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Kaiserslautern will look to win line of scrimmage

The Kaiserslautern football team practices tackling and blocking at Vogelweh, Germany, on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017.

MICHAEL B. KELLER/STARS AND STRIPES

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 6, 2017

Eleventh in a series of DODEA-Europe high school football previews.

The 2017 Kaiserslautern Raiders neatly illustrate a paradox sometimes found in DODEA-Europe football, and high school sports in general.

The Raiders feature 17 returning varsity players, including 14 returning starters. That kind of year-to-year consistency is generally a competitive advantage in a league where most teams see considerable roster turnover each summer and spend the early stages of the season establishing familiarity. Kaiserslautern’s group of returnees has a head start on that process. 

But there’s a caveat.

That group returns from an 0-6 team that finished two games out of the playoffs in a five-game divisional regular season. The Raiders were one of just two teams among DODEA-Europe’s 17 to not win a game in 2016. That season was also their second last-place showing in a row, representing a steady decline from a 2014 playoff appearance.

The Raiders hope to power back into the postseason through brute force. Kaiserslautern boasts a powerful and experienced line led by seniors Royce Staley and Jesse Cooley, backed up by powerhouse senior linebacker Hunter Wiles. Juniors Corey Coombs and Cedric Ellis give the Raiders a pair of offensive playmakers to complement the seniors’ heavy lifting.

Any progress the Raiders make this year will be hard-won. Stalwart frontrunners Ramstein and Wiesbaden are as solid as ever. Lakenheath’s recent surge into Division I contention seems sustainable. Hard-hitting Vilseck is coming off a winning 2016 season and playoff berth. And Stuttgart, which joined the Raiders on the postseason sidelines last fall, appears to have a group closer to its 2015 championship team that last year’s fifth-place entry.

Kaiserslautern head coach Lin Hairstone isn’t interested in discussing the program’s past struggles. While climbing the ranks of Division I is an imposing mission, the Raiders are prepared to accept it.

“We are focusing on each week and improve on that,” Hairstone said.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

Lin Hairstone, Kaiserslautern head football coach, watches his players during practice at Vogelweh, Germany, on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017.
MICHAEL B. KELLER/STARS AND STRIPES

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