Ridgefield football training camp

Ridgefield Spudders
Coach Kitt Rawlings, second season.

Sure, it’s August. And, sure, it’s seems like ages since a Ridgefield High School football team has made a serious run at a playoff spot. But leaders of the 2010 Spudders are talking about turning a corner. Visit a Ridgefield practice and you get the idea the Spudders’ confidence is more than just a lot of hot air. Even on a hot day during daily doubles, the tempo is upbeat.

“Practices are more crisp. We get through it efficiently. Not much messing around,” running back Dylan Young said.

In fact, ask if they have a humorous story about early practices, and players don’t produce one.

Reason one is continuity. This is the second season for head coach Kitt Rawlings, and the players know what’s expected. That creates more confident execution on the practice field, of course. It also means players understand coaches’ demands.

A lot of returning starters and a good senior core are also reasons to be confident, quarterback Clay Barton said.

“The biggest change from last year it’s our mindset about the game,” Barton explained. “We’re much more confident this year. We came our last year a little soft. This year, we’re hitting hard. We’re ready to go.”

While two-a-days are part of the preparation, the foundation for any successful football team is the offseason work that players must take upon themselves.

Lineman James Oman said about 30 players were regulars in the weight room during the summer — for perspective, that’s more players than Ridgefield football had playing varsity ball in some recent years.

“Before, people came and lifted when they wanted to,” Oman said, explaining that many of his teammates took part in a structured regemin that included conditioning, strength and agility work.

Oman said he’s noticed the difference in his own performance during two-a-days.

“It’s not always about who can bench the most (weight) or who can squat the most,” Oman said. “It’s who can get to the right spot and make the tackle.”

It’s also helping on the offensive line, according to Oman, wh osaid better conditioning leads to better blocking technique.

“Our techniques have really improved this year, and our aggressiveness and morale,” Oman said.

Trico is tough: One explanation the Spudders aren’t using for their comfidence is the shift from Class 2A to Class 1A. The schools in the Trico League are smaller, but that doesn’t make them easier to beat, Rawlings said.

“I don’t think about it at all,” Barton said. “We’re heading into the Trico with teams that have been top state contenders, so it really makes no difference.”

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