Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 10:17am
Football 2012: Downs optimistic in first year at Riverside
By Morgan Lee Editor
GAINESVILLE -- Most high school football coaches would complain about a team unable to gather for summer workouts or a roster that may drastically change from season to season.
Not Gary Downs. As a former Riverside Military assistant, the coach knew the tougher aspects of the job when he took over this offseason and is charging into 2012 with a full head of steam.
“We’ve made progress, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the players we have,” said Downs, who was offensive coordinator for Riverside from 2004-06 -- a period during which the Eagles won the 2005 Georgia Independent Schools Association state championship and played in the GISA semifinals in '04 and '06. “We’re creating a team, and the guys are buying in. If we can stay healthy I like our chances this year.”
While Riverside may not have all of its players year-round, the military boarding school has retained a number of standouts and has also acquired some impressive athletes for the upcoming campaign.
“We’ve got 60 kids on the roster, and we’ve got some real talent and depth there,” Downs said.
Offensively that includes a potentially loaded backfield and a sizable line of scrimmage -- two keys for Downs, who wants to build around the run game in his multiple offense.
Senior Gage Bolden returns at fullback and will be joined junior Adrian Humphrey, freshman Joseph Garuba and sophomore Anthony Sweatt.
“They all run hard, and we’re pretty deep there,” Downs said.
Meanwhile, the offensive line will be led by returning standout John-Mark MacFarlane at center, while Gabe Frazier (6-foot, 240 pounds), Tucker Browning (6-4, 300) and Shaquille Wallace (6-3, 315) will also play key roles.
There is also plenty of talent at wide receiver, including 6-3 senior Ike Onwuanaibe, senior Spencer Jackson and senior Austin Smith. Matt Jones and Anthony Reyes will also be big targets and sizable blockers at tight end.
Junior Collin Pettell returns at quarterback and coaches are eager to see how the signal caller responds to the new offense.
Riverside’s defense will move to a 3-3 base that is designed to get plenty of athletes on the field -- and to the ball in a hurry.
“We want to shut down the run and stop the big play,” Downs said.
Many of the same names will feature on both sides of the ball with Browning and Wallace playing defensive line, McFarlane at inside linebacker, Bolden at outside linebacker and Jackson at cornerback.
“We’re excited about our chances this season; right now we’re trying to sort our guys out, but we like what we have,” Downs said.
RIVERSIDE MILITARY ACADEMY: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Blue and White
CURRENT REGION: 8-AA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Gary Downs, first season
2011 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 1-9
KEY LOSSES: OL Coleman Lowenthal, OL Ian Parvin-Asher, DE Marlan Edwards, DL Victor Salcido, DL Avery Ebanks
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple -- The Eagles will attempt to establish the run first
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-3 -- RMA will look to get its athletes on the field and let them run to the ball. The Eagles want to stop the run first.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. DL Shaquille Wallace (6-foot-3, 315 pounds), Jr. ILB Harrison Summerour, Sr. OLB Montana Ogbu, Sr. CB Spencer Jackson, Jr. Saf Stephen Weschler
SPECIAL TEAMS: Fr. PK Chris Rosato, So. P Richard Hendricks
STRENGTH: Skill position players -- The Eagles will have plenty of athleticism and speed, although a number of leaders are also along the line of scrimmage.
QUESTION: Change -- The Eagles are making plenty of alterations and are under a new head coach. This comes on top of the fact that many of the players are unable to attend summer workouts and training sessions.
KEY GAMES: The season opener against Whitefield Academy (Sept. 7, home) will tell coaches much about the state of their team, which is working hard to pull together. The Eagles travel to face a talented Washington-Wilkes in the Region 8-AA opener (Sept. 21) and then head out the next week to take on Oglethorpe County (Sept. 28). The visit to Lexington will end a streak of three straight road trips.
TRENDING: Riverside is looking to get back to the winning ways of 2003-09 when it posted seven straight seasons of reaching the playoffs (GHSA and GISA combined). The Eagles posted seven winning records in that time before going 2-8 in 2010 and 1-9 in 2011.
Sept. 7 Whitefield Academy
Sept. 14 at Georgia Military College
Sept. 21 at Washington-Wilkes
Sept. 28 at Oglethorpe County
Oct. 5 Rabun County
Oct. 12 at Union County
Oct. 19 at Social Circle
Oct. 26 Glascock County
Nov. 2 Jefferson
Nov. 9 Greene County
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