Ringgold should again be Ram-tough

  • By Bill Hughes
August 22, 2017
Tyrese Youngblood, left, and Austin Waggoner, right. - Mackenzie Randall

Ringgold made the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals a year ago despite numerous injuries to key players.

Coach Nick Milchovich knows his team must stay healthy this year to replicate that postseason run.

However, Ringgold already is hoping that one of its key players, senior wide receiver Max Maciejewski, will be good to go after suffering an injury. He could be out for an extended period of time.

“Max is a big playmaker at 6-4, 210 pounds,” Milchovich said. “He can run and is a matchup problem because of his size and speed.

“He is definitely a scholarship player, and if he is not able to go for us, it will be hard to replace him, his leadership and his yards.”

Last season, the Rams improved as the season progressed. That is a part of Milchovich’s blueprint for success.

“We want to use the last regular-season games as a model of improvement and want to be playing our best football in November. I think that is what we did last year,” he said. “For that to happen again, our guys will have to keep improving as the season progresses.”

The Rams are not returning many starters because last year’s team had a big senior class. According to Milchovich, that does not mean inexperience will equal an unsuccessful season.

“Our younger kids who played, they gained valuable experience, and the players coming up who didn’t play varsity, you hope they learned from the experience of playing against the older players in practice and getting better while observing what it takes,” he said. “We will find out what the younger players learned.”

The Rams could start as many as 10 seniors “on offense as well as on defense,” Milchovich said. “We are an older team, but the players we have sat behind some really good players.

“We can definitely do some things if the guys play like we know they can play.”

Milchovich pointed out three key seniors in Darius Tyree, Brendan Small and Braden Pucel.

Tyree’s position was referred to by Milchovich as “slash” because he will see playing time at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Small is a running back and defensive back, and Pucel is an offensive guard who will also see time at both defensive tackle and end.

“Darius brings pure athleticism and is someone who has always done nice things for us,” Milchovich said. “On offense, he has gotten lost in the shuffle because we had so many options but he has always made plays on defense.

“Brendan only dressed six games last year, and if he is healthy, he could have 1,500 to 1,600 yards and I am expecting a lot out of him.

“Braden is our only returning starter on the line, so we need him to be a leader and I think he will do it.”

Despite the Rams’ overall lack of varsity experience, Milchovich will not adjust expectations.

“The goal is to always make the playoffs and this year will not be an exception,” he said. “We have enough weapons on offense and I believe that our defense will be better than it was a year ago.

“We will work to get better every week. Hopefully, we can get into the playoffs and make some noise again.”

Milchovich says the Big Nine Conference will be tough again.

“Thomas Jefferson is Thomas Jefferson, West Mifflin will be up there and Belle Vernon will be good,” he said. “A team that I think is the sleeper, that no one is talking about, is Trinity.”

Ringgold, which has only four home games, opens the season at home Sept. 1 against Greensburg-Salem in a conference contest.

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