Ridgewood faces heightened expectations with 13 starters back

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Ridgewood Generals

2007 was supposed to be a bit of a rebuilding year for Ridgewood Generals, but things wound up taking a turn for the better. The Generals, despite being decimated by graduation, posted a nine-win season and their fifth consecutive playoff appearance. This year’s team returns seven starters on defense and six on offense. Big things are expected of this team by the school and community.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

FB/LB Derrick Young (5-11, 210, sr.), DT/HB Zack Queen (6-3, 275, sr.), QB Jake Conrad (5-10, 165, jr.), G Max Freetage (6-4, 220, sr.), G Brad Gallagher (6-4, 255, sr.), OT Justin Murphy (6-5, 310, sr.)

SEASON OUTLOOK

2007 Record: 9-2, Regional Quarterfinalist

2007 was supposed to be a bit of a rebuilding year for Ridgewood Generals, but things wound up taking a turn for the better.

The Generals, despite being decimated by graduation, posted a nine-win season and their fifth consecutive playoff appearance.

“We were really, really happy with last year’s team,” head coach John Slusser said. “We had lost a great senior class from the year before that we knew was pretty good and they went 10-0 the year before. We lost I believe nine starters defensively and eight or nine offensively. We thought last year was going to be a year where we really were going to have to reload and rebuild, and our senior group with a lot of help from the juniors below really came through and had a tremendous year.”

This year’s team returns seven starters on defense and six on offense. Big things are expected of this team by the school and community.

“We’re real lucky here because in our town, football’s a big deal here,” Slusser said. “Our community gets excited for it and our school gets excited for it. I would say with this team, there’s probably as much or more excitement than any team in the past – probably since the 2004 team.

“People are pretty excited, including the coaches. We’ve got a lot of people back this year.”

Leading the way for the Generals will be All-Ohio performer Derrick Young, who rushed for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns while collecting 104 tackles and three interceptions on defense last season. Surrounding Young will be a team of great size.

“We return probably one of the biggest teams we’ve ever had here,” Slusser said. “Our offensive line is really, really big for a Division V school. Also, our backfield is extremely big and talented. Our halfback in our Wing-T offense, Zack Queen, he started for half of his freshman year and then the past two years, so this will be his third-and-a-half year starting back there. He’s been in the playoffs all four years as the starting halfback for us. Our fullback is about 210 pounds; he was an All-Ohioan. So we’ve got a nice start in the backfield, and they’re running behind guys who are really big and really strong up front.”

Queen is a weapon the likes of which isn’t seen very often – a 6-3, 275-pound halfback.

“He’s a true freak kid, the way he’s built and how strong he is,” Slusser said. “I mean, he’s ungodly strong.”

Ridgewood will be facing several challenges on this year’s schedule, including two big matchups right off the bat.

“Our non-conference schedule is really a good schedule,” Slusser said. “We open up with Division VI Shadyside at Shadyside. They’ve been really good the past few years. I think they were in the state championship game two years ago and were in the regional finals and state semis last year, so they’ve got great tradition and a great program going. Going to their place will be a great challenge for us right off the bat. In the second week we play Coshocton, who was one of the better D-IV teams last year. They lost to Mooney in the playoffs. They return about everyone, so we’ve got our work cut out for us the first two weeks of the season.

“Then we get into our conference, which we always want to compete and win, and there’s always the pressure there for us each week because we’ve won it five years in a row. So you can imagine in our conference, there’s someone wanting to knock us off every week.”

It’s the postseason or bust for this year’s Ridgewood team, and certainly the potential is there for the Generals to play well past Week 10. Slusser says that the experience this team has will have them ready.

“The last four or five years, because we’ve been in the playoffs, our kids have come to expect that and with that, they carry a certain air about them where they know what level they need to play at and what level it takes to compete,” he said.

SCHEDULE

8/22 @ SHADYSIDE
8/29 COSHOCTON
9/5 @ RIVER VIEW (WARSAW)
9/13 @ CONOTTON VALLEY (BOWERSTON)
9/19 SANDY VALLEY (MAGNOLIA)
9/26 GARAWAY (SUGARCREEK)
10/3 @ STRASBURG-FRANKLIN
10/10 TUSCARAWAS CENTRAL CATHOLIC (NEW PHILADELPHIA)
10/17 @ MALVERN
10/24 NEWCOMERSTOWN

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