For fifth-year Page coach Charles Rathbone, it’s time for the Patriots to move past ‘can’ and get to ‘will’.
Page has advanced to the playoffs in each of his four seasons at the helm, but has been a first-round out each of the last three years – doing so in 2015 despite playing for the Region 4-4A title before falling to eventual state semifinalist Marshall County in Week 10.
Since those back-to-back season-ending losses to the Tigers and to East Hamilton, Rathbone assessed that the team needed a shot of confidence.
“We’ve prided ourselves on having really hard-working kids, since I’ve been here and even before that,” Rathbone said. “That says a lot about the character of the kids.
“This time, we’ve pushed the difference between ‘we can’ and ‘we will’. Anybody can. Anybody’s capable of doing something. But what’s the next step? If we had to have a hashtag, that’s what it’d be: #wewill. I think that’s worked. I think they’re clinging onto that and believing that.”
As the Patriots approach their season opener at Fairview, the transition from ‘can’ to ‘will’ hinges largely on how they replace their two key offensive cogs from last fall – quarterback Michael Magochy and running back Michael Roberts. Magochy threw for 4,082 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior and senior. Roberts was a difference-maker as a two-way threat out of the backfield and from his linebacker position on defense.
With the curtain coming down on “The Mike & Mike Show”, their replacements will have to step forward quickly.
“The ‘show’ will be a lot of different people,” Rathbone said. “We’ve got to spread it around a little more this year. I think it’ll be more beneficial for us to put it on a number of guys.”
Jacob VanLandingham looks to have the inside track at quarterback as a senior, but freshman Cade Walker has shown enough during the preseason to possibly be an option as well if he continues to progress.
Senior Andrew Metkler is the most experienced member of the receiving corps, with juniors Will Pierce and Tristan Carter – the latter a 6-5 target – set to impact the passing game as well. Derek Bittner and freshman Bubba Johnson are set to be the lead ball carriers.
“We’ve got a lot of pieces,” Rathbone said. “I’d say we’re young, but pretty athletic.”
In the trenches offensively, senior Chris Dahl is a returning starter, as are juniors Jonathan Harris and Will Rathbone (the coach’s son). Defensively, Dahl anchors the front with juniors Turner Smith and Daniel Vaughan. Daniel Callicoat, who started at end as a junior, shifts to linebacker and will team up with classmate Josh Cramer.
“We’re pretty big in our front seven,” Rathbone said.
Cruze Kerrigan and Tyler Gardner should key the Page secondary – Kerrigan coming off an all-Region 4-4A campaign as a junior.
Kicking responsibilities will rest on the foot of Brent Cimaglia, a senior who committed to Tennessee a couple of months ago after previously pledging to Southern Miss.
Such experience is a relative rarity, though, which adds to the uncertainty for this year’s Patriots.
“We’re young,” Rathbone warned. “It may be two or three games into the season before we realize where we’ve got to be on the field. Once we get to that place on the field, I think we’re going to be tough.”