Given enough experience, Riverside Academy may finally have figure out all this open-date stuff.
Riverside has faced three open dates this season. In the week following the first two, the Rebels lost 42-21 to De La Salle and 31-30 in overtime to Newman.
Following a Week 10 bye week, the defending state champion Rebels opened the Division III playoffs at home with a 42-21 triumph over a scrappy Northlake Christian last Friday.
Although the final margin was 21 points, it was a six-point game early in the fourth quarter. The difference proved to be a Riverside special teams unit that helped to set up three touchdowns.
“I don’t think any of us as coaches expected to go into the game and just have our way with that team. That team is a physical team that proved they can run the football and have two very good athletes (Nick Morman and Wesley Brown) they are smart enough to get the ball to every snap. They have a physical line on both sides of the ball,” Riverside coach Chris Lachney said.
In the loss to De La Salle, Riverside (4-4 and the No. 5 seed) got a heavy dose of burly Cavaliers quarterback Julien Gums. The Rebels can expect something similar with Dunham quarterback Mike Williams.
“He’s 6-2, 260 and he’s every bit of it. He’s like a bigger version of the De La Salle quarterback, if that’s possible. He has a really strong arm and throws the ball a mile but he’s at his most dangerous when he’s downhill and he’s running over you,” said Lachney.
Just as Gums had other weapons around him, Williams has as well. Along with the quarterback, another rushing threat for the Tigers is running back Treylan Mouton.
“He’s a very good, explosive player,” Lachey said of Mouton. “He’s a fast kid. Mostly, he’s their off-tackle runner but he has the speed to get to the outside if they want to.
“They do a good job of distributing the ball among those three guys. He’s certainly the one who’s got the most potential to carry it in the running game and their running game is pretty solid.”
The Tigers, who are 8-1 overall after a 55-6 thrashing of Pope John Paul II and have not lost since a 42-28 Week 1 defeat to Central of Baton Rouge, like to spread out opposing defenses, but more with the mindset of setting up Williams to run the ball, according to Lachney.
“They want to spread you out just so that that guy can just maul you up front. He comes downhill and he means it when he does it. It will take a bunch of people to tackle him,” said Lachney.
The most explosive player for Dunham may be Derek Stingley, who plays receiver and defensive back.
“He’s maybe the best player we’ve seen all year,” Lachney said of Stingley. “I’ll put him up there with the JaMarr Chase kid from Rummel and Julien Gums of De La Salle. He’s in the same mold as far as his ability to kind of take over a game.
“He also plays defense and that’s really where his strength is. He’s a very good offensive player just because he happens to be the fastest kid on the field but he’s a really, really dynamic football player.”
Lachney also draws comparisons between Stingley and one of his own players.
“He does it in all three phases. He’s a lot like our Garland Robertson. He’s a guy – offense, defense, special teams – he’s just got the potential to make a big play at any given time,” said Lachney.
Robertson played a big role in Riverside’s win over Northlake Christian. He returned a punt more than 63 yards to set up touchdown and returned a kick 79 yards for a touchdown.
For Dunham, however, it all comes back to Williams.
“It all starts with the ball in the quarterback’s hands in the run game. He throws it well. It’s not like they can’t throw it; it’s just their coaches are smart enough that if they have a quarterback that nobody can tackle, it’s probably best to just let him do that instead of throwing the ball all over the place,” Lachney said.
The Tigers line up most in a 4-3 alignment on defense.
“They like to play with two-high safeties. There’s not a whole lot of pressure. They just play sound football and play good technique. They are not a defense that will trick you and fool you a bunch,” said Lachney.
Many of the key players on offense are also top defenders for Dunham – even Williams, who plays along the defensive line.
Stingley and Mouton play cornerback on defense for the Tigers.
The main focus for the Rebels, Lachney said, will be on Williams – as an offensive player.
“We will have to get a bunch of hats and get a bunch of people around Williams. That’s what it comes down to,” the Riverside coach said. “If we can tackle him, I like our chances. If we are struggling doing that and we’re not playing responsibility football and getting to our assignments, it will be a long night. It really comes down to can we tackle this kid.
“It’s playoff football. You find a way and move on or you go home.”