One month from now, Ryan Finke will strap up his helmet to lead the Murphysboro football team on offense.
The senior split time at quarterback with Jamarr McZeke during the 2019-20 season up until facing Du Quoin in late October. Finke reeled in a 58-yard pass from McZeke in that game which favored the Red Devils 46-13, and now takes the reins for Gary Carter’s revitalized club in 2021.
“Most of the people that will step up this year already stepped up last season,” said Finke. “We’re all really competitive even when we don’t have practices. We’re always working out, lifting, and practicing on the field… even on Saturday’s.”
Finke credited his coaching staff for instilling a work ethic that “stems out from other teams” heading into the season. The senior joins Gavin Kuba, Payton Austin, JaQuan Jackson and Trenton Shepard as some key returning starters from last season.
“I don’t think other schools take weight lifting as seriously as we do,” said Finke. “It’s been amazing to play for Coach Carter because of his strategy and winning attitude. He teaches us to have heart, to keep playing, and how to work on and off the field… it’s a never-ending thing with him.”
The Red Devils’ offense likes to work fast by utilizing a number of players out of the backfield. Tailbacks like Dezmond Clark and Jake Hoppenstedt were a big reason why Murphysboro finished 11-3 last season, and made it all the way to the Class 4A State Championship game before falling to an undefeated Richmond-Burton Community High School team.
Kuba, Austin and Calvon Clemons will be some key components out of the backfield in 2021, according to Finke. Devon Clemons will fill in at fullback while Finke can make plays using his legs as well.
“If nobody is open I’m going to scramble and make something happen,” said Finke. “It’s nothing new this year… I feel like I’ve always had high expectations for myself. It’s a recurring mindset.”
Without a State Series this season, Finke will focus on bringing another conference title to Murphysboro, highlighting quarterback Austin Brown and coach Justin Groves in Benton as a team to watch out for in the SIRR-Ohio.
He’ll also have the chance of playing alongside his younger brother, Ethan Finke, a sophomore that could earn playing time at halfback, middle linebacker and safety.
The Finke brothers exchanged one hand off last season in a game against Du Quoin and Ethan ran it for 20 yards.
“It was his first varsity run and I hope we get to do it again,” said Finke. “I feel like he’ll see some time on varsity this season and playing on the same team as him is awesome, honestly.
“A lot of brothers fight but it’s allowed me to look back at playing catch in the yard when we were younger.”
Finke hasn’t thought about playing college football yet but admitted if the right offer came along he’d sign the dotted line. However, he already has his major picked out and it could be a sign of what’s to come on the football field.
“As of right now I’d study meteorology,” said Finke. “I’ve always loved the weather ever since I was little.”
Braden Fogal covers prep sports for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at 618-351-5118 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.