St. Rita coach Todd Kuska likes to make one fact very clear to his 12th-graders: It's not his team, it's their team.
The strategy worked well last year, when the seniors propelled St. Rita to the Class 7A state title, and now this year's class is eager to take on the same responsibility. "There's a number of seniors who have just taken control, and the leadership level is right there -- if not at the same level as last year, higher," says Kuska.
Senior captains Darius Fleming, Kevin Galeher, Jason Kafka and Kenny Stoklosa anchor that senior core for St. Rita, a team that started the season ranked No. 19 in RISE's National Football Top 25, along with Sean Leslie and Luke Knibbs.
"These are the guys that are returning that have a taste from last year," says Kuska. "They know what it takes and that if everything works out, we can be playing that last weekend."
That experience will come through on the lines, with Galeher, a three-year starter, anchoring the O-line along with Knibbs (OL) and Leslie (DL).
At linebacker, St. Rita has one of the top players in the nation in Fleming, RISE's No. 12 linebacker in the Class of 2008 who registered 100 tackles and nine sacks last year. "It's great to have him on our side and know that at any given time, he can make a great play," says Kuska of the Notre Dame recruit.
Kafka, a speedster who saw time at QB as a freshman and as a sophomore, will step in under center for St. Rita after playing wide receiver last year. Stoklosa will contribute from the linebacker position.