If ever there was a team that needed the start of district play as part of a new start, it’s the 2018 Riverside Academy Rebels.
The Rebels (0-4) are coming off a pre-district slate that included the likes of Southern Lab, Barbe, Rummel and De La Salle. In the latest loss – a 45-28 loss to De La Salle – the Rebels allowed Cavalier sophomore Montrell Johnson to rush for more than 300 yards.
“Our whole game plan was centered around Kendall Collins. Kendall Collins popped a run on the first drive and he actually got hurt on that play,” Riverside coach Kevin Dizer said. “Sophomore Montrell Johnson stepped in and had a great night,” Riverside coach Kevin Dizer said.
“It was a good game plan by Coach (Ryan) Manale. Based on what we put on film all year, it’s obvious you need to run the football. That’s just a deficiency of ours. It’s to the point where it’s not a lack of effort on the kids’ part. We’re pretty outmatched in that area.”
In hosting South Plaquemines on Friday night in the District 9-2A opener, a young Riverside team with a limited roster, finally gets to face a team with characteristics similar to its own.
“District is a big thing for us. The way I look at the season, it’s broken into four parts: preseason, pre-district, district and playoffs – so, we’re going into the third phase of the season. District is a huge deal to us. We kind of took it for granted around here a little bit until Newman knocked us off the block last year,” said Dizer.
Last year’s Rebels were 1-3 going into the week of the South Plaquemines game but the contest was not played because of the approach of Hurricane Nate. It was part of a strange set of circumstances that caused the Rebels to have three open dates during the 2017 schedule.
“That was a game we were really looking forward to last year. We were 1-3 at that point and we really needed a ballgame to get better. We had a week of practice last year and for that game to get cancelled on Friday, that hurt the kids, but again, that’s got nothing to do with this year,” Dizer said.
The Hurricanes, coming off a 16-12 loss to Bogalusa.
South Plaquemines is led by a trio of players on offense, including quarterback Isaac Williams.
“He looks like our Louis Cheneau playing quarterback. He’s a real physical guy. He lowers his shoulder to finish runs. He’s got a really strong arm. He can chunk it deep, for sure,” said Dizer.
The Hurricanes’ top runner is 5-foot-6, Dontavius Johnson.
“He’s a shorter guy, but he can run. If he gets an edge, he can go,” Dizer said of Johnson.
The biggest of the big three for South Plaquemines is 6-foot-5 receiver Truce Williams.
“When you have been working with the secondary like I have, you always tell those guys there is one thing you can’t really coach or defend against and that’s height. He will be the tallest receiver we’ve seen so we’ve got to make sure we do a good job in practice this week in high-pointing the football and separate the receivers’ arms and those things,’ Dizer explained.
South Plaquemines is similar in offensive style to Rummel and Barbe, although the Hurricanes throw it more than the Raiders and Buccaneers, according to Dizer.
“They do a lot of speed sweeps and they will counter a lot off of that with the quarterback. There is a lot of outside perimeter runs and the quarterback actually is the one with the inside runs,” the Riverside coach said.
The Hurricanes play an odd-man front on defense, with many of the offensive starters also playing on the other side of the ball such as Johnson and Williams.
“The one thing we have to guard against is, ‘oh, let’s us take a deep breath because we are playing a 2A team,’” Dizer said. “If you don’t do the job, those 2A teams are going to beat you. The message to our kids is just do your job.
“I’m looking forward to playing a team closer to equal competition as us. Our kids deserve that chance. They’ve been outmatched in a lot of different ways and it will be exciting for them to see what they can do against more level competition.”
A familiar refrain for the first-year Rebels coach is Riverside’s need to prevent the run on defense, while being able to rush the ball on offense.
“We’ve been unsuccessful in four games. That’s still priority No 1 going into South Plaquemines,” Dizer said of the running game. “They are not 6-5, 280 across the board like we have been seeing. I would like to think we have a better chance to stop the run against South Plaquemines. Again, if we don’t do our jobs, they do have some guys that will hurt you. Their speed is a challenge, but up front, it should be balanced out a bit more than it’s been in the past.
“Offensively, I feel like our running game is getting better. We’ve been doing a good job of running the football. Unfortunately, we’ve had to get away from it because of the score and we had to throw the ball a little bit more to stay in the game.”