NORTH POLE-The Eielson Ravens are back in pads for another season on the gridiron. They are looking to defend their small schools state title. The Ravens went a perfect 9-0 but return just six players from last year. They 10 more bodies on their roster than a year ago and head coach David Devaughn, in his 14th season, believes his core group is intact.
"We still got a good small core from last year's team who got to witness what it took to get where we were and you know they're doing their best to lead those guys in the same direction," Devaughn said.
The top returner is Anthony "Tony" Griffith. The junior running back is regarded as one of the best in the state. The 100 meter dash state champion churned out over 1,500 yards and 28 total touchdowns in 2012. 25 of those touchdowns were of the rushing variety. Griffith, a junior, is accepting his leadership role wholeheartedly.
"I used to be one of the followers and looked up to people but now you know, my roles have kind of switched and I'm one of the leaders. I'm honored to be a leader," Griffith said.
Ryan Crooks, another junior, will be a fellow leader and try to lead Griffith through some holes. Crooks is the only returning lineman from last year but he's doing his part to bring is teammates up to speed.
"We're just making sure they get into their playbooks, making sure they're getting all their reps and continuously getting in and making sure they're doing things right," Crooks said. "We're a lot of speed and a lot of power. We try to get to our spots. We make sure we get there and make it quick so Tony can go quick."
Sophomore Caleb Valez will replace Jovante Kincaid at the quarterback position since Kincaid graduated last year. Valez will have a big tight end as a target in Kyle White who stands 6'1" and about 190 pounds. Kaleb Dunlap will be asked to step his production as a defensive back and a running back to spell Griffith in their wing-T offense.
Eielson has a big opener against Soldotna this Saturday on their home field on Eielson Air Force Base. Soldotna is the defending medium schools state champion. So it will be champ versus champ. However, Devaughn heels his team is bonding at the right time.
"Guys are starting to gell, spending a lot of time together you know, 8,9 hours a day. So we're starting to build that bond so hopefully we can continue," Devaughn said.