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Ritenour football shifts mental focus ahead of Friday's game with McCluer North

Coach Wagner said the goal is to make sure players enjoy the sport and take advantage of an abbreviated season
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — The Ritenour varsity football team (0-1) will take the field Friday night to host the McCluer North Stars (0-1) for just the second game of the 2021 alternate spring season.

While many football teams across the St. Louis area completed their seasons last fall, 19 teams are just getting started.

The Ritenour Huskies were set to open the season on March 12 against Hazelwood West, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Wildcats' program.

The Huskies waited until March 19 and opened the season with a 30-8 loss to Hazelwood Central. Ritenour head football coach Kyle Wagner said it was a needed learning experience for the team.

“They needed to lose last week, I told them that,” Wagner said. “I said, ‘You guys needed to lose so you understand that we can’t just show up.' I think they learned a lot. They’re learning how to be champions.”

Wagner took over the Huskies program in July 2020 after Ritenour experienced two straight losing seasons in 2018 and 2019. 

It was announced afterwards that Ritenour would opt out of the 2020 fall season to participate in Missouri’s alternate spring season.

In the meantime, Wagner met most of his players via Zoom meetings and created home workouts for his team to begin from home. 

In February, Wagner was offered a head coaching position at Sikeston High School before he had the chance to coach in his first game at Ritenour.

After much contemplation, Wagner accepted the position with the agreement that he could finish out this season with the Huskies. 

Right now, Wagner’s full focus is on Ritenour’s spring season and the development of each individual player he’s built a relationship with over the past seven months.

“More than anything, I’m just trying to teach them to trust each other,” Wagner said. “Trust the system. Trust the calls. What I noticed in the first week, and leading up to the first week, is guys trying to do so much, and I get it. They want to be successful. It’s a process to get there, and the only way to get there is if you trust one another.”

In a spring season where there is no postseason to follow, and where the Huskies only compete in four games after months of preparation, Wagner said the goal is to make sure players enjoy the sport and take advantage of an abbreviated season.

“We tried to have more fun this week,” Wagner said. “So we’ve been very serious and trying to win. And so yesterday we got in a little healthy competition, and it was really fun, and the kids laughed, and they enjoyed themselves. And so just reminding them that this game is still about having fun.”

The McCluer North Stars have also only played in one game this season, with a 43-0 loss to Hazelwood Central on March 13.

Friday’s kickoff is at Ritenour High School at 6 p.m.