While most observers will look toward Week 10 games that feature district championships on the line, Riverside Academy will quietly host North Central on Friday night.
The Rebels go into the non-district game 2-6 while North Central is 1-8.
Records can be misleading and Riverside’s may well be a case in point.
“When you look at our six losses, if you go through the record of each one, Southern Lab is 9-1, which lost to U-High; Barbe is 8-2 in 5A; Rummel is 8-2 in 5A, De La Salle is going to finish up 6-3 and played a good schedule; Newman is 9-1; Country Day is going to finish up 10-0,” Riverside coach Kevin Dizer said. “You look at that and it’s as tough as any schedule gets.
“The encouraging part of our season is the kids truly showed up to fight and never quit. They got over the losses every week and they showed up ready to fight. We came out on the short end in a lot of games, but to see where the kids came from when I took it over in the spring to see where we are and to see that we can actually compete with the big boys – there are no moral victories – but for us to be able to line up and compete to where we were in the spring, is a huge deal.”
Riverside’s loss to Country Day mirrors the misleading aspect of the Rebels’ record.
The Rebels battled unbeaten Country Day to a 14-14 tie at halftime and trailed by eight points late in the game.
Country Day scored to increase its advantage and then recovered an onside kick. A few plays later, the Cajuns ran a flea-flicker for a touchdown to account for the 42-20 final.
“The score of that game was not an indication of how good a football game that really was,” Dizer said. “With all the stuff that didn’t go our way, it’s still 28-20 with three minutes left and they pick up a first down by about six inches. If we get that football back, we have a chance to send it to overtime.
“If Country Day is indeed the No. 2 team in the state, it makes me feel good about what we could potentially be.”
The Hurricanes’ record is more indicative of where North Central is as a program. The Hurricanes have made the playoffs each of the past five years despite a 3-52 record in that span that includes back-to-back 11-loss seasons in 2016 and 2017. The program has never won more than four games in a season.
North Central features three top athletes in quarterback Aaron Johnson and receivers Juwan Milburn and Jalen Smith.
“Those three are pretty good athletes and they just line up in a lot of weird formations. Sometimes it is traditional spread stuff, sometimes it’s three backs in the backfield. They obviously try to get Juwan Milburn and Jalen Smith the ball,” said Dizer.
A limited roster causes many Hurricanes to play on both sides of the ball. Along with the trio of Johnson, Milburn and Smith, other key defenders for North Central include linebacker Dymante Nevills, defensive lineman Kevin Forbes and defensive back Kaleb Smith.
The Rebels currently sit with the No. 9 spot in the Division III power ratings. Week 10 games usually involved a bit of wriggle room in one direction or the other in the ratings, which will determine playoff seeding and bracket placement. Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Riverside will be on the road in the opening round.
“Right now, it looks like we are at No. 9,” Dizer said. “We could end up 9, 10 or 11, depending on what Menard and St. Thomas Aquinas do. It truly could go either way. The three opponents we could be looking at are Episcopal out of Baton Rouge, Ascension Christian from the Lafayette area or the defending state champs, Catholic High of New Iberia.
“That makes it hard to plan for next week because I truly don’t know the way it’s going to go.”
For potential opponents, Dizer said teams should be careful of what they ask for if they seek to play the Rebels in the opening round.
“I don’t think it’s over. I don’t know what our perception is in the outside world, but I don’t think anybody wants to get us first round. I think that’s a bad draw for a lot of people to have to play us in the first round,” the Riverside coach said.