Raiders have adjusted to 11-man after tough 2011Travis Olson has been a high school football coach for more than a decade. All of that, until last season, was in 9-man.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Raiders’ upside: After a tough season, Richardton-Taylor-Hebron is settled into 11-man with a veteran lineup.
Raiders’ downside: Despite having good experience, the team is lacking a true go-to player in the offensive backfield.
Travis Olson has been a high school football coach for more than a decade.
All of that, until last season, was in 9-man.
The Richardton-Taylor-Hebron head coach’s first experience in 11-man left something to be desired as the Raiders finished 2-7, a rare losing season for the team that won two 9-man region titles and only twice missed the playoffs under Olson’s watch.
“People don’t think it changes from 9-man to 11-man, but everything changes,” Olson said. “It was a big change.”
One year of 11-man experience did a lot for the Raiders though, Olson said.
With a strong batch of experienced returners, the 13-year veteran believes R-T-H can make some noise and fight for a playoff spot in what stands to be a challenging Class A, Region 4 field.
“I can say we’re excited about some of those guys coming back,” Olson said. “I’m glad we do have some of them coming back for another year. Last year I don’t think represented them the way it could have and should have. We didn’t play with a lot of confidence last year. That was a big thing for us.”
Hoping to lead the turnaround are all-region seniors Paul Koppinger, a fullback and linebacker, and Chad Gullickson, a tight end and linebacker, along with experienced seniors Kasey Dressler, Mack Vaagen, Cade Kuntz, Logan Wheri and Robert Perrin.
“We’re excited about some of those seniors,” Olson said. “They’re a class that worked pretty hard and hopefully we have a better season than we did a year ago.”
The issue will be finding where everyone fits on the field.
Junior Lane Voltz will be looked upon as the Raiders’ full-time quarterback this season after sharing time last season with both graduated senior Dylin Patton and Dressler. Voltz was 10 of 27 for 66 yards and a touchdown in 2011.
The Raiders lost more than 1,400 yards of rushing from last season with the graduation of Patton, Sean Elkins and Trevor Parsons.
Dressler, Vaagen and Koppinger are expected to fill the void there, Olson said, with Gullickson, Kuntz and junior Ty McCone looking to be the primary targets for Voltz.
Up front, the Raiders have size in Wehri (6-foot-1, 235 pounds), Perrin (5-11, 230) and juniors Lane Aune (6-0, 210) and Logan Lacher (6-0, 200). Junior tight end Spencer Floberg (6-2, 230 pounds) is also in the mix.
Defensively, Lacher is a returning starter on the line and Koppinger, Dressler, Gullickson and Aune all return at linebacker in the Raiders’ 3-5 defense with speedy sophomore Cory Rebel in the secondary.
Olson hopes the defensive strategy pays off against the many run-first teams in Region 4.
“We’re going to try and play a 3-5,” Olson said. “Put eight guys up front and try and put some pressure on them if they try and throw the ball and try and slow down the running games.”
Head coach: Trevor Olson (13th season)
Last season: 2-7
Returners: Paul Koppinger, Sr., FB/LB; Chad Gullickson, Sr., TE/LB; Logan Wehri, Sr., OL/DL; Mack Vaagen, Sr., RB/DB; Cade Kuntz, Sr., WR/DB; Lane Voltz, Jr., QB/DB; Lane Aune, Jr., OL/DL; Logan Lacher, JR., OL/DL; Spencer Floberg, Jr., TE; Ty McCone, Jr., WR.
Newcomers: Cole Kuntz, Jr., OL/DL; Cory Rebel, So., WR/DB; Jaden Schmidt, So., RB/LB; Chandler Kelly, JR., DL; Trystan Fisher, Jr., FB/LB.
Losses: Sean Elkins, RB/LB; Nathan Ling, OL/DL; Dylin Patton, WR/QB/DB; Trevor Parsons, FB/LB; Dakota Messer, TE/DL.