The varsity football team has started the 2016 season on fire, finishing the preseason with an impressive 3-0 record. In those three games, the Tigers outscored the Chico Panthers, the Rio Linda Knights and the River Valley Falcons by a combined score of 114-29.
The Tigers beat Chico 38-0 in the first game of the season, marking RHS’ first varsity football shutout in the last decade. Senior quarterback Nick Martig led the Tiger offense to victory by rushing for a touchdown and throwing two more.
In the second week of preseason, the Tigers traveled to Rio Linda. In this matchup it was the rushing game that scored for the offense, led by Brendan McMinn who scored three touchdowns in the 42-23 victory.
To wrap up the preseason the Tigers traveled to River Valley where they recorded another three rushing touchdowns in their 34-6 win.
The Tiger attack was very potent during the entirety of preseason, averaging 38 points a game. The current offense has evolved from last year, now involving more passing. Beginning his senior campaign strong, Martig has come out averaging 124 passing yards a game along with a five to zero touchdown to interception rate. Martig believes that much of his success has been due to how well the passing game has been able to feed off the strong running game.
“I think our passing game has been so successful because our run game has been unbelievable,” Martig said. “Our line has been phenomenal and our receivers never take a play off which keeps the defense guessing.”
The emergence of the passing offense has opened up the rushing game even more. So far, the Tigers have been able to replace two starting offensive lineman who graduated last year with no ill affects on the running productivity.
The team’s group of main running backs, comprised of seniors Jay Razzano and Brendan McMinn along with junior Nick Gori, combined for 573 rushing yards and nine touchdowns over the three games.
Although all three played significant roles, McMinn was the featured back for most of the preseason. This was partially because of a knee injury that kept Razzano from playing. McMinn was able to account for 463 yards as well as score six touchdowns. McMinn agrees with Martig and thinks that the multiple aspects of the offense have really been able to complement each other.
“We have more playmakers this year,” McMinn said. “The passing game opens up the run game a bit more, and the offensive line is really clicking.”
The defensive side of the ball is where the Tigers have really improved this season, allowing only 14.5 points per game. The defensive line, which only allowed three touchdowns, has held up very well so far.
Part of the reason for the defensive line’s success was the move that senior Hayden Simpson made. For the entirety of his football career he had been a linebacker, but this year he made the move to nose tackle. Simpson feels that his speed has really helped the defensive line.
“I think I bring a lot of speed to the line,” Simpson said, “The speed throws off the [opponent’s] offensive line a bit and I think it really helps us.”
Simpson is not the only player excelling on defense. Linebackers Nico Andrada and Josh Bamford have combined for 24 tackles this preseason, greatly assisting in the defense’s effort to stop the run.
The secondary is also a strongsuit, and is anchored by two defensive backs who are relatively inexperienced. Senior Colton Borowiak played as a quarterback during his sophomore year on the JV team and took last year off. Senior Jason Russell has not played since his freshman year. However, both have played really well; only surrendering two passing touchdowns this preseason.