The Rolla football team finally gets their season underway on Friday, as the Bulldogs make the trip down to Springfield to face off against Glendale. The Falcons are going to be a very different team when they were a year ago, as they lost a whopping 17 starters to graduation. That provides an interesting challenge to the Bulldogs, who now have to gameplan for a new-look Glendale team.
"Every year when we go into week one it's pretty much the same. We lean hard on fundamentals, lean hard on our scheme and most of all we worry about our execution and our play," said head coach Jon Franks about the week of preparation for week one. "You have the jamboree tape to go off, but you don't know what anybody is going to do when they come out week one. You've gotta have your kids prepared for any scenario, every situation."
Offensively, Glendale is starting from scratch. Alex Huston, who spent the last few years torching the Ozark Conference at quarterback, is gone and Glendale is working to find a replacement. Coach Franks expects to be seeing his brother, Blaine Huston, taking snaps at quarterback when the two teams face off week one.
"Right now, exchanging starters, he's got the Huston boy in there, the sophomore," said Franks. "From what I understand, that's who they're going to go with. Obviously, that kid's going to be well rehearsed in the system and in the scheme and he was a good freshman quarterback."
The key for the Rolla defense will be turning up the pressure and make the young quarterback prove that he can make the throws necessary to beat them.
"I think that's anytime you face a team with a sophomore as the main guy. They've got to go through the acclamation to the speed. No matter how good you are in freshman ball and JV ball, it speeds up a little more," said the Rolla head coach. "Game experience, game pressure. The kid hass learned from the best with his brother, he's coached by Mike Mauk, he's coached by Ben Mauk, he's coached by Maty Mauk. He definitely got a lot of experienced wrapped around him."
Glendale does have a little talent returning on the offensive end. They're replacing their quarterback and all five starters on the line, but they do have a pair of returning receivers in Winston Quinn and Ryan Moon. Quinn comes back to the team after catching 62 passes for 740 yards and eight touchdowns last season. While those two are going to be some of Huston's top targets, coach Franks doesn't want to put too much focus on stopping one receiver in particular.
"Obviously they return a receiver that's pretty good, but it's one of those that when you go to a game one, it's hard to say 'this guy,'" said coach Franks. "They did a great job last year, because we tried to take out their best guy and they spread the guy to other people. Their system prepares for that and they do a great job, so it's really hard to take away one guy and not get hurt."
With Glendale's spread offense, the key is to have plenty of athletes in coverage and having subs so they can all stay fresh. Coach Franks plans to have a few more players factor into his secondary than normal, so you'll see more from players that will typically focus on offense like Blaize Klossner and RJ Alfred, as well as some new faces.
"We've got a couple of juniors that are really good ballplayers that are kind of waiting their turn. Dawitt Pritchett, Muluken Pritchett, those two are going to be more involved and we're going to obviously play a couple of two-way players more," said the Rolla head coach. "And we've got a couple of young pups like Isaac Hunter that can do some. RJ Alfred is a great cover corner. Definitely, their scheme makes you prepare in a different way."
Offensively, Rolla's got a new quarterback of their own getting ready to make his first varsity start. Coach Franks has liked what he's seen out of his junior quarterback in the week leading up to the game.
"Kinda like we've seen all summer, he's composed. He's got that attitude where he just wants to be good and do things right," said coach Franks. "He definitely knows he's got things to work on, but in the jamboree he did a great job. Two touchdown passes, a touchdown run and zero turnovers and for us that's awesome, taking care of the ball. He's just going to get better and better. Obviously, there will be hiccups, but Jack is very strong mentally, he'll be able to handle things just fine."
While the Bulldogs are confident in their quarterback, they're hoping they won't need to put a ton of pressure on him in the passing game. With the fast pace of the Glendale offense, the Bulldogs will look to slow down the game on the offensive side of the ball and pound the rock.
"As much as they throw the football, we want to shorten the game as much as possible, slow down, run the football if we can," said coach Franks. "For a target area, there's not necessarily a position or person, we just know that we want to able to run the football and we want to be able to exhaust as much time off the clock as we can."
With how busy several of Rolla's skill players will be in the defensive secondary, the Bulldogs will also use a variety of guys to move the ball on offense.
"Definitely defensively we want to stay fresh. Offensively, we're going to do our best because obviously we two-platoon, but we're going to have to cut into some of those skill guys this week like Trey (Quick), Blaize and Elijah (Young). We're going to have to dip into their services on defense quite a bit," said Franks. "But we've got some young pups with Ike Hunter and Brady Yarger and some other guys that are getting close to getting a lot of reps, so we're going to use a lot of people."
While a lot of prep goes into getting ready for that first game, coach Franks is just excited to see his players finally get to hit the field and prove themselves.
"I wanna see this team really just go at it live. I'm excited about this group," said the Rolla head coach. "They've worked extremely hard this summer, they've had a lot of positive things happen this summer, they've got a good attitude. It's like anything, you just want to get that first game going. For me, it's always getting that first punt off. That's the one thing I can't stand, I hate that first punt, because of that snap and kick and cover, but once I see that happen I relax a little bit and just enjoy the game. Like I told these guys, I just like watching them play."