When Aberdeen Roncalli ventures down to Redfield to face Redfield-Doland in a football contest at 8 tonight, it will be more than just the beginning of the season for both squads.
For starters, this is a Northeast Conference game and now that the NEC has dwindled to just five teams, each league game carries more weight. Second, both teams are in the same region of Class 11B and will be jockeying for position throughout the season. And last, both sides have high expectations for the upcoming season, with Roncalli rated number two in the preseason poll and Redfield-Doland returning the vast majority of its squad from last fall.
“There’s no easing into this year,” said Roncalli coach Terry Dosch. “You have to be ready to roll from the get go.”
While Roncalli has garnered more preseason attention, the Pheasants feel like they can hold their own.
“We like our team,” said Redfield-Doland coach Keith Gall. “We feel like we can compete with anybody in the class right now.”
Roncalli is coming off a 10-1 season and figures to have a potent offense with junior quarterback Zach Lundquist back at the controls.
“We’ve got some experience in the offensive backfield. I think that gives us some flexibility with what we’re able to do,” Dosch said. “Zach has a pretty good grasp of what we’re doing.”
The big key on both offense and defense will be the line play, according to Dosch.
The defense lost the bulk of its line from last season.
“We’ve had new people in the interior of that,” Dosch pointed out. “I think we’re probably quicker up there than we have been. I like what I’ve seen so far out of them.”
The Pheasants are big (they have eight offensive starters who weigh at least 200 pounds), and feature a standout back in Landon Rohlfs, who rushed for just over 800 yards in limited action last season due to an injury.
“The lineman group had a good offseason,” Gall noted. “They got a lot stronger.”
Defensively, Redfield-Doland has a ton of experience returning from a year ago.
“We’re hoping to stop the run and our linebackers are pretty athletic,” Gall said. “I think we should be solid in the box. Everybody out there has played. They all have some starting experience.”
Last year, Roncalli was able to control the contest from the opening whistle in a 47-0 win over Redfield-Doland and the Pheasants would like a measure of revenge.
“They have the pedigree,” Gall said of the Cavaliers. “They took it to us last year. I believe we only had one first down and that was on a botched punt that we ran around the end.”
Dosch knows the challenge that awaits his troops this evening.
“They’ve got a lot of kids that have been playing for two or three years now,” Dosch said. “We know that they present a formidable challenge. We’ll just have to come out and play well.”
Game notes: This is Roncalli’s first trip to Redfield since August 2010. Two years ago the two teams met in Doland when Redfield-Doland hosted the contest . . . Roncalli’s last Northeast Conference setback took place in October of 2011 . . . Roncalli opens the home portion of its season next week when it hosts Groton at 5 p.m. during the annual Hub City Bowl at Swisher Field . . . Redfield-Doland travels to Sisseton next week for another NEC contest . . . Tonight’s game will be streamed live without commentary at AberdeenNews.com and will also be broadcast on Pheasant Country 103.7 FM.