PREVIEW: Scott City football team hopes to push past .500 in May's fourth year

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Scott City players, including senior running back Travis Phillips (2), leave the field during the jamboree at Perryville High School. Phillips returns to the lineup after suffering a season-ending knee injury during the sixth game of the 2011 season. (Laura Simon)

Scott City hasn't had a winning football season since the Rams went 6-4 in 2007.

The Rams came close at 5-5 last year, and they have their sights set on pushing past the .500 mark during the 2012 campaign.

"It's a big goal for us," senior quarterback Jonathan McFall said. "I think we're more confident than last season."

Senior tailback/linebacker Travis Phillips said the Rams finally have become comfortable in the system of fourth-year coach Jim May, a Scott City graduate.

May's first two Scott City teams went 2-8. The 2011 Rams started out 4-2 but lost three of their last four games. They did finish with a victory.

Scott City's Ryan Fortner listens to his coach Friday night, Aug. 17, 2012 during the football jamboree in Perryville. (Laura Simon)

"The kids have worked hard," May said. "I've got nothing but good things to say about this senior class. If we can get some of the younger kids to step up, maybe we can get over the hump."

The Rams suffered quite a few key graduation losses, especially along their lines and to an explosive wide receiver corps that featured prolific seniors Austin Atchley and Zach Cotner.

May said how the Rams perform up front likely will hold the key to their season. Senior Caleb Miles is Scott City's lone returning starting lineman.

"We're young and inexperienced up front," May said. "We'll only go as far as the offensive line will take us. If we can get our line play to go, I think we can have a pretty good season. But it all starts up front with our lines."

Atchley caught 37 passes for a school-record 717 yards, while Cotner had 35 receptions for 595 yards last year.

McFall said the Rams will miss that dynamic receiving duo, but he has confidence in who he'll be throwing to this season.

"I've got other receivers that will fill in," he said. "We'll be just fine."

May said senior Brett Dirnberger, who played tight end last year, has been moved to wide receiver to help shore up that position. Among other options is junior Skyler Bewley, who primarily played on the JV level in 2011.

"We've also got two seniors who didn't play last year," May said. "I don't think we'll have the game-breakers at wide receiver like we had last year with Austin and Zach, but I think we've got guys who will be able to take their place."

McFall is coming off an impressive junior season that saw him complete better than 53 percent of his passes for a school-record 1,506 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"He had a good year, and we're looking for him to lead us," May said.

Scott City's offense will get a boost from the return of Phillips, who appeared headed to a huge year in 2011 before suffering a season-ending knee injury during the sixth game.

Phillips tore his ACL while making a cut early in the second half against Portageville after he already had racked up more than 200 yards, his second straight 200-yard game. He still finished the year with 822 yards rushing and six touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

"I was making a cut and just heard it pop," Phillips said. "But I'm 100 percent now. I came back in 4 1/2 months."

May said having a healthy Phillips back is a big boost for the Rams on both sides of the ball. He was Scott City's leading tackler from his linebacker position at the time of his injury.

"He's looked really good," May said. "He was on his way to a really good season when he got hurt. But he played baseball in the spring and got over the mental hurdle of it."

Junior Gordy Bradley returns after rushing for nearly 400 yards last season.

Among those expected to lead Scott City's defense are Phillips and Dirnberger, an all-conference linebacker in 2011 when he was third on the team with 67 tackles.

May said senior Ryan Fortner, who didn't play last season, and sophomore Dalton Goforth will help solidify the defensive line.

"We did lose a lot, but we've got some key people returning," May said. "We're looking forward to the season."

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