Practice makes perfect for Roosevelt football's turnaround
Losing to your rival is hard. Not scoring any points on offense against your rival is even harder.
That was the feeling for Roosevelt High football following week three of the 2022 season when it lost at home 9-2 to Northeast Portland rival Jefferson, the lone points coming on a safety.
To make matters worse, the loss dropped the team to 0-3 and seemingly scrambling for answers after making the postseason a year ago.
However, the losses just made the storm up north tighten up and become stronger, and releasing from it was a loud thunder and a quick-striking lightning in the form of sophomore Dontrell Betts and junior Robert Anthony III.
Those two, combined with plenty of wind power from the rest of the squad, have helped the Roughriders (2-3, 2-1 PIL) roll to two consecutive wins, most recently a 21-12 victory over Ida B. Wells on the road.
The losses could have easily broken the northsiders. Instead, the group has become stronger and is ready to ride out the rest of their Portland Interscholastic League title in style.
"It sucks losing, we're all competitors," Anthony said. "I feel like the coaches held it together, my quarterback Ben held it together for us; he held our hand through it. I really appreciate it because now we're coming off back-to-back wins going into our homecoming game against Lincoln. I hope we can get three straight and even out our record."
Anthony did a little bit of it all for the Roughriders against Wells, grabbing an interception right before halftime on defense and rushing the ball nine times for 106 yards and a touchdown.
The junior two-way starter had a pick in the matchup with Jefferson as well and is only just beginning what he can show in the black and yellow.
"That kid is just different, and the first thing that comes to my mind is explosive," Roosevelt coach Ryan McCants said of Anthony. "When he sees a hole, when he gets a crease, he hits it, he's fearless and he's just fast. Once he gets a step on somebody, it's hard to catch him."
McCants said not only is the talent there, but Anthony is helping lead this Roosevelt squad back to the right side of .500 with his work ethic in practice each day trying to get better.
That's what really helped him pull off a 74-yard touchdown run against Wells to help put the game out of reach for the Guardians.
"Speedy," Roosevelt junior Dexter Foster said of Anthony. "It's a show. You see him play, nobody wants to leave."
While Anthony provides the quick strike ability on offense and defense, sophomore Dontrell Betts is there to provide the power.
Little brother of last season's star running back Lindell Betts, Dontrell is arriving on the scene to prove he's just as powerful as a runner. And it showed against Wells with 20 carries for 82 yards and a score.
"He is a strong runner, all he does is run through everything," Roosevelt junior Robert Anthony III said of Betts. "He's thunder and I'm lightning. He runs hard; he gets through everything. He's one of the strongest people I know in the weight room; he's lifting more than everybody."
The storm those two create together is one that Roosevelt hopes to see continue to grow and build a cloud over their remaining PIL slate.
But before those two get ahead of themselves, McCants acknowledged how the defensive side of the ball has kept the Roughriders in their games all five times out.
Players like Foster and Nywaun Campbell, a senior playing football for the first time, create plenty of havoc themselves alongside Anthony in the secondary.
"Do not forget the name Nywaun Campbell, first year football player and he's making some amazing plays, so stay tuned for his highlight tape," McCants said. "The way they play defense with a ferociousness has been awesome to see and to watch them latch on to the scheme that coach Josh (Bradford) is putting out there, it's been awesome."
Roosevelt lost plenty of senior talent after finishing with a share of the PIL title last season, so taking some time to get new players into the system isn't too big of a surprise.
The important thing for McCants is that his crew has hung in there, and it's teaching them lessons that go beyond football.
"I'm so proud of this group because they got tighter," McCants said. "They came together, they went back to work like we know how to do. We just took it a day at a time, and I couldn't be more proud of them.
"We love the sport of football, but this takes them beyond football and into their lives. Things happen sometimes out of your control, or something you gave your best effort and it just didn't work out, now they know and, hopefully, they take with them that you go back to work."
Up next is a 5 p.m. kickoff Friday, Oct. 7 against Lincoln (1-4, 1-2 PIL) as the Roughriders try to climb back to .500.
With thunder and lightning leading the way, plus a hail storm all around them, Anthony, Betts and the whole northside squad is ready to make a run.
"We still have big expectations for ourselves this year like a PIL championship, winning a couple playoff games," Anthony said. "It all starts in practice. Our coaches have been drilling that into us all year, that if we work hard in practice we'll win games and these last two weeks have been our best couple weeks of practices. It's really paying off for us."
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