It was a rough 2012 season for the Ryle Raiders as they finished 3-8, with a first round playoff loss to Scott County 42-10. The Raiders closed the season on a 5 game losing streak, but the record can also be attributed to the tough schedule that Ryle played, which consisted of games against 4A state champion Highlands, 5A state runner up Cooper, 6A state semi finalist Scott Co, and nationally ranked Colerain out of Cincinnati, OH.
"2010 we ran in to some challenges with our schedule but had a great season and then ran in to a brutal schedule in 2011 and 2012," said Ryle head coach Bryson Warner.
The Raiders will look to improve upon last season, despite losing 20 seniors, which included Quarterback Nathan Davis, Running back Tanner Pulice, and LB Travis Pavy. The start of every great season begins in the off season, and Coach Warner has already noticed a difference in this years’ group.
"We’ve got great numbers in our program, with 40 sophomores coming in to the program. Both the Union Raiders and Boone County pee wee are paying off."
The biggest area the Raiders will look to improve in is on the offensive side of the ball, where they averaged just 13 ppg last season. Running the offense this year will be 9 year veteran, Russell Harden, who has brought in a lot of new ideas and creativity to change things around.
Leading the way is senior athlete Ryan Hill, who will be counted on to play multiple positions and help any way he can with his speed, quickness and elusiveness.
"Ryan Hill is going to be a big factor," said Warner. "He’s one of the top track guys in Northern Kentucky and he’s the same type of guy on the football field."
Other key players include Senior tight end Kevin Walker, Junior receiver Grant Arnwine, and Sophomore receiver Colin England, as well as offensive linemen Lex Sowards, who is committed to Indiana State, and center Logan Ross.
"We’ve got some gaps to fill, but we’re excited about those linemen and our depth at each position."
Senior Lex Sowards also chimed in on the offense.
"I’m trying to help the offensive line as much as I can. We’ve got some great skill players and I’m excited about the new offense."
Defensively, the Raiders will look to put a lot of speed on the field to improve upon the 28 ppg given up last season. They will try do so without three of their top 4 leading tacklers from last season.
"We’ve got a lot of guys on that side of the ball," said Warner. "Zac Lamore is going to be big for us and in the linebacking corps we’ve got some young talent."
Some of the players mentioned by Coach Warner as being impact guys this season include junior linebacker Ryan Wolf and senior defensive back Nathan Winegardner, who combined for 52 tackles last season.
"We really think Ryan Wolf is going to be a great leader in the junior class and up front you’ll see some of the same guys that are on the offensive side."
On the scheduling front, the Raiders will once again play a competitive schedule that helps prepare them for their tough 6A district which includes Simon Kenton, Dixie Heights, Campbell County, and Boone County.
Coach Warner talked about the non district schedule.
"We will play Covcath, Scott Co – who is a state power down in Georgetown and almost beat Trinity in the state semi finals. We open against crosstown rival Cooper, and we’ve also got both Shelby County and a good Sycamore, OH team on the schedule."
With a tough schedule on deck for the upcoming season, Coach Warner and his players are excited that they get to compete and believe that’s what high school football is all about.
"We’ve built a lot of excitement and team chemistry," said Warner. "We should have 45-50 guys at the varsity level which will establish good depth and guys that can all contribute."
The Raiders will be young this year but senior Lex Sowards is looking forward to the challenges.
"I’m looking forward to getting out there on Friday nights. It’s my last season and I’m excited about getting everyone else ready and hopefully winning some games. Everyone is so much more motivated this season and have been showing a lot of heart and desire."
Players to Watch:
Lex Sowards (Senior OL/DL) - The big man will anchor an offensive line with some new faces but with his leadership ability, the Raiders should be able to be successful up front. Lex is committed to Indiana State and said he’s just looking forward to go out with a bang in his final season.
Ryan Hill (Senior Athlete) - I put athlete for Ryan’s position because that’s exactly what he is – an athlete. Hill should make an impact in the return game as well as offensively at multiple positions because of his speed and play making ability. Hill is also a track star with tremendous speed.
Logan Ross (Senior OL/DL) - Ross will be counted on to man the middle of the offensive line at the center position and make the proper calls on defensive looks as far as blocking assignments go.
Nathan Winegarner (DB) - Winegarner returns as the leading tackler on this year’s defense with 31 from a year ago.
Ryan Wolf (LB) - Wolf returns as the second leading tackler from a year ago with 21 tackles.
Zac Lamore (LB) - As stated above, Lamore is a kid that will be expected to make a huge impact from his linebacker position this season. Lamore only had 3 tackles last season in 8 games, but Coach Warner is confident we will see those numbers improve tremendously this season.