WR Zach Williams (6-0, 185, Sr.), G/DE Hunter Routte (6-0, 195, Sr.), DT/OT Adam Harding (6-0, 215, Sr.), OT Nick Cunningham (5-11, 245, Sr.), DL Shane Brintlinger (5-10, 195, Sr.)
2006 Record: 12-1
For most of the 2000s, times for the West Jefferson Rough Riders have been, well, rough.
From 2000 to 2003, the program had collected just six wins against 33 losses, including a winless campaign in 2002.
Things began to improve in 2004 and 2005, during which the Rough Riders posted back-to-back five-win seasons. The fire that was lit in those two seasons grew to an inferno in 2006, when West Jefferson broke through with an undefeated regular season and a trip to the regional finals.
“I think it was something we had been building on for the past five years,” West Jefferson head coach Shawn Buescher said. “I know five years ago our current staff came in as was able to start a program basically from scratch. It was downtrodden as you could possibly get, but the one thing we had on our side was the fact that there was a great tradition here in West Jefferson in the past. We were able to build off that.
“Throughout the past five years, we had been building towards the type of year we had last year. We were fortunate enough to have some breaks go our way and we ended up 12-1.”
Buescher credits much of the team’s success to a group of seniors that helped dig the team out of the hard times.
“I think the big thing is it started with our senior leadership,” he said. “We had a good group of seniors and we had kids that were doing the right things both on and off the field and in the community. So that’s kind of where it started. I think we were a team of high character and that translated into some wins, and that’s something that we have been able to impress upon our kids for this coming year. If the kids do things right both in the community and in the classroom, on the playing field good things will happen for us.”
This year, West Jefferson will be going from the hunter to the hunted as teams on their schedule will have an eye out for the Rough Riders after their successful season. Buescher feels the attention will be something the players will have to adjust to.
“One of the big things for us is the fact that we’re obviously going to be a bulls-eye for some of the other teams that are playing us,” Buescher said. “We were fortunate enough last year to come out and have a pretty decent year, to win our league and to go undefeated in the regular season. People obviously now are going to be talking about us.
“We’re not really the one doing the chasing as much anymore; we’re the ones being chased in terms of our league. That’s something that’s going to be new to our kids, and I’ve tried to talk to them about how now the big challenge is to make sure they can repeat and be the team on everybody’s schedule that we’ve got to be to make sure we have that great year.”
Another obstacle for this year’s team will be to replace some of the valued members of the departed senior class. Some experience returns up front with linemen Hunter Routte, Adam Harding, Nick Cunningham, and Shane Brintlinger, but most of the skill positions will have some new faces.
“We do lose some key components on both side of the ball,” Buescher said. “I know offensively we lose our quarterback and our fullback who split time with an underclassman and our tailback, and up front we lose two senior offensive linemen and a wide receiver. So we do lose quite a bit offensively. Defensively we graduate three of our four defensive backs as well as one of our linebackers, so we have some kids that we need to replace, but we feel very good about our underclassmen.
“Philosophically we’re pretty much going to be the same football team. We’ve just got to continue to build and try to plug new players in.”
West Jefferson navigated through a challenging schedule in 2006 and faces many of the same teams again this year.
“We open up with Mechanicsburg, who was the regional runner up in Division VI,” Buescher said. “We feel like they are a tremendous football program and they return quite a bit of talent, so we know that that’ll be a great challenge for us. Not only do we have to play them week one, but we have to go down to their place, and they’ve been a program with tremendous tradition, so that’s going to be a nice program for our kids.
“And we feel like our league is a tremendous football league. Fisher Catholic had a great year last year. Liberty Union had a solid year, and we feel like there are some quality opponents in our league and there’s some other teams that had some average years last year that are going to continue to build. They’re all well-coached, so we think that they are going to be great programs in the future.”
Regardless of what may or may not be back from last year’s team, most expect the winning to continue for the Rough Riders.
“Expectations here are very high,” Buescher said. “This is a program with great tradition. There’s been many great players and many great coaches to walk these halls and it’s something that our community takes great pride in. Our support on Friday night for a school our size I believe is second to none. So football’s very, very important here, and our kids and our coaches totally understand that. That’s something where we not only have to represent our school, we have to represent our community because of the fact that there’s so much pride involving our football program.”
|8/31/2007||London Madison Plains||4|
|9/14/2007||Baltimore Liberty Union||5|
|9/21/2007||@ Sugar Grove Berne Union||6|
|9/28/2007||Columbus Grandview Heights||5|
|10/6/2007||@ Lancaster Fisher Catholic||6|
|10/20/2007||@ Canal Winchester Harvest Prep||6|
|10/26/2007||Pataskala Licking Heights||4|