Riverside Academy’s football team finds itself facing a battle of its own expectations as much as that of any opponent.
When Riverside plays at Fisher on Friday, the Rebels will be taking on their third District 8-2A foe of the season. With the way the district slate was set up, RA will have opened with three league opponents that have a total of two combined wins.
So, the Rebels have put the focus on themselves as much as any opponent through the early portion of the district schedule.
“During the season, you kind of get wrapped up in game planning and a lot of different things,” Riverside coach Bill Stubbs said. “I think our coaches do a good job week in and week out of making sure we hit the fundamentals. On weeks like this, you have an opportunity to engrain it a little bit more in your practice schedule.
In Riverside’s 48-14 district-opening win over St. James, the Rebels were able to play reserves throughout the second half. The sluggish play of the unit did not please Stubbs.
A 62-0 win over Cohen allowed Riverside to play backup players as early as the second quarter. The effort of the second teamers against the Green Hornets was more to the coach’s liking.
“That’s where I was more pleased,” Stubbs said. “They handled themselves a whole lot better than they did the week before. We made it a priority. I was pleased with that
“They are going to the same practice, so they ought to be learning the same things as everybody else. In this business, you are only as good as the guy behind you. An ankle sprain or something like that, you have to be ready to play at any given moment. It gives those guys more incentive. Week in and week out, they get beat on pretty good and we want to give them some rewards available on Friday night.”
The scenario could be much the same against Fisher. The Gators are 1-4 on the season, including 0-2 in district play. Fisher is coming off of 54-0 loss to St. James that snapped a 25-game losing streak for the Wildcats.
Although wins have been hard for Fisher to come by, the Gators can pose some problems on offense with varying playing styles from the triple option to the spread.
“That makes it a challenge to prepare your kids. It’s basically two different teams,” said Chris Lachney, Riverside’s defensive coordinator. “They do a pretty good job of not necessarily tipping their hand they are using. It’s like a two-headed monster and you have to kind of defend both heads at the same time.”
Guiding the unique offensive blend is quarterback Dallas Verrette.
“He does a good job of the getting the ball to his guys quickly,” Lachney said. “They don’t really rely on a big vertical passing. There are a lot of quick throws and things like that.
“That’s a smart thing, especially against us. I think our defensive front is playing pretty well right now so if you can get rid of the ball quick, you kind of take those guys out of the equation a little bit and put a little more pressure on the back-end guys to make plays. Those guys have done a good job, too.”
Joining Verrette in the backfield is running back Brennan Desroches.
Verrette’s favorite target is receiver Devin Erlinger.
“He is a guy they try to get the ball to quickly on hitches and things like that. They feel like he is a guy who can make plays in space and they try to get the ball to him quickly,” Lachney said.
The Gators also are unconventional on defense.
“They are based out of a 3-3 but they will have times where they will have the nose guard as the only guy with his hand on the dirt and they will just stand around the ball. They have guys that will walk around and they like to blitz a lot. They try to play some man and some zone behind it,” said Damian Melancon, Riverside’s offensive coordinator.
Regardless of the opponent, taking another step each week toward improvement has been a season-long focus of the Rebels, according to Stubbs.
“You hear people talk about they peaked too fast or this, this or this. You have to bring them along and you have to keep climbing that ladder one rung at a time and you keep going and keep going,” Stubbs said. “If you see progress, then ultimately, it will pay off. That’s what you have to focus on.
“You have to make the kids understand, yeah, you could probably go half-speed or three-quarter speed and be able to play some of these folks. If you are doing that, it just knocks you all the way down to the bottom of the ladder and you have to climb back up. It’s a step approach and each week you have to take a step up.”