While most teams were battling in Week 10 for possible district championships and playoff seedings, Riverside Academy was facing an open week – the Rebels’ third such off week of the season.
“Hopefully, we have it figured out now,” Riverside coach Chris Lachney laughed. “It’s been an interesting year. Our kids have bounced off of every twist and turn throughout the year that has come up and we had a really good week last week and we went on Friday and we competed against each other, offense versus defense, and we made it like a game, so hopefully, we stayed sharp.”
An unusual – and brutal – schedule left the defending state champion Rebels 3-4 on the season, yet as the No. 5 seed in the Division III playoffs, opens the postseason at home against 3-7 Northlake Christian, the No. 12 seed.
The Wolverines are led on offense by a pair of interchangeable players in Nick Martin-Morman and Wesley Brown.
“They both have played quarterback, if you want to call it wildcat or whatever you want to call it. They both play running back and they both play receiver. It’s just a matter of how they want to get those two the football,” Lachney said.
Martin-Morman is a Colorado State verbal commitment.
“He’s the best athlete on their team. He’s a really fast kid. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands. He does his best work when he’s given a chance to work in open space. He’s a well-built kid and he certainly has speed to beat you the perimeter and he’s tough enough to run it up the tackles, too,” Lachney said.
Brown provides a nice complement Martin-Morman, according to Lachney.
“If Morman is lightning, Wesley Brown is thunder. Brown is 5-9, 215 and he runs with all 215 of his pounds behind his shoulder pads. He’s a big body with a low center of gravity but he is more athletic than you might think a guy who’s 5-9, 215 would be. Usually a kid 5-9, 215 at Northshore would play nose guard or something like that but they are handing this kid the ball and he’s running it and doing it well,” the Riverside coach said.
Another impact player for the Wolverines has been 5-foot-11, 200-pound tight end Clayton Thrasher, a Mandeville transfer.
“Clayton Thrasher is a very physical blocker at the point of attack,” Lachney said.
His younger brother, Colby, is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound defensive linemen.
Like on offense, Martin-Morman and Brown are the top two players on the other side of the ball. Martin plays free safety and Brown is a linebacker.
An interesting aspect to Northlake Christian’s team is its different style of play on both offense and defense, according to Lachney.
“Fifty years ago it may not have been unorthodox to line up with two tight ends and three tight ends and just kind of block everybody in front of you and just rugby scrum it down the field,” Lachney said. “Nowadays, that’s unorthodox. That’s the way they like to play football.
“The part of me that’s a football historian and the part of me that still believes the game of football is still based on who can push the other guy around, I can appreciate that.”
Defensively, the Wolverines provide a lot of different looks.
“You can’t look at them and say they are a 3-4 or a 4-3. They are kind of all over the place,” explained Lachney. “They don’t bring a whole lot of pressure but they will play some man-to-man coverage. Whenever you have a team that’s willing to do that, you have to understand you might be dealing with unfavorable box counts from an offensive perspective. If they are playing man-to-man with our receivers; that means there is an extra person in the box we have to be concerned with in the run game.”
Then again, all that Riverside has seen from Northlake Christian may be for naught. Two years ago, Riverside defeated the Wolverines 55-8 in the opening round of the playoffs in a game in which Northlake line up in formations completely different from what the Rebels had prepared for.
“We played them in the playoffs two years ago and they came out and did nothing of what they did on film. We have to be prepared for a bit of everything. We have to make sure we are 100 percent confident in what we are and not really concern ourselves with what they are,” Lachney said.