RICHMOND – Richmond-Burton prefers to leave most of the throwing to its baseball team, choosing to grind it out with a power running game in football.
The style has served the Rockets well, helping them to 10 consecutive playoff appearances, and plays right into their strength again this season.
Shane Byrne, who ran for 607 yards and 11 touchdowns for R-B’s 6-4 team is back. Junior Jimmy Horner did solid work for the 8-1 sophomore team last year and Mike Kaufman, also a junior, offers speed that made him Kishwaukee River Conference runner-up in the 100 and 200 meters this past spring.
“We have a lot of options to go to,” Byrne said. “It’ll be great. We can keep rotating bodies in and keep guys fresh. They can’t key on one star, we’re all talented, so that’ll be good.”
Senior Blaze Bigos also returns to football after taking off last fall to work on his MMA skills. He adds to the backfield depth, which will help R-B overcome the loss of Mark Marzahl, their leading rusher with 831 yards. Marzahl, a senior, experienced cramping problems last season from complications with his diabetes and is not playing football this season.
“I was cramping in my legs a lot,” Marzahl said. “I wanted to focus on basketball. I love basketball and wanted to get better at that.”
R-B will try to stretch its playoff string without head coach Pat Elder, who will not coach this season after being arrested on a DUI charge in July. Tad DePorter and Brett Zick, both longtime members of Elder’s staff, will serve as co-head coaches.
“We’re just moving forward like we always have,” Zick said. “Doing the same things we’ve always done. The kids have been great. We just have to get better at some of the little things.”
Junior Luke Uhwat takes over at quarterback and will have plenty of speedy backs to hand off to.
Byrne, Horner and Kaufman all will line up at linebacker as well as in the offensive backfield, where R-B’s Wing-T often has three backs. The sophomores were KRC runners-up to Burlington Central and should help a lot.
“We’ve put some size on, we’ve been working together, talking together, hopefully we can bring it all out on the football field,” Horner said.
Kaufman missed almost 10 months after tearing the PCL and suffering meniscus damage in his left knee. He returned for the second half of last season, playing one sophomore game, then moving to linebacker for the varsity.
“Everything’s fine now,” Kaufman said. “I’m done with therapy. I was supposed to out longer, but it healed pretty fast. (Varsity) was a lot different. The speed was a lot faster, the guys were bigger. It was a lot harder, but after a game or two I adjusted.”
Zick says the junior class should offer a lot with the seniors.
“It seems like all our classes complement each other well,” Zick said. “Where one group might be a little weak, the other is pretty strong. We have good depth. We’re going to be a little young up front, but we have some depth on both sides of the ball. (The sophomores) having success in the past will be helpful.”