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By Sara Smith
The Schuyler County Rams football team is now on the other side of week five in their nine week season. With the season officially halfway done, Head Coach Corey Randall granted an extended interview. It is easy to focus on the high-flying offense of his team, but this interview touches more on the goals of the team and their big homecoming win in week five. Coach Randall has reached the milestone of 10 wins as head coach, and we talked about the development of the team, their progress this year, and what to look for moving forward.
Smith: Let’s get right into it as far as the game (versus the Paris Coyotes) itself, what does this win mean for you and/or for your team?
Randall: It means a lot for me, I know the team too, as I said, it is the first homecoming that we have won as a team since I have been here (as a head coach). It’s been pretty special and that was one of the goals. At the beginning of the year I talked to the seniors and asked them what they wanted out of the season, and that was one of the #1 things, they wanted to win homecoming. So again, I knew that was one of their goals and it is pretty awesome to see them accomplish it. Like I said, for myself absolutely any game you can win is great, but if you can win homecoming that’s even more special.
Smith: In an earlier conversation, you had mentioned how you could move people in and out and how you can fill in for injured players. Talk about the development of your defense especially from last season to this season.
Randall: We have more pieces this year…like this past week we ran a two-man front, which you usually can’t do unless you have the linebackers that can play that spot. And I felt like they stepped up. Some of the kids last year weren’t quite ready. Last year we were pretty limited in what we could do. This year we have more options. Like I said, we do have that depth where you do have a Deacon Schoonover, you have a Kole Lindquist, you have Gus (Williams), you have Noah Pross, you have all those d-linemen that you can rotate in to keep kids fresh. A lot of those kids gotta play both ways so it is nice to have some fresh legs out there.
Smith: Continuing on with the defense, Mayson Humphrey had a near pick-6 last week and this week he did deliver on a pick- 6. Watching from the sidelines it looks like he is reading that quarterback and really jumping the route, or running the route himself. What are your thoughts about this defensive play?
Randall: That is a benefit of him being a receiver himself, he understands routes and concepts and stuff like that. He’s a 4-year starter so he’s definitely a veteran out there, he knows what he’s looking for. That pick-6, to me, is kind of what put the nail in the coffin I guess. You know I would say that, for that game, that’s what sealed the deal, and I think everybody became pretty confident after that that they had won their first homecoming.
Smith: Following that interception, again continuing with the defense, they started to mount a drive, the Coyotes did, and these new guys that you had talked about are some of the d-linemen that you were able to keep fresh. Deacon Schoonover comes in and tackles the running back in the backfield for a loss. Can you speak to the impact of that play?
Randall: They (the defense) read it right. We practice all week on pulling guards and stuff like that. The idea is to get behind the guard and get to the ball. They (the Coyotes) did pretty well of keeping us away from that. But Deacon is one of those kids that is in the weight room all summer long, and he has been working hard and he hasn’t been in on a lot of plays, doesn’t get the start, but that doesn’t seem to hamper him. He is one of those kids that is going to work hard for the team, and again, when we need something like that he comes out and makes plays and that is awesome. That’s a kid you know you can count on. When you need somebody, he’s a kid you can look to and get him in the game.
Smith: On that same tone, just a little bit about another player that is emerging, can you talk about Kole Lindquist’s development. I am seeing him more on the offensive line.
Randall: He was like Deacon, he’s come in and he’s worked his butt off, and he missed the first game of the season so he kinda was a late bloomer for us, just because he had some other things going on with life. Again, he’s been busting his butt, you know I always see that stuff in practice. I see the kids that really care and want to get better. He’s watching film quite a bit, he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s something that I’ve not been a part of, where you had that back up role, you have that kid that can come in at any time and take over and you don’t lose a step. Usually, you know, you have a senior playing and the next kid you have is a freshman. So, Kole’s one of those kids. Noah (Pross) plays both ways most of the time, so he might be tired and needs a break, so we are working those kids in. That’s going to help as for the future of the season, because we might get in a game where Noah is going to play defense the whole time, and it’s a high-scoring game. I can throw Kole in there on offense and keep both of them fresh. That’s the goal to keep them as fresh as possible.
Smith: Had it always been Kole’s (Lindquist) role to play offensive line in previous years? Is that what he had been training for?
Randall: Yeah, that’s where Kole had been, and you know he’s always been an offensive lineman and like I said, he’s really bought into it this year and he’s been working hard and I love to see those kids get out there and prove themselves.
Smith: It seems like, from what I observed last year though, that Deacon (Schoonover) has kind of switched from an offensive lineman to really more of a defensive role. Tell me about that transition.
Randall: Yeah, sometimes with the younger kids you might think they might be offense one year and then…that’s why we like to get them into games like that. Just to kind of see where they succeed most, and again, like you even noticed, he is becoming a better defensive lineman than maybe an offensive lineman right now but that could change next year too. But, like I said, we’re liking what we see out of him on the defensive side.
Smith: Any other players to be on the lookout for as we move forward this season? Anybody that you’re seeing good things from in practice?
Randall: Like Brody Weaver, I’ve been pretty proud of him. He’s kind of worked his way into a linebacker role just because we needed that outside linebacker that can cover but isn’t scared to come up and make a tackle when asked to do so. He’s stepped into that role. Like I said, we wouldn’t be able to do the two-four without kids like that. He’s works his butt off, and I felt like he stepped up pretty good this last game and the game before. I mean, he’s had a couple of good games in a row. I think last week he had 12 tackles. Again, you know a lot of people see that he’s a sophomore and he’s not a very big kid, but man, he’s a pretty aggressive kid out there. That’s what you like to see in football. Like I said, I think there are some younger kids that we might see some things from. I know Gus (Williams) will be healthy this week and he should be back to full force and we know what he can do when he’s healthy.
