The Purple Devils enter the 2013 season outside the Alabama Sports Writers Association Top 10 after spending all of 2012 in the top 5 and ending the regular season ranked second with a 9-0 record.
Even more frustrating for the Purple Devils, for the second straight season they will not have a Week 1 game because of a scheduling issue. Instead of starting Aug. 30, Ragland begins its season Sept. 6 against Addison.
“It’s awful,” Ragland coach Jonathan Nix said. “This time last year Jefferson Christian shut down their football program, so with three weeks to go we couldn’t find a team to play because everyone is already in contracts. A lot of people think we couldn’t find a Week 1, but we’re in a nine-team region, and the state says you can only control your Week 10 game.
“I’m just as disappointed as everyone else, if not more. There’s gate revenue we’re losing, excitement that we’re losing. It’s a very negative thing, but we just have to make the most of it.”
Ragland’s expectations are just as high as they’ve been in the past, if not higher. The Purple Devils have made the postseason every year since 2001 and last season outscored their opponents by 39 points a game in their victories. Yet, senior wide receiver/defensive back Jacob Brewster said this year’s team is even better.
“No one expects us to be as good this year as we were last year, but I think we’ll be better than we were last year,” Brewster said. “I think everyone is giving more than they did last year. When you go from being ranked near the top of the class to being No. 12, it gives you a lot of motivation. It’s basically saying people don’t respect Ragland.”
Ragland has senior quarterback KiJana Lindsey returning for his second season leading the offense. After the Class 1A, Region 6 champions averaged 44.3 points a game last season, Lindsey said he has worked on expanding his game and plans to stay in the pocket more this fall. Ragland also has senior feature back Nick Smith and junior tailback Christian Morrow returning.
“I think it’s that there are so many playmakers that you can’t key in on one,” Nix said. “A lot of teams will stack the box and are so tight against the wing-T, but we’re able to throw our whole passing game out of that. With us being shotgun in the wing-T it’s a little different than being under center. You’ll see some teams back off with their linebackers a little more.”
Nix said the defense, which only lost three starters from last season, has the potential to be better than last year’s, after allowing only 10.3 points a game in 2012. Ragland returns senior linebackers Matt Hicks and Jaylen Brewster, junior defensive lineman Jesse Corn and all but one player from the secondary.
“Our biggest thing is getting 11 hats to the ball,” Nix said. “We preach to pursuit, pursuit, pursuit to the ball. The defense is going to be better than last year.”
While Ragland is talking about playing even better than in the past, Nix stumbled upon what he calls the “stat of the day,” which shows just how dominant the Purple Devils have been.
“Since 2000, we are 66-1 when we hold opponents to 10 points or less,” Nix said. “That’s been on the bulletin board. We’re looking to hold every team to 10 or less points.
“There was only one time, we got beat 6-0 against Gaylesville in 2010, and that was the last time we lost a regular-season game.”
Over the 13-year span, the Purple Devils have a 106-44 record under four different coaches. However, all the players are concerned with now is 2013 and how they can continue to expand on Ragland’s legacy.
“We made it to the semifinals two years ago and just being that close creates a hunger,” Hicks said. “You make it that close and just get put out like that. It makes you want to get to the next level.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.
Ragland at a glance
Head coach: Jonathan Nix (9-1 in one year at Ragland; 16-24 overall, including 7-23 in three years at Class 4A Ashville)
Last year’s record: 9-1 (7-0 in Class 1A, Region 6); won Region 6 championship; lost to Hubbertville in first round of playoffs
Outlook: KiJana Lindsey is settled in at quarterback and said Ragland is going to “move the ball up and down the field better than last year.” The Purple Devils are looking to dominate Region 6 against after their closest contest last season was a 24-0 victory. Nix has six offensive starters and eight on defense back as Ragland hopes to make another deep run in the postseason.
Aug. 30, OPEN
Sept. 6, vs. Addison #
Sept. 13, at Gaylesville
Sept. 20, at Southeastern #
Sept. 27, vs. Shades Mountain Christian #
Oct. 4, at Appalacian #
Oct. 11, vs. Meek #
Oct. 18, at Sumiton Christian #
Oct. 25, vs. Falkville #
Nov. 1, vs. Victory Christian
# denotes region games