Coach: Chris Taylor (fifth season, 20-21)
Class: 4A, District 6
Stadium: Ridgewood Stadium, 7650 Orchid Lake Road, New Port Richey
Playoff history: 2002, 2007
Last appearance: Lost 43-3 to Daytona Beach Seabreeze
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Building blocks of a good season
A. The secondary: Two of three starters return, and the Rams have a strong rotation of five players, all of whom are capable of making significant contributions. This group, led by Tommy Kinder and Nick Martino, isn't just athletic, it's smart.
B. The RBs: A year ago, Sterling Ross produced 1,600 rushing yards. He's gone, but the Rams believe they have the ability to produce equal numbers. But they won't come from a single back. Instead, look for Martino and Cameron Rodriguez to share the load. Martino is a special athlete with great speed. Rodriguez is a downhill runner who can punish an opposing defense.
C. Jahmal Dawkins: A junior, Ridgewood coaches think Dawkins is well on his way to becoming one of the best (if not the best) linebacker in the county. Because he has all the tools, Dawkins could be a Division I-A prospect next year. He's moving from defensive end, where he totaled 12 sacks in only six games as a starter last season.
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Three potential pitfalls
1. Depth: The Rams have only 37 players and are particularly thin at linebacker. Staying healthy is crucial.
2. Speed: Ridgewood's overall team speed actually isn't bad, but coaches have lamented the fact the Rams lack what they call "top-tier speed," especially on defense. To offset that, Ridgewood will have to play smart and not allow the big play.
3. Focus: Simply put, the Rams can't lose this at any time this fall. This group will be tested week in and week out by a challenging schedule that has no cupcakes. Ridgewood should be good, but not good enough to take a game off and expect to win.
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Camaraderie: The Rams are an experienced and physically talented team but coach Chris Taylor believes togetherness will be the difference. And that could be a good thing. In his squad, the coach sees a mature, close-knit and coachable group that wants badly to succeed and will do whatever necessary to achieve that goal.
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Opposing coach's quotes
"They're a very well-coached, hard-nosed, smash-mouth team. They're going to come right at you and make no bones about it. If you can stop them, you can beat them. If you can't, you're going to be in for a long night." - Hudson coach Mark Nash
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D; Ridgewood took some lumps in 2008, going 4-6. But it started 12 sophomores. A more experienced team should see an increase in wins and likely will find itself locked in a battle for a playoff berth.