Think about it. You are beginning a new high school. What do you do? Sports are important to a school, but where do the athletes come from? Will they be any good? Will they want to play for your school? These are questions with no answers, not at first.

So this is the grand experiment in 2010, and the Rocky River Ravens football team was the biggest petri dish at Rocky River High School.

 

A little history

At the start of the 2010 school year, some things were obvious for the football team. For example, all of the players trying out for the team were from another high school. The current seniors were sophomores then. Christian Irias and B-y Sandiemanie came from Butler High School, and Brandon Harris and Sidney Lawson were from Independence High School. Initially, was anybody on the team happy to change schools? “No,” was the unanimous response.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Lawson said, “I played as a freshman at Independence then had to come here and start all over.”

 

The first year

Of course there were going to be growing pains. Beginning anything from scratch is difficult. Imagine starting a football team. The logistics of obtaining equipment, fields, and schedules was daunting at times.

“The field wasn’t ready when we started practice in June. We practiced at an elementary school,” says Sandiemanie.

“We couldn’t lift weights that first year either,” says Harris. “The weight room wasn’t ready until the second year, so we tried to work out when we could, either individually or in groups. I think that probably put us at a competitive disadvantage.”

Most of the players came from successful programs. They were used to winning. Now they were looking at enemy faces in the huddle. Trust was an issue the first year.

“These were guys we knew, but we knew them from the other teams they played on,” Irias said. “It was hard, mentally, to feel comfortable, because we didn’t really know each other yet. At least not well enough to gel as a team. Looking back I don’t think it was anybody’s fault, it just took time. Predictably perhaps, that first year ended with a team record of 0-11.”

 

Year two

By the beginning of the 2011 season, the team began to feel more comfortable with each other.

“The first year you would see T-shirts and stuff with the logos from the other schools, the second year not as much,” says Sandiemanie.

This was the year the team was able to lift weights together in their own weight room. Head Coach Jason Fowler feels this has been important to team building.

In 2010, the players came from different schools, and were accustomed to different offensive and defensive plays and schemes. But by 2011, the team had shaken off the newness and began to embrace the Ravens’ way of playing football as taught by Coach Fowler and his staff.

“At our other schools, they were more established and it was hard to get no- ticed,” says Harris. “But being here we had a chance to show what we could do. That was one advantage.” In year two, the record improved to 2- 9.

 

Year three

Those young pups who were sophomores in 2010 are now seniors. They’ve been through a lot, as football players and as young men. They’ve been through things their friends at their former schools have not had to endure.

“It was humbling to see those other schools have success while we struggled,” says Lawson. “But we tried to see the bigger picture.”

Now the younger players on the team look up to the seniors.

“We want to show them how it goes,” Irias added. “We want to leave a legacy as a successful team. Our goal has always been to get to the playoffs and then see what happens. That goal is within our reach this year if we keep improving and playing like we’re capable of playing.”

What about the school as a whole?

“The school is behind us now,” says Lawson. “We don’t see other school’s T-shirts anymore, just ours.”

More than halfway through the season, the team has already more than doubled its previous win total. The overall record this year is 5-2. The team has been competitive, even in its two losses. All of its remaining games are winnable. That is a far cry from where the team was about 30 months ago.

The last sentence on this season has yet to be written, but this much can be said—this is not a collection of players from other teams. This team is now the Rocky River Ravens.