BIG BLUE ON THE BRINK(LEY)
We don’t want to say that the Rockdale Tiger football team that steps on Tigerland Field Saturday night will be young, but at some point in the evening, four sophomores and a freshman will be manning the defense.
“We’re going to be asking some kids to grow up real fast,” said Jeff Miller, who begins his sixth season as head coach with a 28-27 mark.
There is a total of eight sophomores on the roster, while the lone freshman is Dailynn Ramey, who will start at linebacker, while seeing a lot of time at running back.
The Tigers kickoff the 2011 season with a bang, taking on Abilene Wylie at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The battle with the Bulldogs came about after Austin Eastside Memorial was forced to cancel their season because of a lack of players.
Miller had to scramble to find Wylie and to accomodate their 227 mile trip, the game was moved to Saturday.
After a poor performance in a scrimmage against Robinson last Thursday, Miller and his new defensive coordinator J.R. Lemons blew up the defense and started over, which entailed moving players around and bringing in some new blood from the lower ranks.
Want further proof that the Tigers are serious about getting better: there is one player that wasn’t even on the varsity roster last week that finds himself in the starting lineup for Wylie.
Newcomer sophomore Kartavious Burton (6-2, 170) will start at strong safety.
“We came off a real high after the Elgin scrimmage, but took a step back against Robinson,” Miller said. “We just didn’t really play very hard. I told them the only thing you can control is how hard you play and we didn’t compete.”
“ We re- evaluated where we were after Robinson,” he said. “We needed to make some changes.
“He (Burton) has looked really good and we are better off after the changes. We’ve had some good practices since then and after watching the film of the scrimmage, I think they have a better understanding of where we are.”
After moving to defensive end at the start of two-a-days to take advantage of the Tigers new 4-3 defensive set, sophomore James David has been pushed back to middle linebacker where he earned first-team all- district honors a year ago.
David is joined by just two returning starters, senior lineman Patrick David and junior linebacker Markus Hayes.
David and David will start on both sides of the ball, with James as the starting tailback and Patrick shifting over the tackle from center, where he was the first-team, all-district snapper in 2010.
Senior Stephen Schneider will also take up line positions on both sides and with wide receiver/ defensive back Calyton Gibbs, the Tigers will have four players going both ways.
Miller feels like he has a talented group of receivers to catch passes from junior quarterback Ethan Brinkley, to erase the memory of last year’s struggles.
Neither one of the starters, Gibbs or Cody Skuba l, has caught a varsity pass.
Gibbs is a sophomore and Skubal (6-foot-3, 175 pounds) hasn’t put on a football uniform since junior high and is primarily a basketball player.
However, Skubal has proven to be a sticky fingered pass catcher in 7-on-7 play and two-a-days.
“He has caught the ball really well,” Miller said. “He has a good eye for the ball and he has been a real pleasant surprise. He had a good summer and three weeks of practice. He could be a difference maker.”
Miller says his team is certainly ready to get the season started.
“ I know we are excited for this team to come in here and compete and it should be a good game.”
Under long-time coach Hugh Sandifer, Wylie has been the model of consistency as one of the largest Class 3A schools in the state.
In 25 yea rs, Sa nd ifer has guided the Bulldogs to a 216- 87-4 record and Wylie has made 17 consecutive playoff appearances, claimed at least a share of 11 straight district titles and played in three 3A Division I state championship games—winning the title in 2004.
“They’re going to be very well coached and will have a lot of depth,” Miller said. “ They are a solid program and have been doing the same thing for years.
“We match up against them pretty well athletically. We’re looking for ward to the challenge.”
The Bulldogs are coming off their first losing season in 16 years after finishing 5- 7, but they did manage to win a playoff game.
They return just six starters, split evenly between offense and defense and are picked third in District 5-3A, which includes power houses No. 10 Snyder and No 18 Brownwood.
