Last year the Raiders opened the season with a 46-6 win over Jenkins, and they hope to repeat that performance Friday night when the Cavaliers come to town to kick off the 2016 season.
Coach Lucas Ford, who took the reins of the team this year after the Raiders’ 2-8 finish in 2015, is optimistic about the Raiders’ chances: not only for the upcoming season, but for the future of the program as well.
The new Coach spent a lot of time this past summer meeting with potential players and parents to convince them to be a part of the rebuilding of the program.
That work paid off as pre-season participation was at a high level and the number of players on the roster continues to grow.
“We have 45 here today (Monday), and we’ve had that pretty consistently for the past couple of weeks and school hasn’t even started yet,” Ford said. “Once school starts, and more freshmen turn out, we will get up in to the mid 50’s.”
“I’m glad our numbers are up, that is a big plus for us.”
The new coach took over a team that won only three games in the past four seasons, and dropped out of District last year in an effort to rebuild the program.
After a strong summer program, and a 26-21 win over Perry Central in a scrimmage last week, Ford and the Raiders are focused not just on the new season ahead – but seasons down the road.
“We have improved as the offseason went along,” Ford said. “That is all anyone can ask of a team.”
“Our offensive line played really well (in the scrimmage). That was an area I was worried about, but they have jelled well.”
“Our skill guys on offense did very well, but we have a lot stuff still to work on,” He added.
“We are struggling a little bit now defensively. I wish we would tackle a little bit better. It is a work in progress.”
Ford is hoping that the returning players, along with a batch of new talent will provide an exciting offense that will not only inspire the players, but also put fans in the bleachers on Friday nights.
“We have some good experience at skill position,” Ford said. “And newcomers like Ricky Woods-Clark, who ran the ball really well last week, and Devon Hamilton who made some big catches.”
“Hopefully they will keep getting better.”
For now, all of the Raiders’ focus is on Friday night’s contest that will hopefully set the tone for the rest of the season.
“I tell them all the time that we want to prepare well, we want to compete and we want to control our effort,” Ford said. “If we do that the winning will take care of itself. We have to control what we can control, and the rest will fall in to place.”
“If we can get some wins and start rolling in the right direction that will help build the program for the future.”
The Raiders kick off the season Friday night at Norm Parsons Field against Jenkins. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.