Two coaches in the second year of rebuilds will lead their teams on the field as River Ridge travels to Lassiter in the next step toward playoff contention.
Mike Collins enters his second season at River Ridge and will look to lead it to its first winning season since 2011. The Knights last season won consecutive games for the first time in more than two years, and they will return a number of players who saw significant action as underclassmen.
“The main thing for us is being able to lean on some guys that have a lot of experience,” Collins said. “Those guys returning has been a real bonus for us.”
Junior running back Amehre Morrison earned first-team all-county honors last season after leading the county with 1,328 total offensive yards. When teams key on Morrison, sophomore Jackson Head could emerge in the passing game. Head earned honorable mention all-county and all-region honors as a freshman in 2019 and is already one of the best athletes on the River Ridge roster.
Finding a new quarterback to replace last year’s starter, Chase Begin, will be a key, and junior Carson Lathem looks to have taken the reins. Andrew Bigham, Preston Cox and Riley Caines could play significant roles in the Knights’ offense as well.
Defensively, River Ridge returns all-county performers in safety Scotty Rutherford and defensive lineman Brian Bradley. Collins said the offseason had provided unique challenges, but there has been a singular message since the team returned to workouts in mid-summer.
“We’re fortunate to have a game,” Collins said. “We’ve been preaching it since we were able to come back in June, just talking about how thankful we were to be back together again. And to get to this point where we’re going to play games, we’ll never take the game of football for granted.”
Sean Thorn will look to lead Lassiter back to a winning record following consecutive 1-9 campaigns. The Trojans’ offense struggled to find the end zone in 2019, averaging six points per game, but they return multiple pieces who saw significant action a season ago.
Brayden Lind will return for his senior season as the primary quarterback and should have reliable receiving options in fellow seniors Matthew Grachen and Kyle Carlson. Senior Channing Canty will likely take over as the lead running back in Lassiter’s spread option attack, and Brandon Brown returns as the most experienced offensive lineman for the Trojans.
Defensively, Lassiter will need to replace all-county safety Jack Ferguson. Seniors Sam Carter and Tyler Hallum both return as starting cornerbacks, while Joe Blackwell will likely move to safety after earning significant playing time as a freshman last year. Senior Brett Carr and junior Kaiser Khaja both return at linebacker, while senior Will Aikin will lead an inexperienced group along the defensive front.