This is the fifth of an 11 part series of every team in the River Valley Touchdowns coverage area where I asked each coach three questions that need to be answered in order to have a successful season.
Since coach Bryan Rust left Hector he has brought much success to the Apache football program. It is almost an afterthought that the Apaches started varsity football just 16 years ago in 2003, and Rust is only the second head coach in Apache football history. Pottsville will open the 2019 football season vying for their 10th straight playoff appearance. With that said, there are questions surrounding the Pottsville program. The Apaches have saw their win totals fall from a perennial eight-win program a few years ago to just five last season. The Apaches found themselves in the fifth spot of the 4A-4 in 2018 where they drew state finalist Pulaski Robinson in the first round of the playoffs. Things did not go well for Pottsville in Pulaski County. The Apaches look to climb the 4A-4 ladder during the 2019 season.
I spoke to coach Bryan Rust these are the three questions for Pottsville that need to be answered for Pottsville to have a successful season in 2019
1. Figure out the offense
If there has been one thing that the Pottsville football program has been known for under coach Bryan Rust is their offense. The dead-t. Coach Rust’s roots go back to Booneville where he played high school ball. The dead-t offense was a staple of the Bearcat program for many years under coach Ken Rippy. Rust had success at Hector as the offensive coordinator and eventually the head coach with the dead-t. He then brought it to Pottsville where the Apaches have had much success in their own right. Coach Rust like many coaches identifies his quarterbacks in the seventh grade and has been able to keep the dead-t machine going at Pottsville.
This year is a bit different for coach Rust and the Apaches. Konner Carpenter steps in as the signal caller, but Carpenter is not your typical dead-t quarterback. Nobody will be mistaking Carpenter for Apache great Michael Perry, but Carpenter brings a different set of skills than your typical Pottsville quarterback. The junior completed 46% of his passes during his sophomore season (33 of 71) for 534 yards and seven touchdowns in spot duty. Carpenter represented a change of pace from last year’s quarterback Ben Jones. The Apaches have decided to go with Carpenter full-time and move Jones to halfback. Former tight end Drew Rust (6-0, 265) moves to fullback in the dead-t and he will be a load for opposing defenses. While the Apaches are still running the vaunted dead-t they will be going more of a blended offense this season. Carpenter’s skills geared more for drop back passing and for the first time in Rust’s career he will be making a concerted effort to throw the ball. How this new blending of the offense works will say a lot in how successful the Apaches are this season.
2. Can the Apaches figure it out up front?
One thing about being known for a dead-t offense is a reputation for physicality on the offensive front comes as a result. Bryan Rust teams have been known for physicality all the way back to his days as a Hector Wildcat, and that has been a calling card for his teams at Pottsville as well. Strong, hard-nosed, and hard-working kids is what the Pottsville football program is built on. The worry for the Apaches this season could be size up front.
Senior Zach Evins (5-8, 210) will start for the second consecutive season at center. Flanking him on the right and the left are senior Miguel Paramo (5-8, 200) on the right and senior Harry Brownlee (6-0, 240) on the left. Paramo will start for his third consecutive season and is one of the strongest kids on the team. Brownlee comes to the left guard position from left tackle. Junior Dalton Hernandez (6-1, 260) will use the experience of starting the final seven games of the season last season to improve the Apache front in 2019. Senior Isaac Mays (6-0, 310) and senior Braydon Gibson (6-0, 240) were battling it out at right tackle in the spring.
Pottsville will have depth on the offensive front Brayden Gibson (5-10, 225) returns from an ACL tear—he started six games as a sophomore. Junior Jeremiah Tate (5-9, 220) started four games until he got hurt in 2018. Junior Zach Kidderman (5-9, 230) can play both guard and center.
A 220 lbs. lineman is not huge according to today’s high school football standards, but what the Apaches lack in size they should make up for in experience.
3. Who will make plays for Pottsville in 2019?
As we’ve already stated Pottsville’s Konner Carpenter will be depended upon to start at quarterback. His seven touchdowns in limited action says that he has play-making ability. Drew Rust caught a 74 yard touchdown versus Waldron last season. Halfback Ben Jones has been a steady performer for coach Rust and crew. The former quarterback turned halfback will be depended upon to make plays for Pottsville, but there is one name that really jumps off the page when talking about possible playmakers for the Apaches. Elijah Bradley.
Bradley could become an all-state runner for Pottsville. He showed flashes as a sophomore. He gained over 100 yards against Mena and really stood out versus Booneville last season. Bradley averaged 4.7 yards per carry last season, but 25 yards per catch really jumps out when looking at his stats. He has the ability to make people miss in the open field and enough speed to run away from most defenders.
Pottsville’s 2011 team went 11-1-1 and won the 4A-4. This year’s team will look to get Pottsville back on track to be at the top of the 4A-4 again in 2019.