to Lebanon on Friday, Aug. 18.