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RCW forges on with small troop

Head coach Tim Tanner, center, and assistant coach Rick Shackleford, right, lead the Renville County West football team back to the Danube field following a pre-game huddle before the season opener on Sept. 3. <b>(Tribune file photo by Rand Middleton)</b>

DANUBE -- If Renville County West football coach Tim Tanner wants to have his offense go against his defense in an 11-on-11 practice, he might have to borrow a few players off the volleyball team to fill out the squad.

The team began the season with only 21 players, but injuries to two players have cut an even deeper wound into the depth chart.

"It's been a rough go so far," admitted Tanner, in his fourth year as head coach. "I think our conditioning was a little short for our first game. The kids were pretty tired. Last week at Canby, we seemed to be in better shape."

Because of such a miniscule roster, 10 players are forced to play both offense and defense. Several are also playing all special teams.

"With our limited number of players, even in years past, we haven't always had the luxury to play others too often on special teams," Tanner explained. "So I guess it has pretty much been the norm for us the last couple of years for many of the guys to play every play."

RCW lost its opener, 54-7, to Dawson-Boyd and dropped a 21-6 game to Canby last Friday.

Tanner is concerned about any additional injuries or illnesses that might decimate the team.

"Realistically, we are one injury from not being able to field a competitive team," he said. "As of right now, we have six eligible linemen suited for play. We do have a quarterback and a backup, but any time you are exposed to an injury, we would need to completely reshuffle the deck and start basically from scratch."

The Jaguars have one player out indefinitely with a separated collarbone. Another player who was injured in practice before the season began, could be back this Friday when the Jaguars face MACCRAY in Danube.

Tanner has another worry besides the possibility of any injuries.

"We are also quite concerned about the flu and what we could do to our team," he said.

Tanner can't risk having his team go all out in practice either, for fear one of his players might be injured.

"We will go up against each other at times, but mostly early in the week," Tanner said. "We are always concerned about beating ourselves up. Because we don't have enough to practice (11-on-11), we do half-line stuff, where our right-side offense will go against our left-side defense."

But Tanner likes to have his linemen pull when running certain plays on offense. To do that, he has to use more than half of his line. And at times he has had to use a coach or two to fill in so he has enough bodies so the players can see how a particular play will develop.

Tanner knew the team would not have a huge roster this season, but he expected more players than what he ended up with.

"We had a few kids that played sparingly last year and some that would have stepped into starting spots this year, but they chose to not go out this year," the coach said. "So, it kind of bomb-shelled us a bit."

RCW, which plays in Class A, would be better suited for nine-man football, but the enrollment is a few students over the limit. And even if the Jaguars could play nine-man, they would have to make some long trips to find eight regular-season opponents as there are only a few teams around their area that feature nine-man footballl.

So the team must forge ahead, hoping to avoid any more injuries. And Tanner will continue to not only teach the team how to execute certain plays, he has to prepare them on how to tackle an even bigger opponent .... the flu.