Roosevelt’s promising 2015 campaign was knocked off track partly due to injuries, and 2016 doesn’t look to be much better so far.
Rough Riders senior offensive lineman Austin Boen, a South Dakota State commit, missed half of last season after breaking his ankle in the team’s fourth game of the season, against Harrisburg. His rehab was going well until he got mononucleosis near the end of the summer and had to go to the hospital, where he then got pancreatitis.
He’s not the only one who’s been laid up. Senior Carter Carstens, a returning Elite 45 honoree and one of the most disruptive defensive ends in the state, had a high ankle sprain at the beginning of the summer; senior offensive lineman Andrew Josko dislocated his shoulder at a combine; and senior cornerback Dylan Garrow had his appendix removed.
“Whenever the phone rings, you wonder, ‘Who is it this time?’” Roosevelt head coach Kim Nelson said.
Injury-related havoc aside, though, the Rough Riders are again one of the more talented, experienced squads in the state and should again be a favorite for a state title run.
Roosevelt returns most of its offensive line, with Boen being joined by Josko and Gus Radel at guard and Alex Denevan at tackle. Competition for the fifth spot on the line includes senior Griffin McClendon, who tore his ACL the game after Boen broke his ankle, and senior Jason Lopez, who got playing time in McClendon’s absence.
“You don’t like to gain experience through injury like that,” Nelson said. “…But it does provide an opportunity for younger guys to step up and play at a high level, and I think those guys responded really well.”
Another player who got extra time due to an injury last year was quarterback Torren Devericks, who filled in when Jett Thune broke his foot. Devericks doesn’t have the size or mobility of Thune or South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion, Thune’s predecessor, but Nelson said Devericks might be more accurate and a better decision-maker than both of them.
The Rough Riders are also rich in talent at the other skill positions, with senior Tyson Jahn returning at running back, seniors Austin Johnson and Demareio Hester coming back at wide receiver and Carstens taking tight end, where he could be the top option after Tyler Van Voorst moved on to Augustana.
The defense is less experienced, but Carstens is a huge load by himself and Sam Greer is back on the line after missing all of 2015 with a shoulder injury. Senior linebacker Cole Zwahr could also benefit from the extra playing time he gained when Andrew Batt tore his ACL in the Harrisburg game last year.
Nelson would ideally have a two-platoon system, keeping players on either offense or defense, but the Rough Riders don’t do that this year and are making sure a number of players know how to play on both sides of the ball to give the team a bit of extra depth in case of injury.
If a team fully separates its units, it will ideally play faster and stay fresher.
“I used to think it helps prevent injury, too,” Nelson said with a laugh. “But I’m not so sure after last year.”
Follow Ian Frazer on Twitter at @IanMcFrazer.
AT A GLANCE
COACH: Kim Nelson (8th year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 7 offense, 4 defense
STRENGTHS: Experienced, disruptive defensive ends; strength and experience on both lines; numerous returners at skill positions.
WEAKNESSES: Completely new kicking game; inexperience in the secondary.
TOP RETURNERS: RB Tyson Jahn (Sr., 5-8, 175); DE/TE Carter Carstens (6-2, 220); OL Austin Boen (Sr., 6-4, 300); QB Torren Devericks (5-10, 180)
OUTLOOK: Roosevelt caught the injury bug last season and couldn’t quite shake it in the offseason, but the Rough Riders’ overall talent and experience is among the best in the state, and they should be prepared to make a run.
OPENER: Aug. 26 vs. Aberdeen Central, 7 p.m., Howard Wood Field