Smith: At the end of the day, what’s your take-away, or take-aways, from the game versus Paris?
Randall: Winning homecoming was something…and homecoming week, as a coach, you just dread it because the kids’ minds are somewhere else, you know they have a lot of stuff going on. You want them to be kids and enjoy it, yet I know it wouldn’t mean anything without winning the game. So you’re trying to juggle all that and prepare for Paris, which they weren’t a bad team. We just continued to do our things and didn’t make any mistakes. That was another thing that stood out, we didn’t punt once, we didn’t get stopped once. We had one fumble, but we recovered it. Other than that, it’s great when you can play a clean game like that, that’s pretty nice at this time of year.
Smith: Along that same line, your offense seems to be a continuation of what you they did last year, and what you saw the glimmer of the year before, but your defense…as a non-football person, or more of an observer of the game, someone who has never played the game, it seems like you have a bend-but-don’t-break kind of defense.
Randall: That’s pretty normal for 8-man football. It’s hard to play defense in 8-man, because you have eight kids out there, you know they can spread you out pretty quick. We all saw that at Plattsburg, I mean it’s tough, if you bend but then break it creates a lot of issues. Instead, your goal is to stop them, but it seems like usually on third or fourth down we give up a big play or something like that. But, then you look on the other side and when we get in those situations on offense we usually convert too. That’s why our offense needs to always be firing on all cylinders. That way if it’s a high-scoring game we’re right there, any time if the defense does make a stop or get a turnover.
Smith: Speaking of a high-scoring game, Plattsburg was the only team that had even a fairly good record of scoring 2-point conversions against your defense. Do you do something different on defense during a 2-point conversion?
Randall: No, I think just teaching kids how to line up and stuff like that, and just being in the right place at the right time. I think Plattsburg was a good game to lose. You know, I hate to say it that way, but you know what I mean. Kids understood, okay, well you know we are good, you know we won a couple of games, but we’re not there yet. Again, they are working towards their goal, to be better. I don’t think they (the Coyotes) had a 2-point conversion on us the last game, so that was pretty impressive. Again, from our defensive side, hey, you know, that’s 3-yards, that’s all they have to get, and they couldn’t get it so, that was pretty impressive.
Smith: You are correct, the Coyotes did not convert any of their 2-point conversions. So, that brings me the next question, you are halfway through the season and you’ve kind of been alluding to your team’s goals. What is your team trying to accomplish, or maybe you, what is your focus?
Randall: I just throw myself in with the team. It’s something that we’ve talked about. I know that I have had a conversation with the seniors, what their goals are so we can align them together because I think that is the most important thing. But, we want to win that district championship. That’s something that I think would be huge, and to be able to host that game at Schuyler. And, then after that, we’ll just see where it goes. But I think if we could get that done, that would be an awesome goal to achieve. Again, I know the #1 thing too, they wanted to have fun, they’re winning, and I think they’re having fun. Like I said, it’s been a fun season so far.
Smith: Let’s talk about Braymer coming up. They are not in our district but they are in our conference and they seem to be a scoring machine. What can you share about your plan for Braymer?
Randall: The thing, for Braymer, is just that we know they are going to score points and we just can’t get upset when they do, because it is frustrating, but it is 8-man football. Again, they like to pass the ball, the quarterback is athletic and he likes to run, so it’s going to be like the Plattsburg game but I wouldn’t compare Braymer to Plattsburg. I think Plattsburg is a better team, but like I said, I think as long as we do what we are supposed to do I think we will be fine. Every time we get the ball we’ll have to score and we’re going to have to steal a couple of possessions to get that lead. I think we can keep it. Again, it’s a football game and we’ll have to see how that goes. We’ll have to prepare this week for that.
Smith: To wrap this up, that brings me to your JV team. Is your JV season over now?
Randall: Yes, because Knox had to cancel their JV season. Knox would have been the last game we could have played. North Shelby (the week before), we couldn’t play that one because Brody was injured, he had that hamstring issue that we didn’t want to push because he was looking at varsity time and Gus (Williams) also had an injury. We had some key guys injured. You know it is harder to do much at the JV level and we didn’t want any kids who are going to play varsity getting injured at a JV game. The goal is to get those kids some game time in some of the upcoming games. We’ve got some teams coming up that we think we can get them in, and that’s what we did in this past game. We tried to get quite a few of them in toward the end of the game. Hoping to get them more playing time during the season. That helps us stay healthy for our goals past the season.
Smith: Your answer feeds right into my last question about the development of your young players.
Randall: The thing with the development of young players, and I have talked to the young players that maybe don’t get to play a lot, but you know, we do scout team, we do still do individual work during practice, so we’re still developing them in practice. And, like I said, as long as they are working hard they are going to get playing time. I want to keep them around, and keep trying to get them playing time so they are not just practicing for nothing. That’s the fun part, you just have to keep them involved and get them some playing time. We’ve got a lot of good young kids coming up, doing a lot of good things at the JV level, like Casey Starrett, Caleb Garr, and Big Tony (Anthony Zelaya), I could name quite a few who are doing good things. But, again, we don’t have enough for a full JV squad without having to bring a varsity kid down. I’m just not willing to do that to risk our varsity season.