Written By: Nick Laramie
As the RFL regular season rapidly approaches, there is plenty of news to cover within the Sacramento Condors organization. The Condors had a busy offseason, acquiring key pieces that will continue to push the organization forward, but it is now time to finally put those pieces to use. In the inaugural issue of Inside the Sacramento Condors we will recap the off-season and pre-season, provide an outlook on the upcoming season and week one matchup, and highlight one player to keep an eye on throughout the year.
After finishing with a record of just 4-8 in RFL games last season, Head Coach Nick Laramie knew that this team needed major changes to become competitive in the NRC again. The Condors offseason effectively began in Week 8 of last year when the team traded Ronnie Nickens to the Gunners for a 3rd and 4th round pick. The run game showed glimpses of revitalization after the departure of Nickens, but was inconsistent at best. The team officially began their offseason by trading long-time starting LG Layne Printers to the Barons for a 2nd and 5th round pick. In concurring moves, the Condors signed free agent LG Lloyd Jeffries to fill the hole left by Printers, along with RG Kenan Baskerville, ROLB Edward Moss, and MLB Adrian Dodge (No. 86 on the RFL Top 100), all of whom are projected week one starters. Finally addressing their run game needs, Sacramento closed a trade with the Crusaders in early July which brought in Sanchez Lawrence to lead what looks like one of the most explosive backfields in the RFL.
On the night before the draft the team traded young backup QB Billy Johnson in order to move up one spot. This high risk move paid off as superstar safety, Ray Ray Franklin of Clemson, fell right into the lap of the Condors with the fifth pick. The Condors followed up the Franklin selection by taking Oregon and LSU standouts Pryce Grier and Brendan Warner in the second round, along with Michigan cornerback Kyle Bond in the 3rd round. Once again active in preseason free agency, the Condors scooped up WR Kevin Guyton (Brother of Toronto Huskies superstar Keith Guyton), and young RT Pat Hamilton, who has already asserted himself as the team’s starting RT. This season’s Condors team looks much improved on paper, but how will these moves translate to the field?
Sacramento finished with a 2-1 RFL record in the preseason, with wins over the Steamers and Shamrocks, and a loss to the Thunderbirds. The Condors defense showed significant improvement in the preseason opener against the Steamers, allowing just 3 points in the first half, although the Steamers stars did not dress for this game. The Thunderbirds game was a different story however, as the Condors 2nd and 3rd string units fell victim to one of the best defenses in RFL history, putting up only 3 points in a losing effort. The backups did hold the Thunderbirds to only 27 points however, a bright spot in what on paper appears to be a lost game. After a week of public shaming and criticism, the Condors bounced back and dominated the Shamrocks 59-28. The offense appeared to have finally put it all together, as they were clicking on all cylinders from start to finish, led by Chase McCoy’s 6 passing touchdowns.
The Condors will open up their regular season this week, in a rematch against the Shamrocks, followed by a week 2 rematch against the Steamers. The first in-division game will come in week 5 against the Elks. The games Coach Nick has circled on his schedule however are the 2 Crusaders games in week 8 and 12 respectively. The Condors-Crusaders rivalry has been escalating over the past 3 seasons, after being sparked by a Crusaders 55-20 victory over the Condors in week one of Season 4. Last season the two teams split their games 1-1, but Coach Nick believes that the Condors were just a couple plays away from sweeping the season series, something that is a must if the Condors wish to make the playoffs this year. Other notable games include the return of Ronnie Nickens to Sacramento in week 15, as the Gunners come to town to take on the Condors.
This week’s matchup against the Shamrocks is an important tone setter for the season. The Condors proved to themselves they can beat the Shamrocks in last week’s preseason rout, but cannot afford to rely on another offensive output like the one they got a week ago. The keys to this win will be defensive consistency and keeping Tom Wilson in check on the ground. There were too many times in the first quarter of last week’s game where the coverage was great downfield, but Tom Wilson was able to escape the pocket and scramble for an easy first down. The defense needs to be aware of where Wilson is at all times, and be in position to make a tackle when Wilson scrambles.
There is no better player to spotlight in our inaugural issue than number 5 overall pick Ray Ray Franklin. Ray Ray appears to be the superstar on defense that the Condors have been lacking for years, and has already made an impact both on the field, and in the locker room. Ray Ray is going to make opposing offenses aware of his presence very quickly in the RFL, as he continues to improve week to week. After forcing a fumble in preseason week 4, it appeared a burden was lifted off of Ray Ray’s shoulders, as he celebrated on field for the first time and looked much more loose for the remainder of the game. “A confident Ray Ray Franklin is something straight out of a nightmare for opposing offenses.” stated Coach Nick after practice this week. “Chase (McCoy) has already learned that the hard way in practice, we just hope opposing offenses don’t learn as quickly as Chase and continue to test him.”