Keizertimes 2022 football preview: Olympians look to reclaim seat at top of the mountain

It’s looking more and more like the 2018 and 2019 seasons were outliers for  head coach Jay Minyard and the Sprague Olympians.

After just four wins in two seasons — largely due to tough non-league schedules where they went winless — Sprague returned to the postseason in 2021, going 6-4. During the 2021 Spring season they went 5-1.

But the Olympians lost a lot of talent are inexperienced. Minyard estimates only three or four guys played significant quarters last season.

“We’re real young again,” Minyard said. “We’re still learning tempo in practice. We’re learning and getting better each day.”

One piece that Minyard doesn’t have to  worry about inexperience is senior Drew Rodriguez. One of the top receivers in the state, Rodriguez has committed to play at Colorado State next season. 

Having such a big decision already made is nice for Rodriguez, as he gets to focus on this season, but he hasn’t let it change his approach.

“I still feel like I have to prove myself to everyone,” Rodriguez said. “Getting it out of the way is nice, you can just go out there and play ball. I already have a home to go to after the football season and play four more years.”

And Rodriguez has some lofty goals for the season.

“I know I can win offensive player of the year, but I’m really striving for defensive player of the year,” Rodriguez said.

Minyard said that he doesn’t feel the offense will be on Rodriguez, but he will be a key feature to it.

And other schools know that too, so Minyard will have to find ways to get him the ball.

“I’ve got to try and be creative because he’s a great receiver, but if for some reason people are doubling him and doing a lot of things with him we’re going to have  to find ways to hand him the ball,” Minyard said. “So he may line up in the backfield.”

One big reason why Rodriguez might be found in the backfield is the loss of running back Riley Davis, whose family moved to Texas.

Minyard has senior Barik Hill slated to take a bulk of the carries, but it could be a platoon, plus a change in strategy.

“It could be a little bit of carrying  the ball by committee. I’ve got  two really good quarterbacks, so whoever  does win the  job is probably going to carry the ball more often than we have in the past.”

Quarterback isn’t the only position battle for the Olympians. In fact, if you ask Minyard he’ll tell you almost every spot is up for grabs.

“You’ve got to show up to practice every given day and give the best  you can,” Minyard said. “And we really do have a lot of kids that are competing. Competition breeds success.”