New coach helps Ringgold forget about last season

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Thursday, August 22, 2019 | 8:01 AM


Last season is a wash for the Ringgold football team. New coach Darwin Manges has made that abundantly clear to his players and those around the program.

The good news is the 50-plus players on this year’s roster shows Ringgold put last year’s 0-10 campaign behind them as fast as former coach Mike Zmijanac left town.

“My goal was to come in here and dig back into the tradition we used to have here,” Manges said. “That’s important to me. It’s important to the former Rams that are on my coaching staff.”

It became obvious how dedicated Manges was to the position as soon as he was hired in January. He could be found at nearly all Ringgold sporting events, whether it was a boys or girls basketball game, wrestling match or hockey game.

“I made sure I was making myself visible, and we as a team were showing support for the other athletes in the district,” he said. “When I met with the team Feb. 1, we got to work that day.

“For the rest of the school year, we did four days of weightlifting and conditioning. Two of those days per week were 6 a.m. starts, and we were running numbers near 40 for each one. From that aspect, I couldn’t ask for a better turnout.”

With the summer and off-the-field activities behind them, the Rams are ready to show they’re not the same team on the field.

“No matter what kind of success or lack of success they’ve had, there’s always going to be some resistance with a big change,” Manges said. “Everyone has come on board, and we’re going in the same direction. They understand the expectations we have.”

Manges said speed and size is going to favor the Rams this season.

Jordan Mayer, a 6-4, 230-pound freshman, is expected to anchor the offensive line.

“As a freshman, he’s unbelievable,” the coach raved. “We’ll be watching him on Saturdays and possibly Sundays. He’s going to be a good one.”

Senior Isiah Jenkins is slotted at left guard next to center Julien Altamare. Sophomore Jacob Frahlich will be at right guard with Dante Compagni at right tackle.

“Compagni is another one right up there with Mayer. One’s a sophomore and the other is a freshman,” Manges said. “Those are two big-bodied kids that play the game hard and move really well. Those are the type of kids that are making a difference for our team.”

They will be protecting senior quarterback Jacob Duncan, who Manges expects to thrive in his offense.

“He’s done a 180-degree turnaround from last year from what I’ve watched on film,” Manges said. “His commitment to his team as a leader and a captain, he’s taken that and embraced it.”

Manges said Duncan shouldn’t have to be running for his life behind the line in the new offense.

“We’re going to put him in a totally different situation,” Manges said. “We’re a spread team. He’s going to get rid of the ball quickly. He’s a heady kid, real smart. We’re going to take what teams are giving us and not try to go to the home run every time.”

Teams that run a good spread offense have to have the athletes, which won’t be an issue for the Rams.

Deondre Dotson, a sophomore transfer from Monessen, will be the feature back.

Junior Wyatt Nicklow and sophomore Braydon Fine will be in the slot, with Michael Vasquez and Mike Mucci on the outside.

Defensively, the Rams will operate in a 4-3 look with Jenkins and Mayer playing defensive end. Roderick Wilson will be at nose tackle and Compagni will be at defensive tackle.

Sophomore John Polefko will be the mike linebacker with junior Logan Wellington playing the will linebacker position. Joining them will be Logan Vickers at the sam linebacker spot.

“Vickers is one of those kids that coaches talk about when they say, ‘If I had 11 of him or 20 of him …’ I’d go to war with him all the time,” Manges said. “This is a kid who just does everything you ask and leads by example. He’s a great kid for the younger ones to be around.”

The defensive backfield will be an athletic one featuring Nicklow and sophomore Donte Kinds at corner. Fine will be at safety along with Desmir Tyree.

“We’re going to be getting James Minnie back in Week 3.” Manges said of the shifty senior. “He’s a shutdown corner.”

Junior Clayton Rosensteel will handle punting and kicking duties.

“It’s huge having a kid doing the kicking that you can rely on,” Manges said. “He also kicked a 58-yard field goal at a national camp and hit good hang times and can punt the ball 60 yards. It changes field position and allows me as the offensive coordinator to take more risks and gambles when I usually wouldn’t.”

While he was gone for 27 years, Manges said he never truly left the Valley. He’s well aware of what lies ahead in Class 4A Big 8 Conference play.

“I always looked at the scores on Friday night to see how my team did. I’m familiar with the (Bill) Cherpaks and (Matt) Humberts of the world,” he said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to start. I don’t view it as me having to adapt to the teams and coaches here. They have to adapt to me and what we do. That’s going to be a transition period. They’re going to have to learn what we do.”

Schedule

Coach: Darwin Manges

2018 record: 0-10, 0-7

All-time record: 243-252-12

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, Chartiers Valley, 7

8.30, Thomas Jefferson*, 7

9.6, at Indiana*, 7

9.13, Trinity*, 7

9.20, at Gateway, 7

9.27, Beaver, 7

10.4, at Laurel Highlands*, 7

10.11, Greensburg Salem*, 7

10.18, at West Mifflin*, 7:30

10.25, at Belle Vernon*, 7

*Class 4A Big 8 Conference game

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