Football Preview: Rector, Irish continue journey to return Father Ryan to glory days

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Father Ryan High School is buzzing with excitement about the upcoming football season, even though the school has a relatively young team. The Irish are ready to make a fresh start after last year’s 2-9 season.

“Last year was not a bad year, it was just a tough year,” says head coach Brian Rector.

The Irish lost three games to division rivals by fewer than six points, not to mention a one-point loss to Ensworth in the first round of the Division II-AAA playoffs.

This year’s edition may be young, but the roster has plenty of potential. For the first time since Rector’s arrival after a successful coaching stint at Centennial High School, the Irish have as many as 84 players on the roster. That depth was lacking last year, making it was harder to fill spots when starters were injured.

Interestingly, amid the youth, there is some experience. Thirteen of the team’s 21 starters, all underclassmen last year — including nine rising seniors — return.

Senior linebacker Mathew Zito is one of them. After being injured in the second game of the season, Zito was more than ready to get right back in the weight room with his team the day after that first-round playoff loss.

Zito and the other eight seniors have worked hard during the past three years to get to this season, all with one thing in mind for the season: to start a legacy.

With only one postseason win, Zito says the past four years have been a learning experience for the seniors, who are determined to do something special.

Senior safety Anthony Wright agrees.

“This year is different because of us," Wright said. "There’s only nine of us, making us super close and allowing us to be able to lead this team the way it needs to be, to prove everybody wrong and show that Father Ryan will be able to compete for years to come.”

Those words are music to Rector’s ears.

“It’s all about the culture. Leaving your mark and making the program better,” Rector said, adding that the team does not have a “season goal” for this year, but its focus is on something bigger.

“There is a long-term goal that we try to instill in our players and staff, and that is to build the culture here at Father Ryan High School,” Rector said. “We are a school with a football team, not a football team with a school. It’s about getting better every day.

“The key to this season being different is to be able to win games early, win all the games you should, and win a few that you shouldn’t. If we do that, we will be able to start the legacy and make Father Ryan football the way it always was.”

The Irish will have an exciting season debut as they travel to play Bowling Green High School at Western Kentucky University.

This story and photos are included in the 2019 Williamson Herald High School Football Media Guide! Pick up your copy for stories like this, full schedules, predictions and more!

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