Over the course of two highly productive seasons as a wide receiver, Jackson Rieger usually found the defense’s attention focused elsewhere. John Jay has long posted eye-popping offensive stats and Rieger saw them accomplished up close, mostly by quarterbacks Ryan Lee and Hunter Keech.
With Lee (in 2015) and Keech (in 2016) having graduated, Rieger is no longer just his team’s primary passing target. He is now the No. 1 target of every defense on John Jay’s schedule.
“As a senior, you have to assume your role as best you can,” said Rieger, a wide receiver and safety whose team opens at home Friday against Yorktown. “You want to do as much as possible, but I don’t really feel a lot of pressure. There may not be some of those veteran guys around, but we have some talented guys at the skill positions.”
That’s become an annual tradition for the Indians. Coach Jimmy Clark has turned some the school’s top college-bound lacrosse talent into playmakers and Rieger is no different. He has visited or will visited St. Lawrence, Binghamton, Union, Villanova and Middlebury with the expectation that he will play lacrosse at one of them.
As a junior, Rieger used his athleticism to catch 35 passes for 639 yards and 10 touchdowns. On those credentials alone, he falls on a short list of the area’s top returning pass catchers.
With Keech now playing lacrosse at Fairfield, Rieger is tasked with helping junior Matt Lee (Ryan’s younger brother) and sophomore Bryce Ford assume control of the offense. Lee will likely earn the majority of the snaps after filling in last season for Keech after Keech suffered a concussion.
“I think it’s going to be really good for him,” Rieger said. “Even though he hasn’t played a lot, he practiced as the scout-team quarterback last year. He has a lot of knowledge of our system and understands the concepts, so he has some veteran in him even though he’s really a first-year starter.”
Offense usually isn’t an issue for John Jay no matter who is playing where. That’s why Rieger will begin this season with another focus: Being just as productive on defense.
When asked about his expectations for 2016, Rieger considered his play at safety just as important as his production at receiver.
“I hope I get the ball as much as possible and make big plays, but this year I want to focus on defense,” he said. “Last year our defense was kind of embarrassing. We got ran through last year, so this year I’m going to try and be productive on both sides of the ball.”