Brother Rice is looking for its identity this summer.
Not only will the Crusaders start the season with first-year coach Casey Quedenfeld, but for the first time in three seasons, Jack Lausch won’t be leading Brother Rice with both his play on the field and leadership off of it.
“It’s just trying to find their identity as a group of guys,” Quedenfeld said. “It’s very difficult for any team to start a season without No. 8 (Lausch). No. 8 was the leader for three years here and No. 8 is not walking back into the room.
“They understand that and it’s time for them as a team to come together and come in together and hug each other like brothers and buy in.”
Lausch, who will play quarterback collegiately at Northwestern, had become the face of Brother Rice football ever since he took over the starting quarterback position his sophomore season. He helped the Crusaders reach the Class 7A semifinals both his sophomore and senior seasons and won the CCL/ESCC Blue Division Player of the Year award last year.
The quarterback’s actions off field impressed many in the community more than his electric runs or throws. Lausch was spotted after many games talking to local kids who admired him on the sidelines, taking selfies with them.
While Quedenfeld didn’t coach Lausch, he’s coached players like him and knows it takes time for a team to realize that he’s not coming back.
“It takes time for student-athletes to realize that it’s their time to learn leadership qualities, take the team under their wing in order to get better every single day,” Quedenfeld said. “For them, they’re finding themselves.”
The battle to replace Lausch at the quarterback position is a three-player race among junior Ryan Hartz, Jake Dugger and Marcus Brown. Quedenfeld said each quarterback has a trait that the other doesn’t have at this point in the summer, whether that’s composure, arm strength or athletic ability, and they’re working with each other to find who can best fit the team’s needs at the position.
Not only will the Crusaders try to make up for the graduation of captains Lausch, Pat Galeher, Rolando Sepulvedo and Henry Boyer, they’ll also try to replace the on-field production from top-rusher Aaron Vaughn and top-receiver Da’Kobie Wordlaw II.
Trey Pierce is one of the returning players from last season’s team who is looking to become more of a leader this year. The Wisconsin commit has played varsity football for three seasons and has spent the summer teaching younger players what it takes to play at the varsity level.
The senior thinks Brother Rice has some “dogs” on this year’s team and is ready for the test of finding a team identity.
“I don’t think it’s that tough,” Pierce said. “The way that we can play if we do our job and buy in, I honestly think it won’t be a big difference. If we play as a team, we can beat anyone who’s more talented than we are.”