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story.lead_photo.caption Chris Seaver of Russellville runs with the ball during last year's season-opening game against the Missouri Military Academy in Russellville. Photo by Ken Barnes / News Tribune.

It's a program that's being built brick by brick.

The Russellville Indians have a brick commemorating the first game in program history, another for the first win at the junior varsity level.

The second-year program wants to add a third brick this season, one for their first varsity victory.

"Right now, we just need to lay down a brick for our first win," Russellville coach Tim Rulo said as the Indians prepared for tonight's season opener at Missouri Military Academy in Mexico. "We obviously don't want to stop there, but winning a game has to become a reality to these guys. That would be a great first step for us this season."

Rulo is in his first year as head coach at Russellville, coming back to Mid-Missouri after a stint in Chillicothe after serving as head coach at both South Callaway and Helias.

He was hired in early March and is pleased with what he and his players have accomplished heading into tonight's game.

"I'm very happy," Rulo said. "You always want more, I don't know any coach that's totally satisfied.

"But these kids have worked so hard. I could nitpick some things, but I'm very satisfied with what we've accomplished."

The roster numbers are up this season to 28 players.

"That makes things look a lot better, it makes things a lot healthier for a team," Rulo said.

The Indians put in time during the summer in the weight room and contact practice days. That was important because the team couldn't do summer workouts in 2020 because of COVID.

"We did a lot this summer, especially when you consider we have a lot of guys who might not be used to football," Rulo said.

One of the keys so far is the assistant coaches have worked to get everybody acclimated to the program.

"We're all using the same lingo, all staying on the same page," Rulo said. "That bodes well for development of the players because it helps things make sense to them."

Now it's time to put those efforts onto the field.

"Better now than never," Rulo said. "I think we could use another week of practice, I'm sure most coaches would.

"But I know playing somebody else will do nothing but help our development."

III

Offensively, the Indians will operate out of the flexbone.

"We're trying our best to adapt to the athletes we have," Rulo said. "We have some different looks out of it to take advantage of what we can do.

"We want to get the ball into the hands of our best athletes. Whether that's running the ball, pitching the ball, throwing the ball, it just has to end up with a good athlete to make us most effective."

Jesse Daniel, a junior, returns at quarterback for Russellville.

"He's a very sharp kid, you don't have to tell him something more than one time and he will pick it up," Rulo said. "He's going to do a really good job running our offense."

The slot backs will be juniors Chris Seaver and Alex Oligschlaeger.

"Those are dynamic multisport athletes, they do a great job of competing, they know how to compete," Rulo said.

Josiah Herman, a junior, will start at fullback.

"He's the biggest of the backs, he's done a great job in the offseason and he can do a great job running the ball," Rulo said.

The starting wide receivers will be seniors Landon Waggoner and Cameron Larimore. The reserve receivers include sophomore Payton Behrens and freshman Braedyn Bryant.

"Those guys will all rotate," Rulo said.

The key to the offense figures to be the play of the offensive line.

"At every level, but especially at Class 1, it's important," Rulo said. "We need to make sure we take advantage of every one we've got."

The Indians return a pair of veterans in seniors Kaden Shannon and Bryce Hale. They will start at the guard spots.

"They've played a lot of football," Rulo said.

Jack Besche, a sophomore, will start at center.

"He's a strong young man, the sky is the limit for him," Rulo said.

Blake Burling, a senior, will start at one tackle spot in addition to seeing time at wide receiver.

"He's going to be a great player for us," Rulo said.

Ryan Brown, a freshman, will be the other tackle. Luke Oligschlaeger, a junior, will be a key reserve up front.

"I'm happy because we've got guys that we are comfortable putting on the field," Rulo said. "We just need to keep developing them."

III

Defensively, the Indians will operate out of an odd-man front.

"We've got to get the job done up front," Rulo said.

Shannon, Hale and Waggoner will get the starting spots on the three-man front. Besche and Brown will be among the reserves.

Russellville will start five linebackers.

Manning the outside spots will be sophomore Tristan Werdehausen and Larrimore. Daniel will be a backup.

Starting inside are Seaver, Hermann and Burling. Luke Oligschlaeger will see time there as well.

Brennen Stinson, a junior, and sophomore Drake Armes will start at the cornerback spots. Behrens will be a reserve.

Alex Oligschlaeger will start at safety.

III

Simon Hartman, a senior cross country runner, will handle many of the kicking chores on special teams for the Indians.

"He's done a good job," Rulo said.

Seaver will handle the snapping duties, while Daniel will serve as the holder.

III

The Indians finished 0-8 last season, with six of their opponents finishing above .500.

"It was tough for them last year because a lot of those teams had really good seasons," Rulo said. "Going back and looking at film, they did a good job handling themselves each week."

After watching a lot of film to prepare for this season, Rulo is impressed with what he's seen on the field from the smaller schools.

"Class 1 football has gotten strong," he said. "It looked from a distance through the years there were a handful of really good teams at the top. But now I think it is really more balanced from top to bottom, it's getting stronger throughout the class.

"It's a good, competitive brand of football."

Game time is 8 p.m. today.

"We're going to learn a lot Friday night," Rulo said.

Russellville will open its home schedule in Week 2 with a game against Tipton.

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