Beginning your first head coaching job at a new school is not an easy task, but Logan Fritz has embarked on an even taller challenge as he takes over Pleasant Ridge football in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rams are coming off a 3-6 season under former head coach Pat McCollim and will attempt to capitalize on a strong group of returning players as well as a new scheme.
Fritz said taking over the program and installing his schemes has been more challenging than it would normally be but the staff and athletes adjusted well to the new guidelines.
"Trying to install a new offense and defense with zero contact camps or scrimmages has not been easy," Fritz said. "Even though Leavenworth County has had a bunch of positive cases, the area where we are at hasn’t had that many. We started a week later in the summer than what KSHSAA said we could in order to keep our protocol in order. We were able to still have summer weights every scheduled day, we just moved weights outside the weight room to keep the kids safe."
He said gathering his team has been challenging at times because of the jobs his athletes work during the summer.
"We have a bunch of kids that work summer jobs, I’m not talking about a summer job sitting in the air conditioner either," he said. "They are either building pools, in a hayfield or on a tractor out in the heat all day. Because of that, the kids are worn out at the end of the day. My staff understands that and I embrace as well as encourage it. I know the kids on our team are not going to be scared of hard work."
The Rams return senior quarterback Connor Gibson as well as senior running back Jake Heckman, who averaged nearly five yards per carry last season.
"Not only is (Gibson) one of the best athletes we have on the team," Fritz said, "but his ability to read and make decisions is better than most of the quarterbacks I had at the college level."
Fritz said he has been encouraged by how Justin Johnson, Chase Wohlgemuth, Devin Stutz and Luke Silvers have picked up the new scheme. He also mentioned Zach Nichols, Cole Keller, Walker Adams and Trevor Roemer as players that could take big steps in their development this season.
"We will spread the ball around more this season than has ever been done in past years," Fritz said. "Teams that play us will have to cover the whole field."
On the defensive side of the ball, Fritz said Mason Hawk, Gavin Van Dyke, Adian Williams and Nate Wilburn are a handful of players he expects to make an impact immediately.
He also noted that there are a number of underclassmen who have shown flashes throughout the summer and could find playing time with the varsity team.
"I'm excited to see all the younger kids develop because there are some other guys that are going to really start to stand out as the year goes on," he said.
The Rams are scheduled to open their season Sept. 4 at home against Jefferson County North. Fritz said he is confident the team will be able to play its first two games before any games will have to be postponed due to the pandemic.
"I have been telling our kids that we will more than likely get to play the first game because it is before we start school," he said. "If both us and Atchison County can make it through the first couple of days of school, we will probably get to play the second game. After that, it’s up in the air in my opinion."
Kickoff for the Rams’ season opener is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 4.