FootballSTANFORD – At this time last year, Stanford Olympia High School head coach Mike Rathbun felt a confidence in how far his team would go during that season that he hadn’t felt previously since becoming Spartans coach before the 2011 season. And that confidence was well deserved as the Spartans made it to Illinois High School Association playoffs but were dismissed quickly in their Class 4A First Round game by Quincy Notre Dame.

As the 2015 season opens, Rathbun said he believes his team, which finished with an overall 6-4 mark including four Corn Belt Conference victories, will end this season getting beyond the first round.

Last year, Rathbun recalled, it was his team’s juniors who were fired up about the prospects of getting to the playoffs and brought the seniors in on the notion. Now, those juniors are now seniors “still committed,” Rathbun said, this time to getting another shot at a crown in their Class.

“I’ve got no complaints about where we’re going,” Rathbun said of the improvements he has seen during his tenure on the sidelines.

Part of the turnaround has been the result of Rathbun trying to change the mindset of what the Spartans can accomplish on the field after numerous lackluster seasons. It had been 12 years – 2002 – before last year’s campaign since the Spartans made the playoffs prior to last season.

Stanford-Olympia SpartansPosition-By-Position: Senior Collin Miller will again be under center as the season opens, where he has been sin mid-way through the Spartans’ 2013 away game at Normal University High. “(Last year,) Collin had a real good year operating the offense, (doing it) very efficiently, and he poses an equal threat as both a runner and a passer,” Rathbun explained. Should anything happen to Miller during the course of the season, senior wide receiver Justin Slager would serve as his backup.

Miller will be defended by an offensive front line led by seniors Bo Bauer, T. J. Peters, and Wyatt Spaulding, all of whom made the All-Conference squad last year. “Those three should make a pretty big difference up front,” Rathbun said of that trio. “They do a great job of communicating up front and that’s because they’ve been playing together since they were just kids.”

With the graduations last spring of brothers Austin and Tyler Bruner, senior wide receiver Alex Switzer will step into the forefront of the receiving corps this season. Alongside him will be senior Levi Nieson. Nieson will be making a switch defensively, too, as he moves from outside linebacker to inside linebacker.

Senior running backs Triston Ballinger and Slager “will pick up where they left off last year” at those positions when the season starts, their head coach explained. Rathbun said his team “isn’t particularly large at any one position,” explaining his heaviest man at that position weighs 250 pounds.

In addition to his duties on both sides of the ball, Slager will serve as the Spartans’ kicker.

Despite their size differential, “they all go on forever,” the fifth-season coach said. “They’ve all worked hard in the offseason and are in a position to do pretty well.”

Corn Belt ConferenceDefensive Shake-Up: The Bruners’ departure leaves Olympia with some shifting to be done on defense, Rathbun said, specifically at cornerback. “If a corner makes a mistake, everybody sees the result,” he said. Players wanting the position face a limited learning curve, the coach added.

As for outside linebacker, the other position for which there is competition, “anybody can cover a pass,” Rathbun said of his search for top-notch defensive staffers. “I want to see who can run reads, cover passes, and serve as kind of a total package we’re looking for.”

Seniors Cole Hamel and Nieson will serve in their linebacking positions, Rathbun explained.

Squib Kicks: Rathbun said Oly’s 2014 record inspired his players to visit the weight room more regularly during the offseason…..Oly opens the season at non-conference foe Champaign St. Thomas More Aug. 28….Prairie Central opens the Spartans’ home schedule Sept. 4….Rathbun’s four-year coaching record at Olympia is 12-25 including an 8-20 Corn Belt Conference mark and 0-1 in post-season play.

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 16th, 2015 at 10:46 pm and is filed under Olympia HS, Pekin Daily Times. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed.