Chris Meeks makes an argument that if not for some season-ending injuries a year ago, his Rensselaer football team maybe isn’t ranked second in Class 2A this week.
The Bombers’ leader at linebacker, Adam Langley, was lost for the season when he injured his shoulder in week 3. Another linebacker, Austin Fleming, suffered a season-ending broken arm in week 2.
“Last year, we never really did see our team,” Meeks said. “But what that did was, it gave some of these young kids, sophomores, opportunities to step in and get a lot of game experience.”
Langley (35 tackles) and Fleming (27 tackles) are healthy this season and are among the standouts of a first-string defense that has allowed 20 points. The junior varsity gave up 20 points in the second half of a 56-20 victory at North Newton on Aug. 31, Meeks said.
Defensive end Dalton Souders said the 28-21 loss to Andrean in the sectional championship game was the springboard to this season’s success.
“When we went up against Andrean last year, we had a lot of young kids in, a lot of sophomores who are starting as juniors this year,” said Souders, who has 5½ sacks among his 31 tackles. “It gave our defense confidence we could play with anybody.”
Rensselaer believes West Lafayette quarterback Parker Ronchetto is a similar player to Twin Lakes quarterback Cameron Bennington, whom the Bombers contained in a 45-0 victory last week.
“He likes to run the ball a lot, throws the ball well,” Meeks said of Bennington. “I think it’s no secret our front five puts on a lot of pressure on people. That’s the key to our defense. You have to get a quarterback like that on the move, but at the same time, keep him contained. Our kids did a nice job of doing that.”
Rensselaer also relies heavily on safeties Beau Boswell and Ab Kiger. Boswell leads the Bombers with three interceptions, the result of a lot of homework.
“I figure I’m not the biggest, fastest guy, so I decided I’d try to be the smartest guy out there,” Boswell said. “I like to watch as much film as I can to see what the quarterback’s habits are, when he likes to pass or run.”
Kiger has only played two games this season, but it’s two more than the junior thought he would play after sustaining his second ACL injury during football camp at nearby St. Joseph’s College in June.
“The first time was a six- to nine-month recovery, so I thought, I’m done with this year and we’ll focus on next year,” Kiger said. “When I heard the news, a three-month recovery, I figured week 8. As the recovery went on, rehab went well, and after two months I focused on homecoming. Then time closed in and I said I could play (week 4). As soon as I was ready to go, I didn’t hold back.”
For now, Meeks said Kiger will be limited to defense, but it’s a key role for the Bombers.
“I thought it was very important for me to get back, being able to position every guy on the field, basically being a coach on the field,” Kiger said.
The coach on the sideline is concerned with West Lafayette’s offensive balance that includes running back Maurice Woodard and Ronchetto operating behind a massive offensive line.
“They’re excellent across the board,” Meeks said. “You want to keep Woodard contained as well as you can, if you can contain him. The quarterback is very capable of throwing to any of those very good receivers, so it’s hard to key on any one phase.
“We’re just going to have to perform very well and hopefully keep their offense off the field as much as we can.”