“My role is to run the ball, produce, keep everybody up and make sure they know what they’re doing,” said Ruble, a 6-2, 220-pound freight train at running back and linebacker and a 2020 first-team I-55 all-conference pick at both positions. “I’ve put up better numbers in the weight room and hopefully that will show up on the field.”
Ruble’s strength showed up in Jefferson City last May when he threw the discus 46.85 meters (153 feet, 8 inches) to finish fourth in the state in Class 2. That capped a marvelous junior year for Ruble, who led the Lancers in rushing (659 yards), receiving (415) and touchdowns (11). In the winter, he topped the basketball team in scoring with 11 points per game.
Last year’s football Lancers dropped their last four games, including a 33-0 loss to I-55 rival Jefferson in the Class 2 District 1 playoffs. Their 3-7 record was the worst since a 2-8 mark in 2016, although Pius had a tough schedule that included Class 3 quarterfinalist Kennett and perennial state powerhouse Valle Catholic.
Dan Oliver coached Affton for 21 years before taking over at St. Pius in 2019. He’s seen a lot of good players over the years and knows how special Ruble can be.
“His leadership is the first thing that comes to mind,” Oliver said. “He’s the first one in the weight room almost every day. We expect big things out of him and he does out of himself. He holds everybody accountable.
“He’s more mature physically. He weighs the same, but his measurements are different and his output is higher. That’s why you like to play seniors instead of sophomores.”
Senior Colin Smith (6-0, 160) returns at quarterback after passing for 792 yards with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year. He rushed for 251 yards and four scores. He had his best game against I-55 rival Grandview, scoring four touchdowns.
“He followed in Carson (Fischer’s) shoes and Carson had a great year (in 2019),” Oliver said. “There was a lot of uphill for Colin last year and he weathered that storm and has taken on the responsibility of being the leader of our team. That’s tough when you’ve got a guy like Nate there. He’s been very good about helping the younger guys.”
Senior Michael Argana played on the offensive line last year but has moved to fullback, where he played as a sophomore and stood out as a lead blocker for Ruble. Argana returned kicks last year.
“He wore No. 74 last year and (the opposing team) kicked the ball at him and he had some good runbacks,” Oliver said.
The running backs are senior Kyle Smith and juniors Austin McGukin and Dabrian Moss, who missed the 2020 season with a knee injury.
Logan Jacobson (6-0, 195) caught a 61-yard TD pass against Charleston last season and returns at wide receiver, kicker and punter.
“He banged one at practice that was phenomenal,” Oliver said. “He loves to kick, so hopefully that will pay off for him.”
Also lining up wide for the Lancers are juniors Matt Miriani, Eli Frimml, Drew Merseal and Connor Hamilton.
On the offensive line, sophomore Karter Bone (5-10, 260), senior Noah Boldt (5-11, 160) and junior Christian McCline (5-8, 310) are the returning starters. Juniors Alex Moises (6-0, 190) and John Leicht (5-11, 200) could be the other two starters on the O-line.
On defense, St. Pius has some work to do. The Lancers gave up 312 points last year, the most of any team in the I-55 Conference. Ruble led the Lancers with 86 tackles and three interceptions.
“My best asset is knowing the game well and reading the offensive linemen,” he said.
McCline and Bone are defensive tackles. Argana, Moises and Jacobson line up at defensive end.
McGukin joins Ruble at inside linebacker while Miriani, Moss and senior Kyle Smith are on the outside. In the secondary, Smith lines up at safety and Hamilton can play cornerback and safety.
St. Pius opens the season at Monroe City (two hours northwest of St. Louis) on Aug. 27. The Panthers lost to Class 2 semifinalist Palmyra 26-22 in the Class 2 District 6 championship game last season. Bookending the schedule is another tough assignment, at Valle (no longer a member of the I-55) on Oct. 27.
“In between, we’ll see (Jefferson) who graduated a lot of guys, but they’ll fill those in,” Oliver said. “You can’t sleep on Grandview. Herky’s under new leadership with (Blane Boss) so we’ll see how they look.”
Oliver said the seven seniors – Ruble, Colin Smith, Joe Carter, Jacobson, Kyle Smith, Boldt and Argana – aren’t a large class but all provide leadership to the younger players.
“With how good our academics are here, our students get so much academic (scholarship) money, it’s like (the college) is getting a free football player,” Oliver said. “Some of these players (at St. Pius) would have played on some very good football teams at Affton. If they continue to do that, we’ll have a very good team.”
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