Raiders have brains in addition to brawn
Three of South Range's standouts are co-valedictorians of their close-knit senior class.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NORTH LIMA -- You'll have to rethink the stereotypical dumb jock football player when you approach the South Range High School senior class.
Quarterback Jim Sanders, fullback Jeff Johnston and tight end Brad Vizi are co-valedictorians at the school, each with 4.0 grade-point averages.
The 10 members of the Raiders senior class have participated in a football program with a 34-10 four-year record, and three straight trips to the playoffs.
Cohesiveness: While South Range coach Dan Yeagley is quick to point out the academic excellence the group has achieved, several members spoke about their cohesiveness as being instrumental in the 12-0 record.
Vizi (6-foot-4, 240-pounds) has seen his offensive duties change this year, with the team asking him to catch fewer passes to rely on his blocking to free up the running game.
"We are an extremely physical ball club and we're not afraid to hit," Vizi said. "If we're going to win games, we have to use our tools."
Close-knit: Vizi said that it's not unusual for many of the seniors to spend time together.
"Everything we do is together," Vizi said. "That's part of the success for our team.
"We pick each other up. Outside of football, we hang out with each other on the weekend; come over each other's houses."
Sanders (6-0, 165) threw for more than 1,200 yards as a junior, and has more than 1,200 yards this year. He agrees that the senior class is one of the strengths of the Raiders.
"We've been working together since we were young," Sanders said. "We have a lot of chemistry.
Special group: "You don't find a senior class that has one of every position. We do."
The favorite receiver for Sanders is senior Jason King (6-0, 175), who also doubles as a defensive back.
Johnston was the top rusher this year, but suffered a knee injury in the last regular season game and is out for the year.
When Johnston went down, another senior, Brad Johnson (6-1, 190) moved from halfback to fill in the fullback position and has performed well.
There are several interchangeable parts in this machine, all willing to accept their assignment.
"They give it everything they have every single play," Yeagley said of his senior class. "In the off season they work their butts off to make themselves better."
Happy member: Two-way senior tackle Justin Coburn (6-0, 270) is happy to be a part of a close senior class.
"We just work together; we know each other," Coburn said.
"We're with each other at school. Out of school, we do pretty much everything together. We work off each other."
Senior Ryan Zwingler (5-10, 230) has been playing center for two years now. The team experience is helping the Raiders play well, he said.
"We have a lot of trust in everyone at each position," Zwingler said.
"We have a lot of togetherness. We always hang out. If you're doing your job you know somebody else is doing their job."
Other seniors are end Tom Kimmel (6-1, 176), guard Chad Manchester (5-10, 200) and tackle Lee Everett (6-4, 249).