Ringgold hopes to reverse recent slide
The question was posed to Ringgold coach Matt Humbert and he didn't blink twice before he answered.
How does he reverse a slide in his team's program that has taken place since he took over three years ago?
Although the Rams qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs in all four of his seasons at the helm, the overall records were 9-1 in 2010, 8-3 in 2011 to 4-6 last season.
“The coaches have to coach better and the players have to play better, and that starts right at the top with me,” he said.
Humbert acknowledged a recession in his team's overall performance over the last three years, but added there were some factors for that.
“We have to minimize the overall mistakes that we made last year, as a staff and as a team,” he said. “We lost three very close games that could have turned our season around from what it actually was. And if we don't make the mistakes we made, then our record would have been a lot better.”
Humbert says his staff and players have worked hard to reverse that trend and he was proud to note, “I honestly think this has been the best camp we had since I was here.
“Everybody has been working extra hard, starting in the off-season, to make us a better team and it looks like it is paying off,” he said. “I think not only are we a better team, but we are a smarter team. Still, we have to show it on the field.”
One player Humbert expects to make a huge difference for the Rams is quarterback Nico Law.
Law, a junior, will be behind center for the second year, and Humbert said his progression from a year ago is like night and day.
Last season, Law attempted just 89 passes, completing 43 for 620 yards and four touchdowns.
Look for a lot more this season, Humbert said.
“Nico's got a chance to be a dynamic player in this conference,” Humbert said. “He has been that impressive so far.
“With him, we expect to throw a lot more than we did a year ago. We are going to play a fast-paced game and go no huddle. With his talent and leadership, we hope to be a much more wide-open offense.”
Joining Law as returning starters on offense will be wide receivers Dayshore Majors, Jake Gerard and Alan Pritchett, the slot tandem of Luke Baldesberger and Skyler Scholl, and guards Nick Trocano and Zack Wooley.
New to the offense will be sophomore running back Chacar Berry, a trio of players vying for the fullback job in Matthew Kirby, Jordan Briscoe and Conner Gary, center Eric Higgs and tackles Robert Duda and Anthony Martin.
Martin, a massive junior, could be a player to watch for the future, Humbert said.
“I try not to get too excited about (Martin) because he has very little varsity experience,” Humbert said. “However, he has the size and footwork and is our strongest player by far. He has the mindset and ability to be a good one. He's a really big kid and a good kid, too.”
On defense, the Rams welcome back five starters in Majors at outside linebacker, Kirby and Thomas at inside linebacker, Gerard at corner and Pritchett at free safety.
As is the case with some of his offensive starters, Humbert said there are still some battles being waged by young players on defense.
Higgs, Trocano and Aaron Szakal are battling at end; Malik Lawson and Robert Englert are the tackles.
Joining Kirby in the rotation at inside linebacker will be Briscoe and Gary while D'Andre Alforel, Baldesberger and Berry will be working with Majors on the outside.
Scholl will be at the other corner.
“As you can see, there is a lot of competition from young players,” Humbert said. “You can consider that a weakness, but I also see it as a strength because so many players are pushing each other that it makes everybody a better player and, hopefully, makes for a better team.”
Looking at the Big Nine Conference, Humbert says he thinks the race is wide open and he fully expects to make the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
“The conference is always tough and a lot of teams have a shot,” he said. “Thomas Jefferson is always solid and so is West Mifflin. Elizabeth Forward has a couple of skilled players who will keep them in the mix, too.
“As for us, we expect to be right in the mix like everybody else. If we stay healthy and keep working like we are, we could be there at the end. That's what I keep telling the players.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.