Burlington Central senior wide receiver Joe Breeden possesses breakaway speed.
Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
The Burlington Central coaching staff addressed the elephant in the huddle right at the start of summer camp in June.
Yes, leading rusher and all-state honorable mention selectee Joel Bouagnon was gone, transferred to Aurora Christian. And, yes, all-Big Northern East defensive end Andrew Yarwood left for St. Edward. Two other contributors moved on for various reasons. One a big lineman, the other a starting linebacker.
Rather than dwell on who wasnt there, the Central coaching staff concentrated on who was.
Its not a distraction to us, said second-year coach Rich Crabel, who last season led the Rockets to a 7-3 record and their first playoff berth since 2007. We talked about it on the first day of camp and moved on. We dont talk about them now. We have to deal with the 42 young men on our roster that are working their tails off to make our program successful.
The Rockets still have potential, particularly offensively.
Senior quarterback Ryan Ritchie (6-0, 185) returns. As a junior he passed for 1,117 yards and 17 touchdowns, completed 52 percent of his passes (82 of 158) and threw only 4 picks. An all-BNC East honoree, Ritchie also rushed 71 times for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Hes a three-year starter and he looks really good, Crabel said. He throws the ball well and runs really well, too. Were expecting a lot more of that this year.
A team doesnt easily replace a running back like Bouagnon, a combination power-speed back who led the Fox Valley area in rushing with 1,449 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. However, the Rockets still have speed in the backfield, courtesy of senior Dishon Rambo (5-8, 165) and junior Reilly Marino (6-0, 180). Junior Casey Matthews will also get carries but will be relied upon more in the defensive secondary.
Ritchie has some talented wide receivers, including speedy senior Joe Breeden (5-8, 145). He possesses breakaway speed.
Senior Tyler Majewski (6-0, 175) also returns at receiver. He was injured in the second game last season.
Crabel believes the Rockets can still run the ball behind an offensive line led by senior Robbie Frederickson (6-2, 205). The line will strengthen further when senior Jawad Aburmishan (6-2, 260) returns from an injury, though his timetable is unclear.
A pair of big tight ends will assist in the running game: seniors Joel Lopez (6-2, 265) and Carter Muelling (6-4, 210). Each will play defensive line positions as well.
The staffs biggest challenge? Preparing an almost entirely new secondary and linebacker crew for varsity football. Six all-BNC East performers manned those positions a year ago.
Whether Central can overtake Richmond-Burton to win its first league title since 2006 remains to be seen, but the Rockets expect to give the three-time league champs their best shot.
We werent expected to be very good last year, but we only lost 2 games and they were close ones, Crabel said. There isnt a game on our schedule Im ready to concede. I just cant do it.
Do I know some of these teams well face are going to be good and give us everything we want? Sure I do, but well go into every game expecting to win.