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Well-rested Riverside, De La Salle square off Friday in Reserve

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  • George Becnel
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  • September 26, 2017 - 6:37pm

File photoA loss to the De La Salle Cavaliers, the top-ranked team in Class 3A, would drop Chris Lachney and his Riverside Academy Rebels to 1-3 on the season.

When two teams are coming off a bye week in the middle of a season, it usually means they are flying back from London after having played a professional football game.

It’s extremely unusual in high school to find two teams coming off the same open date to face each other the following week. That’s the situation the Riverside Academy Rebels and De La Salle Cavaliers find themselves in when they meet at 7 p.m. Friday in Reserve.

“Bye weeks in general are unusual but to have two teams coming off the same bye week playing each other is even more rare. I think it’s just an indicator of where things are right now in the LHSAA with the split, not just in the playoff system, but the divide in the association,” Riverside coach Chris Lachney said.

Despite a 1-2 record, Riverside is ranked No. 4 in Class 2A.

After opening the season with a 54-0 thumping of Southern Lab, the Rebels dropped their next two to powerhouse programs before the open date, falling 45-28 to Barbe and 38-34 to Rummel.

“If you are a program that wants to stay relevant for a long time, you have to play teams like that. It creates excitement in your program and a buzz in your culture. Your kids believe there is nobody in the state they would shy away from,” Lachney said.

The Rebels certainly are shying away from their first game back after the break with De La Salle being off to a 3-0 start and ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.

De La Salle’s wins over include triumphs of 39-7 over South Lafourche, 38-12 over St. Augustine and 28-26 over Karr.

The Rebels, Lachney said, made good use of their bye week.

“We took some time and got some guys healthy but we also created some conflict, especially on Friday (of the off week). I think we had a real good Friday,” the Riverside coach said. “We tried to create that adversity and that toughness to expose the toughness of our kids and develop the toughness of our kids and I think Friday was a real good example of that.

“We got a little bit of a head start on De La Salle, which we wanted to do but we took just as much time focusing on ourselves and the mistakes that we’ve made. I feel better than I would have felt had we not had a bye week last week.”

Leading the De La Salle offense is burly quarterback Julien Gums, a Nicholls commitment. Gums ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in both the South Lafourche and St. Aug games. He rushed for 173 yards against the Karr defense.

“He’s a wrecking ball. He’s a bull in a china shop. They do the right things with him. He’s an adequate passer but anybody who sees them play knows that’s not what they are there to do. He’s a guy that it will take a few hats to bring him down,” Lachney said of Gums.

The De La Salle offense is a mixture of Wing-T and Single Wing, according to Lachney.

“It all comes down to two things – power and counter. It’s their two favorite plays. They would be my two favorite plays if I had those offensive linemen and backs. It’s a lot of gap-scheme runs. It’s a lot of down blocks and kick-outs. It reminds me of some Wing-T elements to it and some single wing aspects to it. It’s old-school football at its best,” said Lachney.

Running back Kendall Collins lines up in the backfield with Gums.

“If the quarterback is thunder, he’s lightning. He does most of the perimeter stuff. He carries the ball on a lot of the outside plays. He certainly will bang it up in there. He has a good body to do it at 5-7, 185 pounds. He’s a good power back as well. If you start focusing too much on the quarterback and if everybody just starts tackling the quarterback, then he’s the guy who can burn you to the perimeter, said Lachney.

Kendall Baker is the fullback for the Cavaliers.

“He gets a few carries at the tailback position as well but he’s really the fullback,” Lachney said.

When the Cavaliers to pass the ball, B.J. Randle is a favored target.

“He’s certainly someone else who can stretch the field vertically. He’s a big-play kid,” Lachney said of Randle.

Much of the Cavaliers’ success, Lachney said, is due to De La Salle’s offensive line.

“Their offensive line as a unit is just an imposing group. They do all the right things. They run the plays that make the offensive line the show. It may not be flashy to watch - although with the amount of big explosion plays, they created in the first three games, it has been exciting as a fan – they are not built for flash or glamour. They are built to knock you into next week and push people off the ball,” the Riverside coach said.

One member of the imposing group is John Martin, a 6-foot-3, 335-pound freshman.

“He plays like a freshman but he also plays like he’s 335 pounds. That covers up a few mistakes every now and then,” Lachney said.

De La Salle’s defense is very similar to the one the Rebels faced in their last game against Rummel.

“A lot of the same schemes and a lot of the same looks and alignments as when we played Rummel. That’s to be expected. The defensive coordinator at De La Salle was the defensive coordinator at Rummel last year. You see a lot of similarities. It’s ironic that we are playing those two teams back-to-back,” Lachney said.

Jamiran James, a Tulane commitment, anchors the defensive front for the Cavaliers. His twin brother, Jeremiah, is an offensive lineman for De La Salle.

Lachney said De La Salle defensive back Lance Robinson reminds him of one of his own players.

“He’s a pretty good-sized kid at 5-11, 180. He reminds me of our Garland Robertson. He is a do-it-all type kid and plays aggressive and plays with a little chip on his shoulder. He’s certainly the enforcer in the secondary,” said Lachney.

Although Riverside is 1-2 on the season, the Rebels don’t necessarily need a win Friday night to soothe an ailing psyche.

“If we are going to be who we say we are and we believe the things that we believe, we’re just one play at a time one game at a time…I don’t know if you could go even ask our kids what their record is they might have to think about it for awhile. They don’t really think about that kind of stuff,” Lachney said. “It’s just one thing at a time and we try to do a good job of being right where our feet are. Right now, our feet is one De La Salle week. We have to trust in the maturity of our kids and the mental toughness of our kids.

“There is no such thing as a ‘must win.’ We’re just trying to get as good as we can and better every day and put us in position at the end.”

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.