After reaching the quarterfinals in the state playoffs for the first time in three seasons a year ago, the Ray football team expects to make a deeper run in 2018.
The Bearcats, who are ranked as high as No. 6 in one preseason ranking, finished 6 – 4 last season, including 2 – 2 in the 1A East Region, which placed the Cats third in a region that had four teams qualify for the playoffs.
Three seniors and a pair of juniors are among the top returning players, led by senior quarterback Jaden Pace. Dakota Willis and Spencer Bryce, also seniors, and junior Eric Manriquez and Julian Becerra also figure to be key contributors this season.
The Cats’ strength will be their speed and work ethic, which will be especially important considering there are only 22 players on the roster.
“We have a small group this year,” Ray assistant coach Jimmy Fessenden recently told Copper Basin News. “Keeping grades up, which should always be the case, and staying healthy is key.”
The experience of competing in the playoffs last year, which was the first time for many of the Bearcats’ players, will benefit the team as it attempts to reach its goal of a state title.
“We gained a little bit of experience last year by making the playoffs,” Fessenden said. “We expect to be back this year and improve on our success.”
Ray opens its season at home against Duncan on Aug. 17. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.