Photo By Chris Melgaard - #22 Connor Lewis
Written By: Sven Alskog
There’s no question that the first four-year senior class in the history of Ridgevue football has had a profound impact on the program for the Warhawks, something that they hope to add to this season.
“The thing that excites me the most this year is our senior class,” said head coach Tom Dewitz. “Most of them were here at Ridgevue as part of the first freshman team here and they were successful. They have talent and love football, and their strength is as a group. We have some juniors and sophomores that will play important roles for us this year, but we are senior-led and I’m excited to see how they perform.”
DeWitz and the coaching staff will have to figure out a way to replace First Team All-SIC running back Michael Sondermann, but the coach thinks the team can do it with strength in numbers.
“Last year we had 11 seniors and this year we should have more than 25. I don’t know if we have an individual talent like Sondermann, but as a whole I believe we are improved from last year.”
It all starts with what has been done in the offseason.
“We have worked hard in the weight room this offseason. That has been our emphasis and so has conditioning. We don’t have great depth, so we must stay healthy and be in great shape to be successful,” added DeWitz.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Warhawks will run a power spread offense with the goal of being balanced between the run and the pass.
“We need to replace Sondermann’s production in the running game. I believe we are improved on the offensive line with five guys returning that started more than one game last year and that are big and physical. Senior Riggin Reyes is the first running back, with juniors Jesus Valdivia and Skye Bobadilla pushing for playing time. We need to improve in the passing game from last year. Seniors Connor Lewis and Quinn Rodriguez are both returning starters at wide receiver and give us some explosiveness on the outside. Joined with possession receiver John Bataluna, our receiving core is experienced. Issas Albor is returning at quarterback, with Cole McDonald competing for that spot,” said DeWitz.
McDonald was listed by the coach as an impact newcomer to watch, so there is a good chance that the sophomore will be able to gain experience behind center at some point during the season.
Bataluna is a receiver that will give whoever the quarterback is a strong target. The coach is excited to see what he is able to do as a senior.
“John Bataluna stands out as a guy who is much improved from last year in every way. He is bigger, stronger and faster than he was last year. He has shown the willingness to step up into a leadership role for us. His grades improved to almost a 4.0. He is going to play an important role on both sides of the ball for us this season. The consistent positive energy and effort he brings to the team is contagious and is just as important as his talent.”
The defense for the Warhawks will be led by the linebacker group.
“We are a base 4-4 cover 3 defense and linebackers are our strength. Senior [linebacker] Emilio Diaz and juniors Kolton McKie and Zander Mallard started every game last year. Returning starter Kai Kovich will lead the secondary and defensive end John Bataluna returns to lead the defensive line,” stated DeWitz.
As Ridgevue enters year four in the history of the program, DeWitz wants to express his appreciation for the coaching staff that has made everything possible.
“Offensive coordinator Chris Mahavong and defensive coordinator Ryan Beason are quality coaches that are always trying to get better. Those two, plus offensive line coach Ryan Andreason and linebackers coach Ty Schmidt have been with me from the beginning at Ridgevue and I couldn’t do it without them.”
The Warhawks begin 2019 with a conference game in week one at Caldwell.