Radford Bobcats bring experience to the field

Radford…Coming off a 2-8 season, the Bobcats are looking to be more focused, more determined and hopefully to stay healthy. Last season they had injuries and more injuries. It had the coaching staff using a lot of young and unproven players. It was a season that is best forgotten but one to remember for motivation.

Most of those young players are now a year older and have been tested under fire. Last season if it could go wrong, it did! Some could say the team was snake bitten. They led seven times going into the final quarter and lost. They lost seven games by a total of 37 points. Twice they lost in the last minute. Turnovers, penalties, injuries, unproven and inexperienced players all contributed to the 2-8 record.

Radford will be under the direction of head coach Matthew Saunders. It will be his 12th season at the helm of Radford. He has a record of 71-58 and his overall mark is 80-69.

His staff will consist of Pierson Prioleau, Josh Woods, Josh Smith, Roger Hollins, Cameron Sellers, Sergio Render and Grayson Howard. Prioleau is in his eighth year and will be in charge of the defensive backs and running backs, as well as co-defensive coordinator. Woods is in his seventh year and will coach up the linebackers and quarterback, as well as being co-defensive coordinator. Smith is starting his fourth season and coaches the wide receivers and defensive backs. Hollins is in his sixth year and coaches the defensive line and slots. Sellers is in his third year, He helps with the offensive and defensive lines and will be the junior varsity head coach. Render is a volunteer assistant and will help with the defensive line. Howard is also in his first year and will coach the linebackers, wide receivers and be junior varsity assistant.

When asked, Coach Saunders what will his offense be like this year he remarked, ”We’re changing a few things up. We will do some inside zone / spread offense. We will do multiple sets, options.” He was then asked about the Bobcat defense and he said, ”We will run a 4-3-4 and 4-4-3 look. We hope to be multiple on defense.”

Radford lost some good seniors and also have lost a couple players that moved to different states. They do return seven starters on offense and six on defense. Some of the other starters saw some action and will get lots more this year. They also return a sophomore placekicker in Conner Lytton. Lytton has attended kicking contest in Texas for a couple years and has done remarkably well. Coach Saunders remarked, ”Conner can kick it from 45-48 yards. He will be a weapon for us and he’s getting better and better and is only a sophomore.”

The Radford roster consists of 10 seniors, nine juniors, and 16 sophomores. Coach was then asked whom he thinks will be the starters on offense and he replied, “If the season started right now, sophomore Zane Rupe would be the quarterback. Sophomore PJ Prioleau running back, and the slots would be two seniors in Trace Shepherd and Jaylin Taylor. Justice Marshall and J W Bethea at wide receivers. The offensive line will consist of Andrew Olverson, Nic Clark, Ben Cox, Dillon Whitt and Ricky Burton.“ That line has some size in that Olverson is 285 lbs, Cox and Burton both 255 and Whitt is 225. Alex Kanipe, Jeremy Chadwick and Jacob Nester also will be getting playing time.

On defense look for Radford to go with Alex Kanipe, Jacob Alley, Ben Cox and Spencer Perdue on the line. The linebackers will be Nic Clark, Dillon Whitt, Jaylin Taylor and Justice Marshall. The secondary will have Jeremy Chadwick, Trace Shepherd and PJ Prioleau. Zane Rupe, Ricky Burton and Jacob Nester will all get into the action on defense. Lytton will do the placekicking and Payton Hollis will do the punting. PJ Prioleau will be the kick returner.

Coach Saunders then gave a brief synopsis of the Radford opponents, starting with George Wythe. “They lost some good players, very athletic and Coach Harner has done a good job. They (Galax) are obviously well coached. Lot of good players back. They will be a force in Class 1. They’re going to be very tough.” With regard to Fort Chiswell, he said, “I don’t know for sure. They just named a new coach. I know they have a lot of players back and were very physical last year. (Gretna) are extremely athletic. Solid and most of their players are back. Coach Crouch does a great job for them teaching defense.” Coach then was asked about the district teams that are on his schedule and he replied, “Alleghany, a Class 3 team that has athletes and have some decent size. Giles, Coach Williams does an excellent job there. They will be physical and have some good players returning. Floyd Co.’s Coach Beale does a great job and they had a real good junior varsity squad last year. They’re going to be good.”

“(James River) has a very good quarterback and some fine receivers. They will show multiple sets.” As for Carroll Co., “I’m sure Jack Turner will turn things around there. He does an excellent job and they will be very physical and he has a system that they will learn to run. (Glenvar) is loaded. They will be the team to beat in the Three Rivers District. They have a strong running back, and their quarterback is back. Will be very tough.”

Radford has 35 players on the varsity and most of them got to see action last year. Coach Saunders remarked, ”I’ve liked what I’ve seen in practice so far. Of course we got some kinks to work out. Grayson Co. and the Battle of the Bridge with Pulaski Co. will teach us a lot about ourselves. I like what we have done and are doing. We have got to stay healthy and hopefully our luck will be much better this year.“

If Radford stays healthy and that big gorilla that was on their backs last year jumps off, they should be improved. One year older and some better luck they could and should win more than two games. A 5-5 mark is not out of the question or even a 6-4 with some good luck. It all depends on staying healthy and if that ball will just bounce their way. They can compete and most importantly, they need to win that fourth quarter to finish the games.