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Saturday, December 31, 2022

2021 Preview: Red Land Patriots

Coach: Frank Gay

Classification: 5A

League/division: Mid-Penn Conference/Keystone

2020 record: 3-4, 2-3

Postseason: Did not qualify


Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD

Not available

Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg., TD

Not available

Receiving: Rec.-Yards, Avg., TD

Not available

KEY PLAYERS: Kaden Peifer, sr., TE-LB; Sam Sklar, sr., WR-DB; Gavin Feliciano, sr., WR-K; Brady Lydon, sr., OL-DL; Nate Smith, sr., OL-DE; Parker Lawler, jr., WR-DB; Kerry Reiker, jr., OL-LB; Roman Jensen, so., QB; Anderson French, so., WR-OLB; Bryce Phillips, so., TE-DL; Josh Patrick, so., ATH-DB.

OUTLOOK: Red Land didn’t turn in its best performance Saturday when the Patriots scrimmaged Big Spring, but this is a team that has the talent needed to make positive strides in the Keystone Division. How far can they get? That depends on how quickly some gents develop. But Frank Gay, a seasoned vet of 32 years coaching, believes he’s got something here.

1. Avoiding the sophomore slump

The Patriots will need second-year starting quarterback Roman Jensen to rebound from a shaky performance in Saturday’s scrimmage against Big Spring in which the sophomore completed just one pass — a task Frank Gay believes Jensen is fully capable of achieving. “It all came down to the simple basics of footwork and timing,” Gay said. “He was out of wack. We showed him film, and he understands. It is the little things. Get the footwork right, his timing right and he is back to normal.” Red Land saw flashes of the incoming sophomore’s potential toward the end of last season as the game slowed down, and Jensen felt more comfortable in Gay’s system.  “We thought Roman performed well toward the end and got comfortable being our quarterback,” Gay said. “But then he slumped on Saturday in the scrimmage. He just didn’t go through his reads, his progressions, things like that. But our expectations are super high for Roman Jensen, and I truly believe that he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.”

2. O-line grading high

If there’s one thing head football coaches love, it is watching game film. (It’s true, just ask any football coach.) And well, when that game film shows positive signs, that’s even better. So, while every tape is going to show areas where a team can improve, Gay had to be happy with the grades his offensive linemen received Saturday. The Patriots big men are scored on their assignments — i.e. were they in the right spot executing the right play at the right time? His big eater — which includes seniors Nate Smith (6-foot, 195 pounds) and Tanner Herman (6-1, 210) — posted a score of 95%. Not too shabby. While there’s still plenty of fine-tuning needed, there were plenty of positive signs from the group that also includes Kerry Rieker (6-1, 205), Anthony Rodgers, Andrew McCutchen (6-0, 260) and Addison Janovich (6-1, 265). “The biggest thing is they bought into the fact that we can’t do anything without you guys,” Gay said. “We need to get a little more physical, but last year we were probably at 40 percent (grade on assignments). So that is a big jump. If they know what they are doing, they can play fast and physical and they are doing that right now.”

3. Defense key to Patriots’ success You might know his name from the baseball diamond — that Red Land Little League team that was pretty good back in the day, or maybe a more contemporary example from this lad leading Red Land to the PIAA Class 5A championship game might be easier to recall. Either way, Kaden Peifer played a huge role in both. And if you didn’t know, that dude is pretty good at football, too. Red Land will rely heavily on its defense and special teams to stymy opponents, and the 6-0, 210-pound senior will play a critical role from the MIKE linebacker position. He’s the field general of the defense, a  three-year starter and someone who has become a vocal leader of this team. Supporting cast members at every level should provide plenty of punch as well with Anderson French ready to break out as an outside linebacker and Joseph LJ Sersch snagging a starting role after a strong performance Saturday. Parker Lawler and Sam Sklar anchor the secondary, and Tanner Herman and Nate Smith, a four-year starter, provide a foundation in the trenches. “We felt coming in that the defense would be our strong suit because we have dudes back that can really play,” Gay said. “We really feel that we have to play great defense. I think our offense can give us a spark, but we have to get them the ball more often. The more we can get the ball into their hands, the better we will be.”

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