In a perfect world, Matt Schreiber would have 17 or 18 players on his football team at Blue Valley High School in Randolph. Realistically, that number will be at around 15 this fall, and that’s still exciting considering the circumstances in 2018, when the Rams has nine players on the roster in eight-man football.
“Last year, with nine guys, we couldn’t even have a self scrimmage,” Schreiber said. “We are excited. We finished 5-4 with a team of nine guys, and to have our first winning season like that was great to see.”
The Rams’ record is a bit deceiving without the full context. The Rams actually only lost two games they played. The other two losses were via forfeit; an injury or two would have been a devastating blow to an already thin roster.
The two forfeits came against Mankato and the undefeated (and eventual Class 8-Man, Division II state champion) Hanover, so those games would’ve been difficult regardless. But it made it impossible for Schreiber and the Rams to know how their team stacked up. The Rams had some dominant performances, with wins by scores of 68-0, 60-14, 52-6, 36-12 and 48-22.
This was remarkable, Schreiber said, considering the lack of breaks players could get. At best, the time off the field for a player between offense, defense and special teams was scarce, as guys may get one or two breaks a game if Blue Valley was fully staffed.
The Rams nearly doubled their roster size and managed to keep some of their stars from last season, which included a four-game winning streak. The new roster includes eight freshman.
“Guys are excited and want to play,” said Schreiber, who acknowledged last season’s success likely inspired more boys to try out for the team. “At the same time, we knew we were coming into a cycle where last year we only had 19 guys in the high school. I told the kids that getting boys on the football field was tough, and if you were a young lady looking for boyfriends, it was tough.”
Quarterback Brody Barr, running back Jeremiah Duncan and wideout Bryson Brockman headline an offense that didn’t get breathers last season. Now, they will have even more energy.
Barr threw for 750 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018.
“I think it will pay off just to have that returning experience and them having a better grasp for a game,” Schreiber said. “Taking the situations they were put in last year and using them in similar situations this year will help. It also will be nice to get a guy a breather and have guys who can (come off the field) some plays. Last year, it was a rotation-by-rotation basis, so guys could get one or two plays off.”
The returners made an emphasis of helping out the newcomers, Schreiber said, taking them under their wings in the first week of practice.
While a season always appears promising in the weeks before kickoff comes, the Rams remain cautious, because they know what it’s like to be out-manned.
“This group that we have right now is excited to get back out there and see what they can do,” Schreiber said. “We still don’t want the injury bug to bite us, but this year, it’s a little bit different if we get dinged up as opposed to only having nine guys. There were a lot of games that we had our fingers crossed.”