Selah will need some reliable new leaders this fall after losing one of its most accomplished senior classes in recent memory.
John Ray possesses all the credentials required to take over the mantle. The Montana commit earned first team all-CWAC South honors by establishing himself as the Vikings’ most reliable tackler in his second varsity season.
“I like to rush,” Ray said. “I like when the hole opens up. We get lots of opportunities for that.”
He’s worked with coaches to improve his footwork and learned to be more patient by just watching his teammates and seeing how plays develop. When Ray needs to drop back into zone coverage, he can use his speed to arrive at the right area on time.
Coach Scott Ditter said Ray intercepted at least four passes last year thanks to an impressive ability to read and react to the ball. Work in the weight room over the summer helped him gain 10 pounds and he still managed to lower his time in the 40-yard dash.
All those assets make the 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior virtually irreplaceable on defense, but he’s expecting to do even more in his final season at Selah. He’s eager to step into more of a leadership role, going beyond just setting an example for younger players to follow.
“It changes it more from like a passive to, like, I’ve got to go do stuff now,” Ray said. “Our seniors helped us a lot the past couple years.”
They took the Vikings from an above-average team in his freshman year to undefeated league champs and state quarterfinalists in 2017. Even though two losses kept Selah out of the playoffs last season, Ray said the team’s success in his first varsity season created more of a group-oriented program with a sharper focus on winning.
Selah ended last season with five straight wins by 31 points or more. Ray intends to go any way he can, and that could mean more time spent on the offensive line this fall.
After two seasons of occasionally playing right guard and long-snapping on punts and extra points, Ditter anticipates Ray will make a smooth transition to center.
“It’s a natural fit to jump in at center,” Ditter said. “It’s a very similar snap mechanic.”
The Vikings still plan to take advantage of their depth and give Ray some rest when they have the ball. When it’s time for the defense to shut down opposing offense, Selah wants him on the field at all times to lead the charge.