With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, our reporters will be out at local practices checking in with contenders, dark horses and rebuilding teams alike as they gear up for the fall. Here is the second installment of our Camp Countdown:
From the banners that hang in the gym to the stories that are passed down by older siblings and visiting alumni, the success of Robinson’s football team during the Mark Bendorf era isn’t necessarily lost on the current Rams roster.
They know about the state titles in 1997 and 2001 as well as the regional dominance that yielded 130 wins in 14 seasons. But in the three years since Bendorf retired and Scott Vossler joined the staff, first as an assistant and now as its new head coach, the now-29-year-old has noticed a disconnect between knowing what the Rams have accomplished and knowing what it actually takes for the latest crop of players to accomplish similar results.
“I know they are aware of the tradition, but I think a lot of them don’t know as much as you might think,” Vossler said. “It’s time for us to get back into the Robinson tradition and championship pedigree, and it’s on us as coaches to prepare the players for this so that they can go out and do their part on their field.”
Vossler knows transforming the Rams back into state title contenders won’t happen overnight, especially with their two top running backs, entire defensive line and four of their five offensive line starters from last year now graduated. But this season comes after one in which Robinson went 8-4 with its first winning record and first playoff victory since 2010, Bendorf’s last season.
The postseason win was sparked by senior running back Marcus Denham, who displayed his explosive, playmaking ability by returning a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown. Denham will be the feature back this season in an offense that will have variations of the Wing-T used last year with Joe Wilson and Ayvn Johnson.
“I’m ready to show what I can do on the field with more carries and help us build on what we did last year,’ said Denham, who totaled 523 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. “I like Coach Vossler with how he connects with us and he knows what he’s talking about.”
Tabbed with paving the way for Denham along the line will be senior Josh Blaz, who is showing versatility and power at various positions. Senior quarterback Jack Rowlett, who is committed to play lacrosse at North Carolina, also stands to benefit from Blaz’s blocking with his dual-threat ability.
“Coach Vossler was a lineman in college, so I’ve gotten pretty close to him and he’s helped me work to get better,” Blaz said.
Vossler and his young team will be tested as they go deeper into their schedule against always-tough Conference 5 opponents. The Rams have a number of skill players who can line up at various positions, but the key to the next few weeks of preseason practice will be finding the best fit for each of these talented pieces.
“We feel confident in what we can do, but you never know until you see yourselves against the enemy,” Vossler said. “We’re blessed to have tradition to draw back on, and our hope is to represent our program and make some more history along the way.”
Previous Camp Countdown: Westfield