After a disappointing season during which the Rogers High Rams finished toward the bottom of the South Puget Sound League South Division, the Rams decided to go all-out with a new coaching staff.
With tough decisions needed to be made, head coach Gene Bowen decided to add to his staff former Pacific Lutheran University offensive coordinator Dane Looker and defensive coordinator Andy Armstrong, who came over from Franklin Pierce.
“I kind of heard (Looker) might be interested in coming back to the high school scene,” Bowen said. “He’s a guy who has a wealth of experience from all his stops that will help this program. I think (Andy’s) basic approach will have the guys flying around faster on defense.”
It’s a new look the Rams are hoping will help turn around a program that finished 2-8 last year.
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“It doesn’t matter what happened last year. You have to leave that in the past,” Looker said last week at spring practice.
Last week at Rogers’ practice field, players were being put to task by the new coaching staff Bowen brought in.
These are the days Looker and Armstrong will use to get acquainted with Rams players as they go through the new concepts of the game.
“I’ve taken a little from each of the stops I’ve been at,” said Looker, former NFL wide receiver with the St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots and Detroit Lions. “I really learned a lot about the game working with (Scott) Westering as PLU’s wide receiver’s coach.”
It’s all about going back to the basics — both on offense and defense.
“We’re not here to re-invent the wheel every week,” Armstrong said. “(Class) 2A offenses change week in and week out … at a 4A program, teams are a lot alike. We can stay within what we want to do more.”
Over the last five years at Franklin Pierce, Armstrong built one of the more dominant defensive programs in 2A.
With FP coach Howard Lutton retiring from the program, Bowen saw it was his chance to add Armstrong, along with assistants Dave Naron and Trevor Hanson, to his defensive staff.
“I think the talent gap might be less than people might perceive,” Bowen said.
Looker was a great hire as his experience will help the Rams move their offense forward, but Armstrong and the staff from Franklin Pierce might be the steal of the offseason.
Coaches see one common problem with high school athletes: They overthink out on the field.
To eliminate this problem, Armstrong has simplified the noise on the field to keep players focused on one single assignment.
“We want them to focus on the assignment they have and not what the opponents are doing,” Armstrong said. “As long as they play hard, that’s all that matters.”
Armstrong’s units have been known to play harder and faster than other teams at the 2A level, but Rogers is in the top classification. Can he draw the same from players at this level?
“Football is football,” Naron said. “It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, it’s a game. We treated it like that at Franklin Pierce. Once you realized that, the game becomes simpler.”
With the Rams out in full force putting together a turnaround season, the excitement can’t help but be high. After all, they can only go up from here.
“I’m excited to see what happens because (we) have a lot of talent here,” Armstrong said.