Redbird football ready to hit the field

Drew Veskauf TimesNewspapers
The Metamora varsity football team runs through plays and drills during the second week of official practice at Metamora Township High School.

The reign of coach Pat Ryan will be in its 25th year for the Metamora varsity football program.

Ryan’s career thus far has set a record of 228-55 with two state championships. 

In the 2013 season, the Redbirds went 4-5 overall and 4-3 in the Mid-Illini Conference. Metamora ended on a three-game losing streak, but Ryan said the kids are eager to get back at it.

“We feel like we’re ahead of where we were last year,” Ryan said. “You always want to be a little farther along. That’s the nature of the beast.”

After the summer camps and first week’s of official practice, the varsity team is looking forward to getting on the field for the first game.

“This (was) the toughest week of the season because there’s no game to look forward to. I mean we’ve already had a week of practice, we pretty much have all of our plays in, so everything is just review, review, review,” Ryan said.

“You’re blocking the same guys, you’re tackling the same guys everyday.”

It’s not all bad though, but Ryan said repetition is an integral part of the learning process. 

The “grind,” as the coaching staff calls it, helps hammer in the plays and the roles each player has on the field.

“It’s not the most fun part of the year. Certainly, that foundation of work has to be done,” Ryan said.

Returning starter quarterback Nick Holman will be taking the snaps this season.

Holman was brought up to play as a junior after 2013 original starting quarterback Brendan Nachtrieb was out from a shoulder injury.

“We had a chance to prep, but Nick (Holman) had to grow up fast and Jacob (Mitchell) actually became the back up, so our one and two guy are both back,” Ryan said.

Holman finished the 2013 season with seven and rushing 446 yards. He was 71-131 passing, for six touchdown passes and 1,157 yards.

Leading rusher, senior Tim Brennan finished last year with 504 yards and seven touchdowns.

Wide receiver Brady Fairfield will return as a senior after leading in receiving with 32 catches for 407 yards.

Offensively, Ryan said the team will spread out a little more but the 

teaching up-front for the run-block principals will stay the same.

Returning linebackers, Kegan Walker and Matt Callear combined for 65 unassisted tackles for the Redbirds.

“With Callear and (Walker) both back, usually our trend is one senior, one junior, but to have both guys back both seniors and one junior, were going to have a deeper defense,” Ryan said.

“We’re going to be a deeper football team than last year. We’ve had a lot of competition for positions, that’s a helpful thing.”

Defensively, Ryan has seen the change of things over 25 years and is adapting to the evolution.

“Basically, for our defense, they see five, six different offenses in nine weeks, where as before everybody was very, very similar, Ryan said.

“We had to come up with something to split the difference, because if you don’t than what happens is, you’re making whole-sale changes to your defense every week and it slows you down.”

The 2013 season was the first time since 1993 for Metamora to qualify for the playoffs, but Ryan said the team is looking to return with confidence this year.

“There’s a sense of urgency in that regard. There’s a time commitment here and there’s a certain amount of pride in our football program,” Ryan said.

“It’s hard when you’re not successful because of the success that has happened. Basically, we talk about the day we’re in (the playoffs).”

The Redbirds will open the season with a home game against Sterling at 7:30 p.m. Friday.