CAMDEN — It’s no secret that last season didn’t go well for the Caesar Rodney High football team.
But the big question for coach Dan Candeloro was how his players would respond to last fall’s 0-11 campaign.
So far he’s seen a group that seems ready to fight back rather than throw in the towel.
“Last year was kind of a punch in the face,” said Candeloro. “They’re all working hard to not have that as a repeat. All summer has been really good.
“We’ve got a lot of leadership. I think a lot of kids realize that, ‘I need to get bigger, faster, stronger,’ and have taken that to heart.”
The Riders will be trying to snap a 12-game losing streak when they open the season on Sept. 1 with a 4 p.m. game at Hodgson.
CR will start working toward that contest in earnest when it begins preseason practice on Friday morning. The Riders are one of several Delaware football teams that will open camp well ahead of the normal Aug. 15 date because their opener is on Labor Day weekend.
The Riders lost 23 seniors from last season’s squad. Candeloro, though, said CR still has over 100 players in the program who are expected out on Friday.He said the returning players seem excited to get started.
“After a tough year it was kind of interesting for us to see how it would play out,” said Candeloro. “But we’ve got a lot of kids interested. We’ve got a lot of excitement around getting started. Kids have been out there every day.”
Having an early start to preseason camp should be beneficial for CR since it will also start classes earlier than many schools. Teachers in the district report on Aug. 17 which cuts down on available practice time.
The Riders tentatively have a 5 p.m. scrimmage on Aug. 19 at Sussex Tech. Of course, the earlier start also means the players had to be ready to go a little sooner.
“We’ve had a pretty good summer,” said Candeloro. “We’ve had quite a few kids lifting and at seven-on-seven practices. They’re all kind of in that mode already.
“They’re ready. I think they’ve been chomping at the bit to get started because they want to put last year behind us.”
A year after CR got shut out four times and averaged only 4.9 points per game, assistant coach Warner Hunter will take over more leadership in running the offense.
“The kids are the kids,” said Candeloro. “Our whole off-season has been, as coaches, we’ve got to do better. It’s on us, it’s not on them. We’ve got to do our part.”
The Riders’ schedule isn’t any easier this fall. They face Smyrna, Dover and Salesianum in consecutive weeks starting with the fourth game of the season.
CR is also playing defending Class 2A state champion Archmere as well as William Penn.
Candeloro said the Riders need to start playing better in the second half if they’re going to be more successful this season.
“Our motto this year is ‘finish,’” he said. “Everything we do, we’re going to finish.”
Only time will tell if CR gets the program back on track this fall. For the moment, though, Candeloro likes what he sees.
“Everything is positive, everything is going the way we wanted it to,” he said. “We’ve got the guys out there working.
“I think it’s a mindset of, ‘We’re going to change this around rather than there’s nowhere (to go) but up. We’re going to get on the right side of this, right now.’ There’s urgeny to turn it around.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 302-741-8227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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