With 30 seniors on the roster, the time is now for Ridge View to returning to the winning ways that defined the early years of Raymond Jennings’ tenure as the second coach in program history.
The Blazers went 32-20 in their first four seasons under Jennings (2004-07), and made an improbable run to the Class 4A Division II semifinals in 2007. But over the past four seasons Ridge View has managed no more than three wins in any season, compiling an 11-34 overall record and a 1-19 region mark.
Last season, the Blazers finished 3-8 and missed the state playoffsfor the third year in a row.
“Last season is gone,” Jennings said. “We’re not that team anymore. This team has the best character kids I’ve ever been around in my life. The commitment to winning football games is there. We have talent and we have experience. Now, we have to go out and prove it on the field.”
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The big issue of late has been lack of offensive production. A year ago, the Blazers averaged 155.5 yards per game and tallied 10 offensive touchdowns. Ridge View’s scoring average during the past four seasons is 11.6 points per game.
“The focus has to be getting the ball into the end zone,” Jennings said.
Jennings brought Derek Howard in from Keenan to be the new offensive coordinator. Howard was the first quarterback in Ridge View history and helped turn around the program at Keenan.
“I like his approach and the fresh ideas he brings to the kids and the staff as a whole,” Jennings said.
The key men in the new offense are three-year starting running back Gary Bradshaw, senior quarterback Nolan Randolph and senior receiver Tre’van Howell. Bradshaw ran for 853 yards and led the team in scoring with five TDs. Randolph passed for 211 yards and one score in limited time at the position. Howell had 26 catches for 399 yards.
The offensive line is the big area of concern with one returning starter — senior left tackle Armonte Porterfield.
The defense is primed for a big year with eight returning starters. The spotlight players include seniors Obinna Ntiasagwe, Curtis Bey, Willie Doctor, Ren McNeil, DeMario Evans and Will Samuel.
Ntiasagwe, a three-year starter, is a versatile defensive lineman who rang up 107 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks a year ago. Bey, a four-year varsity man, had 74 tackles, 13 TFL and eight sacks from his end spot last season. Doctor had 89 tackles and six pass breakups at outside linebacker. McNeil produced 75 stops, 10 TFL and three sacks on the interior line. Evans was credited with 49 tackles at safety and had five interceptions and eight pass breakups. Inside linebacker Samuel had 61 tackles.