SELLERSBURG — In their first year of IHSAA postseason eligibility, the Rock Creek Academy Lions went a respectable 2-8, notching wins over Lexington (Ky.) Sayre and Jasonville Community before bowing out to perennial Class A power Eastern Greene in the first round of Sectional 48.
Much of the team’s success was predicated on the strong right arm of Caleb Rotenberger, the son of departed coach Jason Rotenberger who will play his freshman season with Kentucky Christian University this year.
“We don’t have anyone this year who can sling the ball around the field like Caleb could last season,” said Josh Caldwell, the first-year head coach who has been involved with Rock Creek’s program in various capacities since its inception.
Rock Creek is likely to utilize a lot of the Wing-T offense this season, according to Caldwell.
“We also don’t have a ton of 300-pound linemen, but what we do have is a lot of athletes, a lot of kids who can be dangerous if they get the ball out and have some space,” Caldwell said. “It’s all about utilizing what you have.”
Caldwell said the quarterback situation may be by committee, but one person who will see the ball in his hands a lot is senior running back Jonathon Browning, who finished with more than 1,000 all-purpose yards last season but wants to gain 1,000 on the ground this year. Browning also serves as the primary return man for the Lions.
Browning will be joined by linebacker/wide receiver Luis Corrales and offensive/defensive lineman Caimen Reid. Those three are the lone seniors on Rock Creek’s team this year. At some point, Caldwell said there could be as many as eight or nine freshmen on the field at one time.
“Some of these kids — they aren’t kids who have played a lot of football,” Caldwell said. “So it’s important for our seniors to kind of show them the ropes and have them help us improve as a team.”
“I think we all will remember what it was like to be a freshman coming up in a program, and we’ll just try and convince them to get better each practice and each play,” Browning said. “That’s what the three of us have to do as seniors.”
One budding star for the Lions is sophomore linebacker Kendrick Payton, who led the Lions in tackles last year and scored three touchdowns as an offensive player. Payton also blocked six field-goal attempts last season and forced five fumbles.
“You’ll be hearing his name a lot if you go to our football games,” Caldwell said. “He has the potential to really become a great player. He disrupts things when he’s in there.”
The schedule is a mixture of new and old. Dugger Union, North Daviess, Edinburgh and Central Christian are new on the schedule, but the Lions open again with Oldenburg Academy on Friday night. The Twisters beat Rock Creek 28-13 in last year’s opener.
“It’s a tough schedule, but I think we’ll have an opportunity to learn some things about us as a team as we’re on the road for the first three weeks,” said Caldwell, whose team plays at Dugger and Sayre in Weeks 2 and 3. “The kids are working hard and I see a lot of potential out there on the field.”