St. Mary’s Ryken has only played a varsity football schedule since 2008. Coach Jerry Franks has only led the Knights since 2012. But young as that combination may be, it seems to have matured into a reliably successful one in 2013.
After the team experienced the growing pains of four losing seasons to start its history, Franks entered the equation and changed the output to a 7-3 record in 2012. The Knights dominated Capital Area Football Conference foes Avalon (44-22) and Riverdale Baptist (41-0) in Franks’s first season. But against more established independent foes such as Bullis and St. Albans, Franks’s team faltered.
But this year, the Knights have already shut out WCAC team Carroll (2-3), part of a three-game season-opening stretch that saw Ryken yield just seven total points. The Knights’ lone loss came to undefeated WCAC squad Bishop McNamara (5-0), and came by dint of a kickoff return for a touchdown in the closing seconds with Ryken leading.
“We play outstanding defense, we’ve gotten a lot of turnovers, and we’ve been able to convert those into points,” Franks said. “That’s the key for us: consistency and real good defense.”
Ryken’s defensive corps is built around a few college football hopefuls including senior linebacker Kolby Taylor, the leader of the Knights’ defense, who Franks says has had “some really outstanding games.”
“We expect Kolby to get several offers. He’s had an outstanding season and we expect him to have several opportunities,” Franks said. “We don’t have a lot of seniors on our team, so he’s probably our most heavily recruited right now.”
Several younger members of the Ryken defense look like they’ll have college options, as well. On the outside there’s junior Kyle Goddard, who’s been a weapon on all sides of the ball, returning an interception for a 70-yard touchdown, returning a kickoff for a touchdown, and serving as an outside threat for the Knights’ offense. It was Goddard who reeled in a deep ball late to seal the Knights’ 27-22 win over Ireton Friday.
Sophomore safety Damien Jones fits the same versatile mold as Goddard, having returned an interception for a touchdown while also catching several touchdowns offensively and emerging as one of Ryken’s leading tacklers.
He and the defense will have their work cut out for them with the Knights’ remaining schedule, which includes the Collegiate School, one of Virginia’s top high school teams that features Michigan commit Wilton Speight at quarterback.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 66-46
The combined score of Ryken’s games against WCAC teams since Jerry Franks took over before last season. The Knights have gone 1-2 in those games, but outscored opponents by 20 and lost the two games by a combined eight points.
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