By Steve Robinson | August 16, 2014 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: Olympia HS, Pekin Daily Times

FootballSTANFORD – As Stanford Olympia High School head coach Mike Rathbun sees things going into his fourth year leading the Spartans for another season, he said he’s “more confident this year than I’ve been in a lot of years.”

That would because of front line players on both sides of the ball coming in this season led offensively by junior quarterback Collin Miller, who has been calling signals since halfway through the Spartans game at Normal University High last year. “We’ve got a great group of first string players,” Rathbun explained. But he said, his team lacks an experienced second string squad.

Oly lost four starters on offense and five on defense, but Rathbun said he isn’t worried particularly about that because of what he sees in terms of the attitude his players have thus far displayed in practice. “They come to practice with an attitude of ‘we can do this’,” Rathbun explained. “The group I’ve got right now has a never-say-die attitude. With that, I think we can go a long way.”

In practices, Rathbun said, “everything I have thrown at them, they’ve accepted with no compunction,” Rathbun said.

Miller was asked to take up the task of leading the Spartans and from that point on, Miller “understood the offense and what was required of him, and did as good a job as a sophomore,” his coach explained. Olympia has 12 juniors and Miller spent time in the offseason working to increase his speed.

Miller will be throwing to a receiving corps that doubles as a brother act – Tyler Bruner and Austin Bruner, both juniors. They will be joined by junior Justin Slager

Slager “started out as a utility player,” Rathbun said. “We can put him anywhere on the field and he will find a way to get the job done.”

Stanford-Olympia SpartansRathbun said his team will continue rotating running backs at varsity level. That group includes Slager, senior Wyatt Crump, and junior Tristan Ballinger. “With that group, we’re considerably faster than we were last year and years past,” Rathbun quickly noted.

While offense is pretty much mapped out, Rathbun admits getting a defensive unit assembled could be a work in progress in came in time for Oly’s Aug. 29 season opener at home against non-conference opponent Champaign St. Thomas More.

“We graduated all our linebackers, and we’re a smaller, faster team than what we’ve had in the past,” Rathbun admits. “We’ll need to adjust our defense to accept smaller kids into a more athletic position.”

Crump, a free safety last season, is going to be one of the new linebackers this season, his coach said. There are three players fighting for a linebacker position, Rathbun said. Slager will continue to serve as the Spartans’ kicker, he added.

Squib Kicks: Olympia’s first Corn Belt Conference opponent will be Sept. 5 on the road at Prairie Central for a 7:30p.m. start…..The Spartans will face Conference newcomer Chillicothe IVC for the first time in a home game on Oct. 17….Oly only has 5 seniors on this year’s squad….Rathbun’s coaching record after three seasons is 6-21….In the 2013 season, Rathbun said Oly only faced 1 “running clock” situation in a game in 2013.

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