Front Row L to R – Sam Frelich, Jimmy Jones, Kyle Kinner, Jonathan Bonner, Cole Sigmund, Justin Andrews.
Back Row L to R – Brandon Brice, Devin Alexander, Zach Muniz, Brett Siebenshuh, Markel Smith, Brendan Moore.
As the Rams’ High School Player Development team makes its final preparations to head to Cleveland for this year’s national seven-on-seven tournament, they do so with a decided advantage when it comes to experience.
On the team’s 12-man roster, the Rams return five players who competed in last year’s tournament in Indianapolis and another who was part of the lineman leadership program.
For a group that went 8-1 last year, that means even bigger things could be in the offing this time around.
“One thing we have in our favor is five of our guys played in the national tournament in Indianapolis last year,” Kyle Eversgerd, the Rams Manager of Fan Development and one of the team’s coaches, said. “Jonathan Bonner was part of our linemen leadership team and is now joining us on the 7-on-7 side. So that’s basically six guys that know what to expect when it comes to the stuff going on off the field and the tournament style of play.”
Once again this year, Elite Football Academy founder and co-coach Matt Biermann joined Eversgerd and the Rams in hosting four high school player development camps in the St. Louis area.
Around 800 local players from grades nine through 12 attended those camps and from that group, the list was whittled to a tryout for 26 players at Rams Park. After that, Eversgerd and Biermann made the difficult choice to cut to the final 12-person roster.
This year’s roster includes Ritenour senior Devin Alexander, Normandy senior Justin Andrews, Parkway Central senior Bonner, Hazelwood East senior Brandon Brice, Chaminade junior Sam Frelich, Hazelwood East senior Jimmy Jones, Westminster senior Kyle Kinner, Mehlville senior Brendan Moore, CBC senior Zach Muniz, Francis Howell senior Brett Siebenshuh, MICDS junior Cole Sigmund and Vianney senior Markel Smith.
Alexander, Moore, Muniz, Siebenshuh and Sigmund played on last year’s team. Bonner is moving over from the lineman leadership program this year.
“We are extremely excited for the opportunity to represent the Rams organization and St. Louis area high school football as a whole,” Eversgerd said. “We not only have a great group of athletes representing us but most importantly they are all good character kids.”
Indeed, this year’s edition boasts plenty of talent, talent that has already gained recognition from a variety of colleges.
Perhaps none of the players will be more excited to return to the field than Siebenshuh, who was the team’s starting quarterback last year and threw only two interceptions during the tournament. He suffered a torn ACL in Francis Howell’s 2012 season opener and returns to the field looking to prove he’s healthy and lead the team further than last summer.
Muniz earned second-team All Metro Catholic Conference honors last year after he posted three interceptions.
Alexander posted 1,231 total yards in 2012 on his way to earning second-team all Suburban North Conference honors.
Sigmund was a difference maker at linebacker and running for MICDS last year as a sophomore as he led the team in tackles and is also making his second appearance with the Rams’ tournament team.
Moore was a standout defender for the Panthers in 2012 but also stepped in at quarterback after some injuries. He played linebacker and receiver for last year’s tournament team.
Bonner’s addition to the team provides yet another intriguing option. Having recently offered an oral commitment to Notre Dame, Bonner posted 12 sacks at defensive end last year and also chipped in at tight end.
Among the new additions, the Rams have plenty of talent ready to make their first foray into the world of HSPD seven-on-seven.
Smith is one of the area’s most highly regarded high school players with offers from Big 10 and Big 12 conference schools in his back pocket. He rushed for 2,520 yards and scored 30 touchdowns last season.
Kinner finished his 2012 season with 49 catches for 902 yards and nine touchdowns with a pair of return touchdowns.
Frelich was something of a Swiss Army Knife for Chaminade last season, starring on defense with 91 tackles and four interceptions but also doing his share of damage as a receiver, returner and punter.
Jones played both ways for Hazelwood East, posting 400 rushing yards as a ball carrier and 46 tackles with a pair of interceptions on defense.
Andrews posted 20 catches for 214 yards for Normandy last season but really made his name on defense where he put up five interceptions to tie for the Suburban East Conference lead.
Brice impressed coaches with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere at the developmental camps and will be used in a variety of ways by Eversgerd and Biermann in Cleveland.
The Rams’ contingent is finalizing its work this week with three more practices on the heels of a week of work last week. That work has been important given the grind of the tournament setup.
The Rams will play six games on Friday with only short rests between games and then at least two more on Saturday as they move out of pool play and into the tournament setup.
“We’ll use this week to put the final pieces of the puzzle together,” Eversgerd said. “The biggest thing with this tournament is making sure our guys understand that if they do their job they will be okay. I expect us to compete with anybody.”
*Statistics courtesy of stltoday.com