Outlaws football takes on Craig
By Thorn Compton
RAWLINS — Anyone who has played a competitive sport will tell you, the night before the first game of a season can come with a lot of emotions.
Stress, anxiety, dread, anticipation, excitement; the list goes on.
For the Rawlins High School football team, they knock those emotions out early by hosting Craig, Colo., during their zero week for the first game of the season.
Outlaws head coach Corey Wheeler played it cool on Thursday while being interviewed before his team’s final walk through, but he did say he is anxious to see what his team is bringing to the field this season.
“It is hard to tell,” Wheeler said in the locker room underneath Outlaw Stadium on Thursday. “You always think you are doing well but it is nice to actually play a game and kind of see where you are at.”
A lot of questions surround the Outlaws heading into the 2016 campaign, the greatest of which is how to replace quarterback Jace Allard, who graduated.
Set to make up for that absence is incoming senior quarterback Trey Young, who Wheeler said gives his team more of a running option behind center.
“(Young) is looking really good,” Wheeler said of his first-year QB. “He’s smart, he understands the offense, he’s making his reads and making calls at the line. He is ready to go.”
Rawlins made a unique decision this season by having the team from Craig, Colo., come for their first game.
Wheeler said other teams like to do scrimmages and such during zero week, but he feels his team benefits more from actual live game action.
“I don’t really like the format of those,” Wheeler said of scrimmages. “You don’t get a good grasp of where you are because no one is bringing their full game plan. I thought it would just benefit us more to get a live game in for zero week. That way you actually prep for another team; in scrimmages, you don’t prep.”
Even though it’s a full game, Wheeler said he isn’t expecting his team to be in mid-season form after only two weeks of practice.
“Any game we play we go in wanting to win,” Wheeler said, “but I think also since it’s zero week, we want to work out the kinks and get everyone on the same page.”
Craig and Rawlins actually have a history of playing each other to start off a season, though Wheeler said they haven’t met up since the start of the 2008 season.
“It is a team we haven’t played while I’ve been here,” Wheeler said of Craig. “I guess it is kind of a rivalry with them being right across the border.”
Football players, and coaches, are creatures of habit. As soon as a routine can be established, generally the better the players and coaches feel heading into a game.
That is another benefit playing a game only two weeks into practicing can bring— it gets the team into their habits earlier.
“We’ve had a couple film sessions already, the guys are buying in,” Wheeler said of his team’s preparation. “We have got our offense for the first couple weeks installed and they have really grasped that.”
New seasons provide the opportunity for fans to be introduced to new impact players on their teams. Wheeler said one of those new players that will jump off the field for fans is going to be junior Bryce Jerome, who has played basketball for Rawlins but is making his debut on the gridiron this season.
“Jerome is super athletic and tall and I think he is going to give a lot of teams problems,” Wheeler said.
There is a new philosophy of speed and athleticism at RHS for football, and that is something that Wheeler said he is confident his team will bring to the field starting tonight.
“We are playing fast, we know our assignments, as far as I’m concerned we are ready,” Wheeler said.
The game starts tonight at 7 p.m. at Outlaw Stadium.