Senioritis: Football preview with coach Rutledge

Football looks to improve from last year with a new defensive scheme

Football looks to improve from a 1-8 record with a large group of underclassmen and hope for no COVID-19 outbreak on the team.

The Chargers take the field against Mission Valley at 7 p.m Friday at home.

The Charger interviewed head football coach Jess Rutledge.

How are you feeling about the season so far?

“Good! I feel good about every season, but every coach can say that because we look great right now in practice, but anxious to see what we look like against an opponent.”

What things have you been focusing on at summer practices?

“Big focal points are the new defense that we are going to be running. Made slight tweaks to our offense and a couple to special teams. Most of what we are doing will be the same. We did a lot more individualized positional group work.

How do you have to change the season due to COVID?

“Right now the only thing we have to change is small things. Kids have to have their own water bottle. Timeouts can’t be on the sidelines anymore. Wipe down footballs. KSHSAA made a big point that if you’re not in the game or actively going in and out of the game they need to have some type of face covering. Need to space them out.”

What are some things you are worried about going forward?

“The big concern would be an outbreak on the team. Does one player shut it down? It’s tough because you worry, but it’s nobody’s fault. I worry about other teams. Am I doing everything I can to make sure my team is safe and sanitary?”

How are the players dealing with the changes?

“They’re doing outstanding. We were able to have our strength and conditioning and do some football stuff. We tell our kids to appreciate today we know we can be here today, don’t worry about tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Just worry about the fact that you get today, because everybody here knows what it’s like to have school and sports and extracurriculars taken away from you so appreciate the moments you have and I feel like they’ve embraced that a lot. Is everyday great? No, but they’ve done a really good job adjusting with the different protocols we have to do and I feel there’s a sense that this could go away.”

Did you have to make a lot of adjustments over the summer as far as practicing and do you think they will have an impact on how the season turns out?

“Honestly we didn’t have to make that many adjustments, us being a smaller school and us having a good sized weight room and gym access we were able to keep people socially distanced at all times. The only really big change was having to temp check kids and ask them their pre-screening questions, but then it became second nature and kids got really good at that. With practice and talking to our county health director during the summer at least, everything was outside and most of what he told us was that it has a harder time surviving outside in the sunlight. And we don’t have as many restrictions as some sports that are inside. So it hasn’t changed that much and don’t see it having an impact on how we play our season.”

Who are some of the team’s key players this season?

“There’s so many, but I’ll give you a couple. Dawson Schultz is a returning starter on both sides of the ball going into year three on the football team, a senior, he really is Mr. Do-it-all. Last year led us in return yardage, he was second on the team in tackles, second on the team in receptions, and is an unbelievable hard worker. He’s basically what I model a good football player after. Cade Oliver is coming back to start his third year at quarterback which is really big in the sport of football. We just need him to take a bigger step forward with leadership being more vocal which he has shown us so far and just fine tuning his game. His completion percentage, his yards went up from his freshman year. Touchdown went down by one and interceptions went up by two, so just a little more consistency from him there, but his running game has, no pun intended, but taken off. Adam Miller will be a four-year starter on both sides of the ball for us. He’s shown a lot of personal growth as far as being a leader, which I think is important for him. He’s a physically imposing force.”

Do underclassmen/new players bring promising talent?

“Absolutely! We have 27 players on our football team and 18 of them are freshmen and sophomores. They are showing a ton of promise. Most people look at that situation and go ‘oh my god that’s a lot of new kids.’ I try to find the positive in it and I see a lot of fresh faces with opportunities and a lot of guys who are hungry to get playing time. We have more depth in a lot of positions than in the past. And guys are pushing each other. We’ve got spots that aren’t sewn up because there’s eight or nine seniors. There is a lot of promise with our sophomores and freshmen.”

What are some of the big games you are looking forward to?

Week one vs. Mission Valley

Week 5 vs. Valley Heights

Week 8 vs. Centralia

But every game matters.

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