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RA spreading ball around heading into clash with rival St. Charles

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  • George Becnel
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  • October 20, 2016 - 12:18pm

File photosBill Stubbs' Riverside Academy Rebels beat rival St. Charles Catholic twice last season, including in the Division III playoffs.


When teams like Riverside Academy and St. Charles Catholic square off against one another, the more options a team has at its disposal, the better.

Riverside Academy showed of its options a week ago in a 49-15 victory over West St. John. Jordan Loving passed for three touchdowns, Louis Cheneau had two rushing touchdowns, while Jared Butler, Avonti Cannon and Jalen Banks all had touchdown receptions.

“I think it’s important to spread the ball around,” Riverside coach Bill Stubs said. “We’ve said all along we have a lot of playmakers. It’s been my experience, the more you can move it around, the better off you will be. Fortunately for us, we have those types of playmakers.

“If somebody takes this away or that away, you still have an answer for it and it makes it really comforting.”

Riverside and St. Charles have taken care of business to make Friday’s contest in Reserve an annual showdown. The Rebels are 5-1 overall and the Comets 6-1. Both teams are 2-0 in District 12-2A. Riverside is ranked No. 5 in Class 2A while St. Charles is tied for 10th.

“We feel it will be one whale of a game,” Stubbs said. “You take the parents and fans out of it and let the kids play. I think that’s what it’s supposed to be and I think that’s the hallmark of a good rivalry.

“That’s our message. We’re not interested in getting caught up in all the hype and everything else. We just want to play football.”

Friday’s encounter with be the third time the teams have met in the past 12 months, including the 2015 regular season and the Division III plays – both won by the Rebels.

“When you get to know folks as well as we know each other, there are a lot of subtle things you are looking for. You have to be really prepared against a Frankie Monica team,” said Stubbs, referring to the St. Charles coach. “I don’t care who they are or where they line up, they will always be very, very well-coached. These types of games bring out the best in coaching, and hopefully, bring out the best in players.”

Among the best players is St. Charles quarterback Lloyd Nash.

“I think the thing that separates him from last year to this year is they are using his tools in a much greater (extent),” Stubbs said of Nash.

“He makes a lot of good things happen with his feet and also with his arm. He’s a dynamic player, but more than that, he’s a winner. He’s a competitor,” said Chris Lachney, Riverside’s defensive coordinator.

St. Charles has positioned itself into title contention despite having had to replace 20 of 22 starters from a year ago.

“It’s not so much dependent on who’s doing as much as they have a system and they come up in that system. All those games last year where all those seniors were playing, it’s not like those underclassmen weren’t practicing. They are ready. They are prepared and they got a lot of valuable playing time last year because they won so many games pretty big. It’s not like they are a brand new football team as much as they have some new starters on the depth chart,” said Lachney.

The Comets are multiple on offense, playing with a tight end and a two-back set that is not seen as much in the era of spread attacks.

“You are seeing more teams kind of get back to this style of play. Even in the last 10 years when you’ve seen a flux of split wide receivers and not a lot of tight ends and fullbacks, offense and defense hasn’t really changed. I think you can get caught up in all that stuff and realize how different they are than the norm, but really we try to focus on the things that are the same and there are a lot of similarities in what they do and the teams we play in the past do,” said Lachney.

The Comets’ offensive approach, Lachney said, is similar to that of the Riverside defense.

“They will show you the same things a thousand different ways. They get pretty multiple,” said Lachney. “What they do is very similar to what we try to do on defense. We will do one or two things, but depending on what our personnel is in any given year or any given week, that’s how we will window dress it, but it’s the same thing.

“Last year they were in more multiple wide receiver sets and this year they are employing some more tight ends and things like that, but it’s the same plays you have to defend.”

Norquez Jones provides the Comets with a bigger back to go along with Joseph Chiarella and Phillip Tran.

“The running game, I don’t think, is dependent on the running backs. That’s what I mean about the system. They could hand the ball to me and I could get a few yards behind that offensive line and what they are doing,” said Lachney.

Like Lachney, Shane Bohrer, Riverside’s offensive coordinator, said he sees similarities as well.

“They (the Comets) are very similar to what we face with our own defense in practice throughout the year. They throw everything at you – every type of front and coverage. It can cause you problems because you may not know what you are going to face from down to down,” Bohrer said.

So, how do you attack such a defense?

“You have to win the one-on-one battles within the scheme. If we can do that, we feel pretty good. We just have to be patient and sound in our assignments and take what they give us and no try to bite off too much. They certainly are an attacking defense that can cause turnovers and take advantage of any missed executions on your part,” Bohrer said
St. Charles’ top defender up front is Thomas Celestin.

“He’s real physical. He plays a great technique. He uses his hands well and comes off the ball well,” said Bohrer.

Leading the linebacker corps is Dellary Oubre.

“He drops into coverage real well. He reads run-pass and slides to the football,” Bohrer noted.

Patrolling the secondary is Dustin Mire.

“He’s just a real student of the game,” Bohrer said of Mire. “He knows what’s going on almost before the offense does. It seems no matter where the tackle is being made, he’s around it.”

Playing within themselves will go a long way toward success Friday night, according to Stubbs.

“We have to remember who we are and how we’ve gotten to this point throughout our history. We practice hard and prepare hard and a one-play-at-a-time football team. We try to do it first on the practice field and bring that over to the game,” Stubbs said.

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.