The athletes on Richardson Berkner’s varsity this fall were either in grade school or middle school the last time the Rams made the playoffs, which was 2011. Heck, most weren’t even born when Jim Ledford became head coach in 2000. Now in his 18th year at Berkner, Ledford hopes he can guide a very young team back into the playoffs.
The Rams made a run at it in 2016, tying rival Lake Highlands for fourth place in District 9-6A. But the Wildcats won the head-to- head game, 35-12, to nab the district’s final playoff spot.
Berkner could’ve made it into the playoffs with a win over Dallas Jesuit in the season finale, but Jesuit wrapped up the district title with a 51-26 win. Berkner finished the season at 5-5, including a 3-4 mark in district.
The Rams return only three starters on offense and six on defense. Ledford said the Rams will have “good skilled athletes” and that their defensive front will be a strong point. The Rams need depth from their new players, however.
“This group will be about the same as 2016. We were healthy for the first time in three years and last year’s group was 5-5,” Ledford said. “If this group stays healthy they will make a run for the fourth playoff spot just like last year. Health is a key because there is no depth on either side of the line.”
RB Terance Hargest, OT Chris Bennett, WR Barry Green
The Rams lose eight starters on offense, including Terance Hargest’s 1,611 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Hargest also had 113 receiving yards in the spread option.
DL Hassan Badawy, DL Desmond Norton, LB Fahez Yusuff
The trio of key returning players — all college prospects — headline a squad that returns six players on a defense that allowed just 30 points a game in 2016. The defense is vitally important as the offense will rebuild from the ground up.
Depth is the biggest concern for the Rams heading into 2017, but the upcoming players experienced success at the sub-varsity levels last year. Last year’s JV team went 6-3- 1 while the freshman squad went 9-1.
Things get rolling April 24 as spring practice began. Ledford will need the next three weeks to evaluate the young Rams, and those extra practices will allow the coaching staff to know what needs to be worked on in the summer. The spring game will be May 19 at 6 p.m.
With spring practices in tow, Berkner won’t report for fall practice until Aug. 14. After a scrimmage at Sachse on Aug. 25, the Rams have a non-district slate against Forney, Naaman Forest and Garland before plunging into district with Lake Highlands, W.T. White, Pearce, Skyline and Coppell before finishing at Richardson and at home against Jesuit.