Playing in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division VI championship game has become commonplace for Drew Rickert and his Bradshaw Christian High School football team. The Pride have won two of the past three Division VI banners and four years ago won the Division VII title in a memorable 27-25 win over Vacaville Christian.
“I think we’ll be solid,” Rickert, a man of few words, said about the prospect of another successful season at Bradshaw. “I don’t think we’ll have the horses we’ve had in the past, but I think we’ll be pretty good.”
Last season, the Pride rolled all over Foresthil, 62-6, for the D-VI championship.
They won the Sierra Delta League championship with a perfect 6-0 mark en route to an 11-1 season. Bradshaw’s only loss came Sept. 2 when they suffered a 54-14 setback to D-IV power Colfax.
In past years Bradshaw’s success was dependent on the play of one or two outstanding athletes, such as Brady Dragmire, a four-year starter in football, basketball and baseball for the Pride, who is now pitching professionally in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization.
“We’ve got plenty of solid players, but no one with the abilities of Brady,” Rickert said of this year’s group of athletes.
The successes of the past few seasons has transformed into more football players who have enrolled at Bradshaw.
“We have 48 players out so for the first time we’re going to have JV and varsity this year,” Rickert said.
Bradshaw has always been known for its running game. A year ago, they averaged 427 yards a game on the ground. But both 1,000-yard rushers, Louis Correia and L.J. Upshire, along with Taylor Blackford have graduated. Upshire scored 25 TD’s last season.
“We’ll run the ball pretty well, but we’ll throw the ball a little more this year,” Rickert said. “Our quarterback is now a year older and a little more mature now. He’s ready to throw the ball a little more.”
That quarterback is Kevin Williams. Last season he threw the ball only 48 times and completed just 16 passes.
“He runs the offense well,” Rickert said.
Six offensive starters return this year led by guards Zach Rangel and Jake Fiksdale and tight end Luis Romero. One of the top newcomers offensively is running back Jacoby Hawkins who has impressed Rickert this summer.
Depth on both the offensive and defensive line may be an issue this season.
Jenny Lawson will be handling the placekicking duties.
Team speed will be the strength of the Pride defense this season. They are led by returners Kyle Betts at safety, Logan Newton at outside linebacker and defensive lineman Josh Katt. Newcomer Josh Criswell will add some depth to the linebacking corp.
Rickert is in his seventh season at Bradshaw. He doubles as the school’s baseball coach. He came to the area from southern California where he coached at King High School in Riverside, Wasco High School and Arrowhead Christian High School.
His assistants this year are Matt Smith, Tyler Hage, Aaron Holiday, Matt White, Chris Abe and Luis Reyna.
“We have a tough preseason schedule, playing all bigger schools,” Rickert said.
The interesting non-conference game for the Pride this year will be against Vista del Lago, a Division III team that made the playoffs last season. The Sept. 14 game will be played at Bradshaw.
“We should be able to handle a pretty good crowd,” Rickert said of the prospects of several hundred fans packing into the school’s small football/soccer facility. “We’ve purchased a few more bleachers this year so we should be able to accommodate anyone on our schedule, no problem.”
Bradshaw and other small schools are piled in the Section’s Division V/VI playoff bracket pool. They are a part of a very competitive small-school conference in the Sierra Delta League.
“Highlands is always solid and they have a good group of athletes, so I think they’ll be the best,” Rickert said. “I think Golden Sierra will be pretty solid this year, too.”
“We’ll have a successful season if we stay healthy and mature on the field,” he added. “We will need to out-work each team and our seniors will have to lead us.”
Prediction – 8-2 overall, 6-0 league
There is a big jump from Division VI to Division III in football and Vista del Lago has a solid club, a contender in the Sierra Valley Conference, too. That’s the same league that Cosumnes Oaks is in. Bradshaw will be outmanned in that game and will need some top performances to beat Summerville and Maxwell in the other non-league games, too.
Playing bigger schools will get the Pride ready for the league season where they should do quite well.
Highlands will give Bradshaw a good game in league play and probably one or two other clubs, as well. An 8-2 regular season should be expected along with another return to the playoffs.
If the Pride is in the Division VI championship game again, it will be Rickert’s best coaching job since he arrived at Bradshaw.