Stroll onto the practice field where the Rogers High School football team is sweating in full pads, and your ears ring with the echos of head coach Frank Newsome. Newsome, trying to motivate his players at the beginning of their second practice of the day recently, started to lecture his team about the necessity of being meticulous and organized in their defensive alignments and first steps. It's clear he's an old-school coach — an intense mentor not afraid to light a fire under any player dragging his feet.
After watching the team's practice, Patch sat down with three of the team's key players to talk about the upcoming season. Halfback/cornerback Christian Cancel, halfback/strong safety Christian Savage and offensive lineman/middle linebacker Patrick Murphy were all optimistic about the present and future of the squad. They ended last season with a 2-9 record, but were able to celebrate beating a tough Portsmouth High School team. The players talked how they might be able to build on that big win.
"Beating Portsmouth was a big step in the right direction last year," Murphy said. "We need to take the momentum of that win into this season."
Following that rough season, the team lost their senior starting quarterback, Kyle Decosta, as well as their defensive anchor, defensive lineman Jimmy George.
"They were our best players, but we have guys that can fill in and play a bigger role this year," Savage said.
Last year, Rogers was able to muster just 7.2 first downs per game. When asked how they could improve on this low mark, Cancel replied, "We have a lot more experience and know more of what to expect. There are a lot of second- and third-year players now that know our system.
"Halfback is the strongest position, and we have seven starters coming back on offense this year," Savage added. "The defense also has seven out of 11 starters returning this year, so the team chemistry has also been very good."
One could see a higher confidence in these young men, having 2 or 3 years experience under their belts.
The season does not begin easily, as Rogers is set to square off against LaSalle Academy on Sept. 10 in its season opener.
"They moved down a couple divisions, but we are confident and won't back down to anyone, no matter who it is," Cancel said.
Although excited to get the season going against LaSalle, "Middletown is the game we are most looking forward to," Murphy said. "They are our biggest rivals."
Newport and Middletown square off on Oct. 15 in Newport at 7 pm.
2009-2010 Season Statistics
State Rank: 33
Points allowed: 230
Points scored: 79