Bulldogs unleash their spread offense as practice begins Monday.

Coming off three difficult years, the Rolla High School football team is roaring to get the new season going.

With the excitement that has followed by the instillation of the spread offensive formation, the Bulldogs will begin practice Monday at Lions Memorial Field.

The Bulldogs will practice from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday RHS will hold its annual Gatorade Scrimmage on the game field, with warmups starting at 9 a.m.

Rolla has eight offensive and seven defensive starters back from last season’s squad, which struggled to a 1-9 campaign, including a 1-8 Ozark Conference mark.

Much of the anticipation comes with the switch from the option to the spread as the team’s base offense.

“Our kids have been excited since June, which is the first time we met and talked about what we’re going to do offensively,” said Willie Howard, entering his fourth season as Bulldog head coach. “It’s one of those things where in the 1980s you could win games 7-0. Now, you’ve got to find a way to score 35 to give yourself a chance. The average defense gives up 20 points per game now.”

Although RHS players have had just limited experience running the spread - the offensive tendencies of the offense was instilled during the summer’s 7-on-7 passing league, the offense itself installed during the RHS team camp in July and then used during the Sullivan Full-Contract Camp a couple weeks ago - Howard says the Bulldogs have been a quick-study group.

“You’ve just got to get the feeling between quarterback and receivers,” Howard said. “You’ve got to get them a lot of balls and catch a lot of balls. It’s no different than the option - it’s all rhythm and timing.”

Offensive starters back for RHS include junior quarterback Kyle Morris (6-2, 190), senior running back Andy Satulla (5-9, 185), senior tight end/wideout Blaine Hrovat (5-9, 180), senior tight end/wideout Braden Tiddy (6-2, 205), senior wideout Brad Lohr (5-9, 165), senior wideout Collin Nash (5-11, 180), senior guard Dalton Turner 6-2, 210) and senior tackle Dakota Cartwright (6-4, 250).

Other key players back on offense include senior running back Korey Pearson (5-10, 180), junior quarterback-receiver Zach Brown (6-2, 200), junior receiver Josh Leon (5-10, 190), junior receiver Keegan Chrisco (5-11, 160), senior lineman Jay Atherton (6-4, 225) and junior running back Lee Clancy (5-8, 160).

Starters back for the RHS defense include senior lineman Tyler Hribar (5-11, 195), junior inside linebacker Evan Voight (5-11, 200), senior outside linebackers Holden Pierce (6-0, 180), Billy Brookshire (5-11, 160) and Satulla and senior cornerbacks Landon Maynard (6-2, 170) and Nash.

Other key defensive personnel figures to be Clancy at defensive back, junior lineman Wyatt Thompson (6-2, 200), junior inside linebacker Jakin Ellison (6-0, 205) and senior inside linebacker Brandon Sparks (5-10, 190). Sparks was a projected starter last year but missed the entire season with injury.

Maynard is the returning place-kicker. The punting position is up for grabs.

Last season Satulla was the hub of the RHS offense, rushing for 1,345 yards (5.7 yards-per-carry) with 10 touchdowns and 18 receptions for 264 yards and one TD while Morris completed 80-of-180 passes for 804 yards, four TDs and six interceptions.

Nash caught 14 passes for 154 yards last season while Lohr had 15 receptions for 148 yards.

Defensively Brookshire had 51 solo tackles and 68 total while Voight had 29 and 40.

A huge key to the spread offense is success on the ground, and Satulla figures to again be one of the top rushers in the area.

“You can dress it up and call it the spread, but if you can run the ball it makes it difficult to defend,” Howard said. “And Andy has been doing a nice job.”

Howard feels he has a core of receivers who can also do a nice job and thinks Morris will make the conversion in offensive philosophy nicely.

“We’re going to use our quarterback the way he was meant to be used - to distribute the ball and not just run the ball and occasionally pass it,” Howard said.

On defense, Howard says, “We’ve got some nice returners. We have a lot of kids who were on the field last year. As a staff we talked about the importance of tackling and making plays.

“We have a lot of linebackers coming back. Voight started 10 games as a sophomore. We’ve got some defenders who can run with wide receivers and can make things happen when we they’re called to blitz.”

BULLDOG NOTES: Former Rolla High standout player Robbie Pettijohn is the newest full-time assistant coach on Howard’s staff, replacing Karl Odenwald, who resigned two weeks ago.

Pettijohn served as a volunteer coach for RHS last season. Also added to the staff as a volunteer coach is Brian Owens, who has worked in the Rolla Youth Football program and last school year served as the Rolla Junior High School freshman baseball coach.

Other holdover assistant coaches are Reggie McElroy, Joe Schuchardt, Chad Shockley and Tim Webster.

The Bulldog coaching staff certainly has an area flavor to it. Pettijohn played at Rolla High; Shockley and Webster played at St. James High, Schuchardt and Howard (briefly) both played at Salem. Also, Shockley was a record-setting receiver at Missouri S&T, while Webster and Pettijohn were also briefly on the Miner roster.

McElroy certainly commands plenty of respect from the Bulldog players, as he was a standout offensive lineman in the NFL.

Howard will coach quarterbacks and again serve as offensive coordinator while Schuchardt will coach linebackers and serve as defensive coordinator; McElroy will coach the offensive linemen; Shockley the wide receivers; Owens the running backs; Webster the defensive linemen, and Pettijohn the defensive backs.

Rolla will compete in the St. Clair Jamboree on Friday, Aug. 15. The Bulldogs open their schedule by hosting Ozark Conference rival Lebanon at 7 p.m. Aug. 22. Prior to the Aug. 22 opener will be the Rolla Community Tailgate, beginning around 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot around Lions Memorial Field.

Here is the RHS 2014 schedule:
All Game Times 7 p.m.
Aug. 22...Lebanon
Aug. 29...at Springfield Kickapoo
Sept. 5...Springfield Parkview
Sept. 12...Joplin
Sept. 19...at Waynesville
Sept. 26...Camdenton
Oct. 3...at Springfield Glendale
Oct. 10...Springfield Hillcrest
Oct. 17...at West Plains
Oct. 24...1st round of district (tba)