By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After 25 years with the Nixa football program – including the last 12 as head coach – Richard Rehagen has a new home.
When he retired from the public school system last December, the veteran coach didn’t know what he was going to do, but felt coaching was probably still in his future. Eight months later he’s prepping for his first season on the sidelines at Springfield Catholic.
“This came along and I felt like this was just a really good fit and I’m excited about it,” he said.
After so many years in the Central Ozark Conference, a tour through the Big 8 could be a refreshing change of pace for Rehagen.
“Coming out of the league I was in I definitely knew it really well and coming into something where I’m going to learn a lot about a lot of different teams and what they’re doing, it is refreshing,” he said. “It’s something I’m looking forward to. I know the Big 8 plays really good football and they have for years. A lot of really good teams down in there. I’m just looking forward to getting in that league and seeing what it’s about.”
Rehagen replaces Steve Hancock at the helm and takes over a team that went 6-4 last year and has had four-straight winning seasons. The Irish have consistently had numbers in the mid-30’s during summer workouts.
Catholic returns five starters on offense and six on defense.
“We’ve got a decent amount of experience in our skill positions,” Rehagen said.
That includes senior Matthew Schmittling, a third-team Class 3 All-State running back who was a first teamer in the Big 8 East. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a junior. Senior Will Squibb returns at quarterback after missing half of last season with an injury. Junior Liam O’Reilly returns at wide receiver after earning second team Big 8 East honors. Senior Thomas Headley returns at tight end after earning second team Big 8 honors.
And senior Ryan George is returning after picking up first team all-conference honors at tackle.
Additionally, junior Major Riley is back as the backup quarterback after starting about half the season there last year.
The rest of the offensive lineup is a work in progress as Rehagen gains familiarity with a new roster. Seniors Dallas Welch, Lucas Morrison, Will Garand and Benji Yarnall and junior Rio Hernandez are all competing for time on the line. Senior Andrew Johnson, junior Brandon Ung and senior Clint Thomas are competing for time at running back; seniors Andrew Bauer and John David Bigler and junior Quinn Roubal are in the mix at receiver, sophomore Geronimo Avila is seeking time at running back and junior Weston Cline could see time at tight end.
“It’ll be a change in scheme for sure,” Rehagen said. “We’ll be very multiple on offense, trying to take advantage of matchups and just do what we do best, try to be strong in the running game. That’s something they were last year, very strong in the running game, but they were a flexbone team so it’s quite a bit different this year.”
Defensively the Irish will shift form an odd front to more of a 4-2-5 look.
Returning starters are Schmittling, a second team all-conference linebacker, Headley at linebacker, Squibb and O’Reilly in the secondary and Welch and senior Eyan Collins on the defensive line.
Thomas, Riley, Cline, junior Evan Kilmer, Avila, Johnson, sophomore Chase Haynes, junior Blake Southern and junior Josh Palmer are all competing for time at linebacker. Bigler is competing for time at corner; Garand, Morrison, Yarnall, Bauer and Hernandez are looking for time on the line.
“Our team expectations are to go out and compete every week and bring all we’ve got, play four quarters together and be strong at running the football and defending the run,” Rehagen said. “Put a full 48 minutes up every week. That’s kind of our expectation, go out and give it what we’ve got.”
In summer workouts Rehagen said the team appears to be strongest where it has returning experience: the skill positions. Defensively the secondary also looks good with two of three returning starters.
Catholic is scheduled to host a jamboree with Ava, Clever and Hollister.