The Catawba Ridge football team knows what they are good at and this year you will see more of that.
Catawba Ridge opens the 2022 season this Friday, Aug. 19 at Fort Mill High. With that opening it probably won’t take long to see the Copperheads revert back to a two-quarterback system that they used in their first year of operation.
Head coach Zac Lendyak said the team is energetic and ready to get the season going. Catawba Ridge is coming off a 6-5 year where they made it to the second round of the playoffs falling to Greenwood.
“I love the energy,” he said. “The kids have a ton of energy. We lost a lot after last year and they realize they have got to step up and show us what they can do.”
The two-quarterback system helped the Copperheads to succeed in their early years, but now with a robust and experienced four-year old program, they will have that option once again to use two capable quarterbacks.
Senior quarterback Nate Thomas has experience from playing with the Copperheads last year. Catawba Ridge also has senior newcomer Tyler Fikis, who moved in from Hampshire, Ill. Both performed well at the recent Gus Allen Memorial Jamboree.
“When you have two guys that can do what they do, that is good,” Lendyak said. “They are buying in and being successful.”
One key target for both quarterbacks is sophomore tight end Brady Ambrose, who is already getting Division I looks and is topping out at 6’4” 230-pounds currently. Ambrose brings a major presence over the middle, but also has good enough hands and athleticism to make things happen after the catch.
In the backfield, Catawba Ridge has a trio of backs from Jordan Gilliam, Ira Mister and Tyler Jones that can moved the ball on the ground. Jones saw a lot of work last season, and will have help from Gilliam and Mister this season. Both Gilliam and Mister are juniors for the Copperheads.
Defensively, the Copperheads seem just as strong with players like Jackson Burger, Evan Hamilton and Brody Tesimale leading the way on the defensive side of the ball.
Kicker and punter Kohen Kozel returns and will be there to convert extra points and field goals. As strong as the offense is for Catawba Ridge, he probably won’t punt as often this season as he will kick for extra points and field goals.
Catawba Ridge has new opponents in Region 3-4A in Northwestern, which will be a key match up in the region. Other strong teams in the region should be defending 4A state champ South Pointe and Indian Land. Look for York to be strong as well.
“When you play the type of region we play, its tough football,” Lendyak said. “We have the expectation to go out there one week at a time and get a victory and that is what we are going to try and do. Our region is as tough as any in the state, so we have our work cut out for us each and every week.”
The Copperheads non region schedule includes four home games and one short road trip to Fort Mill High.
Aug. 19 at Fort Mill
Aug. 26 vs. Charlotte Latin
Sept. 2 vs. Nation Ford
Sept. 9 vs. West Cabarrus
Sept. 16 vs. Chester
Sept. 30 at South Pointe
Oct. 7 vs. York
Oct. 14 vs. Lancaster
Oct. 21 at Indian Land
Oct. 28 at Northwestern
(Home games in bold. All games are at 7:30 p.m.)
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep