Photo by Elmer Smith
Grainger Today Correspondent
RUTLEDGE – With no returning starters and only 10 eighth graders, Rutledge Middle School head coach Richard Livesay and assistant coaches, Brent Trueblood and Brian Dortch, are looking at all the available alternatives as they continue their preparations for the 2017 football season.
With a roster of about 32 players that has only five eighth graders who have playing experience and five additional eighth graders who have no middle school experience, the first conclusion that can be reached is that all the players will be playing on both sides of the football. “We’ve got a good attitude, but we’re just really, really raw,” said coach Livesay, who is concerned with the size of his team and and the line play, as there are no starters returning on either starting line.
However, Livesay points out, “The team shows up, works hard and has a good attitude and doesn’t complain about conditioning drills or other practice activities.” The inexperienced players are so raw they are still learning the plays and the intricacies of the game of football. Additionally, those five players who played last year are a group of talented and athletic players who have speed. These players will need to be the leaders of the team, set the example for the younger players and provide the encouragement for the inexperienced players.
At present, only six players have locked up starting positions. Ian Dortch, who would have started at quarterback last year if he had not been injured, will be the starting QB. Additionally, Landon Patterson will be the starting tailback, with Cainnan Long getting the nod at the fullback position. Seventh-grader Jacob Hill will primarily see action at the tight end position and could possibly see some playing time at tailback. The two other players who have locked up positions are Blake Morrison and Chris Payne, who are working hard to anchor the line play. These six players will be the core of the team and will also man positions on the defensive side of the football. Once these players are settled into their positions on offense and defense, the other players will be moved around until the remaining positions have been worked out.
One additional disadvantage for the team is that a couple of their scrimmages have been canceled and that has been a blow to getting more game-like experience, rather that just hitting with their teammates in practice.
However, it does appear that the early games on the schedule will be favorable for the Pioneers. “The early games will allow the team to continue to develop in a competitive environment early in the season,” said Livesay. “That will give the younger players a little time to grow up.”