Patrick Morrisey had never played football until last fall. For him, it was a way to “blow off a little steam” after class.
But learning the game during that first year was a rush.
“It’s kind of hectic because we started late, and then they told us, ‘You got a month and a half until our first game,’” said Morrissey, a rising junior center at Ridgway Christian School. “We were like, ‘We don’t know how to play football.’ So we’re trying to rush through everything, learning how to play. And here we go to our first game, and we only lose by like a touchdown.”
That inaugural season of football at Ridgway nearly ended with a high school state championship in the Arkansas Association of Christian Schools, a sign of how far the Eagles had come in a few months.
Now as the eight-man football program begins its first offseason, it’s experiencing a bit of growth. Coach Trent Young said there are 25 combined junior and senior high players at Ridgway for 2013, with a few more possibly joining soon.
About nine of the players are preparing for an upcoming team camp at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
“After our first year, we were blessed,” said Young, a 40-year coaching veteran who also is Ridgway’s athletic director, basketball and baseball coach. “We had a good year, junior high and senior high. There were some kids who saw they wanted to be a part of that, and I was hoping that would happen, because we had kids who played other sports who specialized in one or two sports. I felt that could help us in football, so I got about three or four of them coming out.”
Ridgway went 6-0 and won the state championship on the junior high level and posted a 5-3 mark in the high school ranks. All three of those losses were to Little Rock’s Southwest Christian — which decisively beat Ridgway in the championship game.
Southwest wasn’t the Eagles’ only obstacle in 2012.
Two of their games were forfeited in their favor due to the opponents’ low numbers, creating some open dates.
“We had more practice time, and being a first-year team we needed that,” Young said. “We worked hard on fundamentals whenever we had an open date.”
According to Young, three more AACS schools have declared for football, which he believes will lead to more games.
Also, the Eagles, who don’t have a stadium, played each game outside Pine Bluff. Young said some games this fall possibly will be played on their on-campus practice field.
But the first obstacle Ridgway tackled was a lack of experience. Only a few had played football during elementary school, but most had never played.
“So we were having to start from scratch,” Young said. “But they had some athletic ability, and that helped. We weren’t completely dry as far as ability goes, but knowing the game, they had to learn that. They’ve caught on fairly quick — they have a long ways to go — but they have improved from last year.”
Young said he has seen the most improvement from his team in the mental aspect, citing his team’s ability to learn about the game and retain the information going into the summer.
The physical improvement is expected to come as well.
“We’re starting a weight program this summer, and we’ll see some improvement in that,” Young said.