The wait for respectability may be over for the recently downtrodden Roosevelt Rough Riders football team. The most obvious sign came a couple of weeks ago when Roosevelt lost to perennial state championship contender John Burroughs only 43-29.
“We definitely proved me belonged on the field with them,” said Roosevelt coach DeAndre Campbell later that day. “We were leading early before the rains came and could have won the game.”
That’s a stark contrast for a Roosevelt team just a season removed from…a single victory: a 9-6 struggle over Public High League foe Sumner.
“I guess the worm has turned,” said Roosevelt assistant coach George Simmons. “A lot of these guys suffered through that one-win season. They’ve taken their lumps.”
It took only the first half of the football game last Saturday at Roosevelt, for the host Rough Riders to send a message to the Northwest Hornets, that they would have a hard time keeping up with them-on the field and on the scoreboard. Touchdown passes from quarterback Deante Campbell of 70 yards to Robert Beason, 62 yards to Tommie Walker and 30 yards to Eddie Roberts, along with a 40-yard run by William Brown and an 8-yard keeper by Campbell helped the Rough Riders rattled and roll Northwest.
For good measure, two first-quarter safeties and five extra point kicks by Mark Clay gave the Roosevelt an insurmountable 39-0 halftime lead on the way to a 51-6 beat-down of Northwest. George Calmese added a 16-yard interception return and Corey Watsona 13-yard run for second-half insurance touchdowns to keep it moving. The lone score for the over-matched Hornets came in the closing seconds of the contest when Terence McBride caught a 13-yard touchdown pass on the Roosevelt reserves.
“This really feels good coming against Northwest,” said Roosevelt assistant Michael West, the former coach at Northwest, who contends he didn’t get a fair evaluation given the declining enrollment and numbers issues still pervasive with the Hornets program. “This is a really good win. But it’s been really great being reunited with Coach Campbell (former college teammates and assistants together) We’ve got a good group of guys who play hard, listen to the coaches and are disciplined enough to take it to the next level.”
Indeed the veteran leadership is all over. Seniors Corey Watson (safety) and Keon Watson (unrelated linebacker) have spearheaded the defense. Corey Watson has also been a catalyst for the crack rushing attack with a club-high 357 yards (10.8 average per carry), followed by William Brown at 233 (11.1 average per rush) and Campbell at 226 (with a club-best 12.6 average).
Then there’s fellow senior Robert Beason who is all about the big plays: He has caught four passes for 200 yards, completed a pass for 62 yards, has two carries for 93 yards and has two interceptions.
Now for the first time in a while the Rough Riders are 2-1, including a convincing 35-20 opening-season victory against the host North County(Bonne Terre,Mo.) Raiders, as they play at South Side rival Gateway on Friday night. That’s a much better start for a program that was only slightly better two seasons ago at 2-8 as Deante Campbell, the coach’s son, was a spot starter who rushed for 131 yards on 26 carries and caught another 20 passes for 252 yards. But the team as a whole has grown and matured together, as evidenced by the early showing and the fact there are more than 20 seniors and juniors combined on the squad.
“It’s been an amazing thing to see some success now,” said Deante Campbell. “My father as my coach yells at me and pushes us. Everything we do, every way we do something is 110 (percent) and it has been awesome to see us come together like this.”
As the old axiom goes, good things come to those who wait and great football at Roosevelt can be a waiting process because getting and keeping a core of good players at a mainstream inner-city high school can be a challenge. The possibility of families moving or transferring their children to schools or district under voluntary enrollment loopholes, or affluent private schools subtly recruiting athletes all exists.
“We’re a comprehensive high school that can’t pick its own student-athletes like a Career Academy,” explained Campbell. “We’re set up to win maybe every two or three years if the kids stay with the program and are willing to work hard and be disciplined. We’re not set up to win every year. We don’t make that as an excuse. We take what we get here.”
What Campbell and Roosevelt would probably like to duplicate is the success and resiliency the Rough Riders had in 2010, as they advanced all the way to Missouri Class 4 state quarterfinals.
That season they needed a late second-half rally in the regular season finale to beat Career Academy 30-26, after trailing 26-7 at halftime. Then in the playoffs they had to rally late to force overtime and eventually outlasted Gateway Tech 23-20 in overtime on a field goal by Reginald Curry.
A victory over that Gateway Tech team was seemed even more impressive when you consider that the Rough Riders had been pounded 63-28 by Gateway Tech in mid-season, only to do an about-face defensively and avenge the blowout. Running back Charles Banks, quarterbacks Thomas Lott and James Dean (also a receiver) and receiver Roosevelt Newton keyed that offense, while Jeremy Robinson, Rene Faulk and Corey Jenkins were among the defensive standouts on that squad.
This year’s team, at least in the early going, may have more quality depth. A bevy of players have already stepped up on defense this year: the two Watson players, Calmese, Celizer Ayalah,Lamont Green, Tori Johnson,Javon Robertson, Jonathan Porter and Rodney Wood among them.
They held John Burroughs’ highly-regarded running back John Moten to a modest 101 yards rushing on 18 carries, while their offensive mates Corey Watson rushed for 134 yards on 14 carries and Deante Campbell finished with 89 yards on just nine carries. The Rough Riders rushing attack could be better than the 2010 edition overall, thanks to excellent offensive line play.
Of course the real tests will come later in the season, such as a pivotal league contest on Oct. 4 when they host league favorite and defending champion Career Academy, then Oct. 18 against top league contender Soldan. But for now, they are moving in the right direction and literally moving those chains in piling up the yardage.
“It feels good to be doing this well offensive,” said senior lineman Lemond Phillips. “We try to provide the best protection for our quarterback to pass and for our backs. Togetherness is the big key to everything. We work together.”
Freshman lineman Rasheed Davidson basically echoes that sentiment.
“It’s awesome,” said Davidson. “The whole team treats me as a family.”