Third in a series of glimpses at high school football camps around Europe.
International School of Brussels has stubbornly stayed in the Division II postseason picture in recent seasons despite its players facing a size disadvantage against most opponents. But there's another small number that is cause for greater concern for the Raiders this fall.
ISB coach Will Vreugdenhil expects to field a varsity squad of just 19 players, down from the 30 the program reported this time a year ago. That figure places the Raiders right on the cusp of DODEA-Europe roster viability, though they're far from the only Division II squad in that predicament.
That lack of bodies will force several Raiders into two-way duty on offense and defense, adding fatigue to the team's list of challenges. Vreugdenhil has a plan to mitigate all that: intelligence.
"Knowing what to do in every situation," Vreugdenhil said. "We will use our smarts to counter" disadvantages in size and speed.
Similar teams to this year's group have found success over the past few seasons. In 2014, the Raiders recovered from two shutout losses in their first two games to post a 2-3 record. In 2015, they won their first two games and advanced to the divisional quarterfinals with a matching 2-3 mark.
There's a chance they'll meet the same fate this season. Games against Baumholder and AFNORTH/Brussels seem the most winnable on the schedule; the Raiders will have to take down one of favored foes Rota, Bitburg or SHAPE to post a winning record.
But with experienced playmakers such as seniors James Daly and John Kontos on hand to execute what Vreugdenhil called a strategy of "misdirection" on offense, the Raiders might just make the numbers work after all.