This season, however, the Bulldogs aren't so young anymore, and they return with those inexperienced players of last year having gained valuable experience, which should pay dividends.
“Last year, we had 34 kids who were 10th grade and below so now those same 30 or so kids are now 11th grade and below. … The spring game (against Randolph County) went well. We played like we knew what we were doing. This time last year, we were two weeks into a new offense … compounded by our youth,” said Ranburn coach Chad Young, who had only six seniors and an equal number of juniors playing significant roles last year.
The Bulldogs’ greatest asset should be an experienced offensive line. Young projected Cole Yearta to start at center, Austin Jordan at left guard, Zach Patterson at right guard, Hunter Peterson at left tackle and Ryan Smith at right tackle. All five started at some point last year.
Tyler Connell, another senior, is also an experienced lineman. Young said Connell can play any of the five line positions as well as any of the starters. Senior Dalton White, currently recovering from an injury, should provide additional depth in the line as should junior Jacob Ertzberger.
“So they go, so we’re going to go which should be a good thing,” Young said of his line.
Sophomore Dylan Wiggins is the heir apparent at quarterback. Junior Dylan Tullis returns at tailback. Senior Brady Whittle will start at fullback with junior G.W. Caldwell behind him. At wingback, Kyle Lovvorn will start and Dustin Chambers will be the reserve. Both are juniors.
Junior Brayden Wilson returns to start at one receiver position and junior Adam Sheppard will start at the other. Senior Devin Rehberg and sophomore Donovan Tullis are the backups.
“There’s not a whole lot of gap between our No. 1 skills and our No. 2 skills,” Young said.
In addition to a productive spring game, the new passing attack also looked good over the summer. Ranburne reached the semifinals of the 16-team Piedmont 7-on-7 passing competition on the last Saturday in July.
On defense, Young said the Bulldogs will continue to use a three-man front unless an opponent’s strength forces another look. Connell, Jordan, Patterson, Peterson and Smith all have significant experience. Sheppard and White will add depth to the rotation.
Whittle and Dalton Wiggins return after starting at inside linebacker in 2012. Caldwell and Jesse Pannitto, a transfer returning to school at Ranburne, will also be on the inside. At outside linebacker will be Chambers, Lovvorn, Donovan Tullis and Yearta. Lovvorn is making the move to linebacker after playing safety last year.
“We’ll probably play all eight of them,” Young predicted.
In the secondary, Dylan Wiggins returns as a starter at safety. Thrower is a reserve there. Wilson was a starter at cornerback last year. Rehberg, Dylan Tullis and Logan Otwell join him.
Freshman Jake Howle will kick extra points and field goals. In the spring game, Howle missed his first attempt then finished with five in a row. Yearta will snap and Dylan Wiggins, also the punter, will hold. Patterson will handle kickoffs.
As Ranburne prepares to open at home Aug. 30 against Mount Zion, Ga., there’s a great deal of optimism in the Bulldogs' camp.
“I sense that these guys are winners. Not to say that we haven’t had winners but I sense the fact that they know that we’ve got a good nucleus of people that can get it done,” Young said.
Ranburne at a glance Head coach: Chad Young (68-75 in 14 years, all at Ranburne)
Last year’s record: 4-6, including 3-4 in Class 2A, Region 6. Did not make the 2A playoffs.
Outlook: Ranburne returns a lot of experience on the offensive line, making matters easier for the young skill position players, particularly sophomore quarterback Dylan Wiggins. There are a host of experienced players on defense, too. A 3-0 start in region games would almost assure the Bulldogs a playoff spot. How they fare against Woodland, Wellborn and Fultondale in the second half of the regular season would determine whether they play at home or on the road Nov. 8.
Aug. 30, vs. Mount Zion (Ga.)
Sept. 6, vs. Pleasant Valley #
Sept. 13, at Ohatchee #
Sept. 20, vs. Vincent #
Sept. 27, at Beulah
Oct. 4, at Woodland #
Oct. 11, at Victory Christian #
Oct. 18, vs. Wellborn #
Oct. 25, vs. Fultondale #
Nov. 1, at Ashville
# Denotes region game