RAVENSWOOD – The 2013 edition of the Ravenswood High School Red Devils opened fall football camp Monday at 8 a.m. Second-year head coach Mick Price welcomed just 26 candidates to camp for initial conditioning drills.
The Devils, who finished a disappointing 2-8 in 2012, are looking for much better things in 2013, and return a solid nucleus of skill players. Offensive and defensive line questions are the biggest for the Devils with the graduation of All-State linebacker/center Brad Titus, and key linemen Dillon Gandee and Billy Knicely as gaping holes to be filled. Price and staff were also keeping their finger crossed that rumors about other line stalwarts not playing this season aren't true.
In addition, volunteer assistant coach Joe Jelich is apparently no longer on staff which is another huge loss. Undoubtedly the best football player to come out of the area in the modern era, Jelich's expertise will be sorely missed as part of Price's staff. Jelich joins a list of other notable former players who had all-to-brief tenures on past Red Devils staffs, including Jim Mahan and Eddie Smolder.
Leading the returnees for 2013 will be the top two rushers and Co-Offensive Players of the Year for2012, senior Devon Crews and slimmed down junior Rhys Jelich. Crews, an All-LKC and AA All-State Honorable Mention pick, led the Devils with 153 carries for 947 yards (6.16 avg.) with 14 touchdowns. Jelich, an All-LKC Second Team and AA All-State Honorable Mention pick, carried 158 times for 917 yards (5.8 avg.) with six touchdowns. Jelich was also the top receiver, grabbing 17 passes for 208 yards and a TD. Crews had 14 catches for 125 yards. Jelich returned 21 kickoffs for 414 yards and Crews, 10 for 254 yards.
Quarterback Heath Burgess also returns and has looked good in summer drills. Burgess completed 62 of 163 passes (38%) in 2012 for 678 yards with four TDs and 12 interceptions. He ran 50 times for 201 yards (4.2 avg.) and three TDs.
Junior Connor Jelich also returns but may be moved to offensive line to shore up that unit. Jelich carried 49 times for 184 yards as the fullback in 2012 with one TD and caught six passes for 32 yards.
Other top passing targets back are junior Thomas Sturm (10 catches for 108 yards in 2012); Dylan Radabaugh (four catches for 85 yards and a TD); and Ben Johnson (three catches for 24 yards and a TD).
The addition of speedy Ripley transfer senior Austin Hileman will also pay off for the Red Devils on both offense and defense. Hileman was touted as among the fastest players on the Vikings' 2012 team.
In the kicking game, senior tight end Nathan Cunningham who punted for the Devils in 2012 (31-yard average) is the heir-apparent for the place-kicking duties vacated by the graduation of All-LKC Second Team kicker Mason Carte.
Returning offensive linemen should include Willie Parsons and Kyle Hickman with two-year starter Trey Hatcher as a question mark.
Defensively, the Devils return Defensive Lineman of the Year Connor Jelich and Breakout Player of the Year nose guard Donavyn Estep, linebackers Rhys Jelich and Matt Peery, cornerbacks Ben Johnson and Devon Crews, defensive end Dylan Radabaugh and safety Heath Burgess.
Page 2 of 2 - Huleman will figure into the defensive mix as well as other young players who will get their chance to step up and become starters.
The Red Devils will host a pair for three-team scrimmages at Flinn Field: August 17 at 10 a.m. versus Lincoln and Sherman; and August 24 at 10 a.m. versus Herbert Hoover and Logan.
The Devils have their open date on the first week of the season, and will open their schedule on September 6 at home versus new LKC member Webster County. The rest of the 2013 schedule will be rugged. Ravenswood hosts Roane County September 13, then plays at Wayne (September 20) and at Williamstown (September 27). The host Ritchie County for Homecoming October 4, then play at Braxton County and at preseason highly-touted AAA Pt. Pleasant October 18. They host Clay County October 25 and St. Marys November 1, before closing the regular season at Ripley for The Hatchet November 8.
To create a better team atmosphere in 2013, the Devils will wear grey football shirts and blacks shorts on Mondays and Thursdays each week during the season. Also shoes will be primarily black for all team members in 2013 to help promote team unity and discipline.