Coach Bruce Scifres doesn’t have a figure in mind for wins and losses.

But he does have a high opinion of, and expectations for, the Roncalli High School football team.

And why not?

With nine returning starters from last year’s sectional championship team, the Class 4A No. 4 Rebels appear to have the tools and talent for a lengthy postseason run.

“The best way I think I could put it, if we keep our key players healthy heading into the tournament, I think we can certainly enjoy some success and be a very competitive team this year,” said Scifres, who is in his 26th year at Roncalli.

Among the Rebels’ top returners is senior running back Nate Fries, the leading rusher and scorer on last year’s 7-6 team.

Despite sharing carries in a backfield that spread the wealth, Fries ran for more than 800 yards and 14 touchdowns. While Fries will shoulder the bulk of the workload this season, junior Kenny Gillum is expected to see action.

“Nate is a very good football player,” Scifres said. “He’s quick, very explosive, and he’s also hard-nosed. That’s good, too, when you get a blend of all of those things.

“Kenny Gillum is also going to get a number of reps there, as well. We want to rotate a couple of guys through there just to keep fresh legs and keep them from getting beat up too bad during the course of a game.”

Also back in a critical role is senior quarterback Robbie Strader. He started primarily in the slot last season but also took some varsity snaps. He was a finalist for the starting quarterback position last year, narrowly losing his bid to a senior.

‘He’s a pretty good athlete, and he’s a very smart player, and he’s also a playmaker,” Scifres said. “He got up and running right away and did a nice job for us (last season).”

Roncalli’s other returning offensive starters are senior tackle Louie Hibner and and senior guard Garrett Shura. Newcomers on the line are senior center Justin Hornek, senior guard Luke Pohovey and junior tackle Will English.

“So far we’ve been pretty happy with our offensive line in that they’re very coachable,” Scifres said. “They’re fairly athletic. They’re not big, but they’re fairly athletic and they do work very hard.

“They want to do well.”

So does a rangy, physical defense that returns six starters.

Leading the way is a linebacking corps anchored by seniors Nate Eble and Jake Franklin and junior Gabe Otley. All three are returning starters. They will be joined in the starting lineup by senior Kyle Petroff and junior Christian Brueggeman.

Returning in the secondary are two starters from last season, seniors Justin Saylor and Caleb Bowling. They will be joined by junior Alex Kuntz.

Senior tackle Alex Lucas is the only returning starter on the defensive line. He’ll be joined up front by senior tackle Tyler Reed and junior nose tackle Jordan Sinkhorn.

“We think we have very good team speed. We think that they’re going to get to the ball quickly,” Scifres said. “They’re a pretty smart group, and it just seems like this group loves to play football.

“They want to swarm to the ball and make things happen, and it seems like they have a lot of fun in doing that.”

Roncalli will get tested early. It opens the season Friday against Class 6A No. 9 Southport in Lucas Oil Stadium, hosts Class 6A Franklin Central on Aug. 28 and then travels to Class 3A No. 4 Chatard on Sept. 4.

Scifres is confident the Rebels, coming off their first sectional championship season since 2005, are up to the challenge of building on last year’s success.

“This group has really had a great work ethic. We were much more demanding on them through the summer than we’ve ever been before,” he said. “They’ve worked hard to build a strong team chemistry. The seniors have been very good leaders for us.

“We have a very good team chemistry thus far.”

At a glance





Friday;*Southport;8:30 p.m.

Aug. 28;Franklin Central;7 p.m.

Sept. 4;at Chatard;7 p.m.

Sept. 11;Plainfield;7 p.m.

Sept. 18;at Scecina;7 p.m.

Sept. 25;Brebeuf;7 p.m.

Oct. 2;at Martinsville;7 p.m.

Oct. 16;East Central;7:30 p.m.

*at Lucas Oil Stadium

Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.