Mark Sander admits his Iroquois High School football program has a long way to go to compete for a district title, but in three months as the Raiders’ coach he’s made plenty of progress.
Sander was hired as Iroquois’ coach in July after being fired at DeSales, where he posted a 76-47 record in 10 seasons. He inherited an Iroquois program that went 1-27 from 2009-11 and hasn’t had a winning season since finishing 9-2 in 1994.
So it’s news that Iroquois is 2-1 this season after Friday’s 16-8 victory over Southern, even if Sander is downplaying it. It’s the first time Iroquois has sported a winning record since starting the 2005 season at 3-1.
“Being 2-1 is good and all, but we’re trying not to let the kids look too much into it,” Sander said. “The kids are giving a lot more effort than they thought they could, and they’re more eager to learn than I ever thought they would be.”
The numbers tell the story of Iroquois’ progress.
Through three games last year, the Raiders were 0-3 and had been outscored 118-6 by Waggener, Valley and Southern. Iroquois has outscored the same three opponents 48-36 this season.
Valley coach Preston King, whose team beat Iroquois 34-0 last year and 14-7 this year, noticed a difference.
“Every year we played them, we’d blow them out because they didn’t know how to play football,” King said. “This year, we knew it would be a game and that we’d have to show up and play. They’ve done an excellent job teaching those kids how to play football. … It’s an atmosphere there now where they believe they can do it.”
Sander said senior running back Augustus Sarafino has been a key to the Raiders’ success.
“He’s the consummate lunchpail worker … and is a leader for our underclassmen,” Sander said. “He’s ‘yes sir, no sir,’ and he takes criticism very well.”
Sander also pointed out senior linemen Day’Ron Woods and Omar Bizmana and said sophomore cornerback Jordan Richie has emerged as a leader on defense.
The Raiders will put their 2-1 record on the line Friday night when they host Kentucky Country Day.
“The support by the administration here has been great,” Sander said. “I’m really glad I stayed in coaching now after thinking about getting out of it.”
* Trinity kept the No. 1 spot in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings released Monday and is followed by Covington Catholic, Lexington Catholic, Bowling Green and Warren Central. The No. 1 teams in each class are Trinity (6-A), Bowling Green (5-A), Covington Catholic (4-A), Central (3-A), Danville (2-A) and Mayfield (A).
* The Assumption volleyball team extended its winning streak to 43 matches by winning the Active Ankle Louisville Invitational Volleyball Tournament, beating Sacred Heart 25-19, 25-14 in Saturday’s final. The Rockets and Valkyries will play in the prestigious Durango Invitational in Las Vegas starting Friday.