Augusta High fell just short of a victory in Roger Robben’s first season as football coach.
Six inches, to be exact.
Robben said that kept the Orioles from defeating Circle in a 2011 district game, and the Thunderbirds held on for a 19-15 victory.
Coincidentally, the Orioles will have a shot at avenging that loss in their Aug. 31 opener, when Circle goes to Hillier Stadium.
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But instead of a state berth at stake, it will count as part of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League standings. The Orioles moved down to Division IV, joining Circle, Collegiate, Andale, Clearwater and Wellington.
The switch means that Robben – who coached at Goddard in Divisions I and II before coming to Augusta – will have coached in every AV-CTL division.
The district loss still stings a little, he says.
“The last two games we were very competitive,” he said.
He credited some adjustments during the season with keeping Augusta competitive and giving it a chance to win.
“We made some adjustments from early to late,” he said, “and we will be able to go forward with what we did.”
Augusta returns nine offensive starters and six on defense. Robben said the line will be a strength this season, led by Colby Willis (5-foot-10, 205 pounds), who will be a four-year starter. He will be the anchor on an offensive line that returns everyone. Robben also will look to Willis to anchor a defense from his linebacking position.
Calling the signals will be junior Tristan Finch, who is equally effective from the option or using play-action, Robben said.
Sophomore Connor Hurst provides strength at running back and will be the Orioles’ kicker and punter.
“A lot of these kids got a lot of experience last year,” Robben said.
Augusta won’t have to look far for its old Division III opponents, as Mulvane is on the schedule, and defending Class 4A champion Rose Hill is in its district. Notably missing is arch-rival El Dorado.
“It seems kind of odd we’re not playing El Dorado,” Robben said.
But the opener with Circle, whose district boundaries border Augusta’s, could amplify that rivalry, he said.
“Augusta kids know the kids from Circle,” Robben said. “We feel like we can compete with them.”