“They all like to compete against other teams, but this bunch really likes to compete with each other for playing spots and starting positions,” Sandifer told the Abilene Reporter. “Once we’re playing, they’re all for each other, but they like to compete and make sure we get guys on the field that have had to compete.
“We were very young on the defensive side of the ball last year. Sometimes during the season we had four sophomores on the field at any given time, which is very uncharacteristic for us. Those guys took some lumps out there, and hopefully they’ve grow n up and w ill be better players, which I know they will be because they’re all bigger and stronger.”
Nothing came easy for the Bulldogs in 2010, when they went 5-7, losing three games by three points or fewer and three others by 28 or more. But with 29 lettermen back from that squad, Wylie has much bigger goals this year.
That starts on defense, where last year a young Wylie unit surrendered 27.7 points and 399 yards per game.
Wylie is led by wide receiver/ defensive back Richard Bloomer (6-foot-5, 205) who grabbed 36 passes and made 42 stops in 2010.
TIGER TRACKS—The Tigers are pretty healthy heading into Saturday. Senior lineman Nic Erman is still suf fer ing the affects of a concussion from the Elgin scrimmage two weks ago and senior wide reciever Brandon Wright is still having trouble with his knee... Wylie will not spend the night in Rockdale, but head back to Abilene after the game, which is a four-hour trip. The Rockdale Athletic Booster club will, however, feed the team before the game... With Friday off, Tiger coaches will take the rare opportunity to scout games during zero week and will splinter all over the state. They will travel to Marlin to watch Salado-Marlin; Cameron to watch Connally- Cameron; and to Leander to watch Liberty Hill-Rouse... Miller’s latest contact with Le’Raven Clark is that the former star is now running second string at left tackle for Texas Tech and therefore will not redshirt this season as previously planned. Also, as pointed out in last week’s TT, Clark’s roster height of 6-foot-3 was a mistake and his actual height of 6-foot-6 is now listed.
This report contains information from the Abilene Reporter-News
|8||QB||Ethan||Brinkley, 6-||2, 180||Jr|
|7||WR||Clayton Gibbs, 6-||0, 170||So|
|72||LG||Josh||Pelzel, 6- 6,||270||So|
|52||C||Ty||Kirk, 5-9, 185||Sr|
|51||RG||Steph. Schneider,||6-1,||220 Sr|
|50||RT||Patrick David, 6-||1, 230||Sr|
2011 TIGER SCHEDULE
|Aug. 27||Abilene Wylie|
|Sept. 2||at Salado|
|Sept. 16||at Liberty Hill|
|Oct. 7||at Navasota*|
|Oct. 21||at LaGrange*|
|Nov. 4||at Caldwell*|
|* District||23-3A game|
• RHS is 55-41-3 in season openers all-time.
• The Tigers are 4-1 under Jeff Miller in season openers and are trying to win their fifth straight for the first time since 1974-78. From 1970-78, the Tigers captured nine straight season openers.
• Entering his sixth season here, only three coaches have roamed the sidelines longer than Miller: Casey Creghan (1994-03), Fred Johnson (1973- 80) and Ray Birchfield (1960- 66)
• The Tigers are 7-3 in season openers in the past 10 years.
• The Tigers are 11-8-1 in the past 20 years in season openers.
• The Tigers were 4-2 last season at home and are 12-4 in the past three seasons at Tiger Field.
• According to Texas HS Football.com, Rockdale is 461-416- 27 all-time in football.
• The Tigers made their 22nd playoff appearance in 2009. They have 19 playoff wins.
• The Tigers haven’t won a district title since 1999, the last of consecutive crowns.
• Last season marked the 14th time the Tigers have finished second in district play.
• Should the Tigers make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive time this season, it would extend their school record of four.
• Under the current playoff format, the Tigers would have made the playoffs for eight straight years from 1973-80. They were district champs in 73- 75-76-77-79; 2nd in 74 and 80; and third in 78.