To borrow a well-worn phrase, football is a simple game. And third-year Riverside head coach Chris Howell knows exactly what the Pirates need to be successful.
Riverside scored 95 points last year (8.6 ppg), the fewest of any team in the PAC-6. As Howell said, “We have got to improve on the offensive side of the football.”
“If we can score some points, we can have a successful season,” he said. “If not, we’re not going to be very successful.”
Injuries hurt the Pirates’ continuity last year. They lost starting quarterback Sadiq Johnson before he ever really got started, then backup QB Drew Gore was hampered by injuries. Then a wide receiver, then some defenders.
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The 2016 Pirates already are waiting on one player. All-state lineman Jordon Riley, a 6-6, 285 senior who committed last year to North Carolina, has not been cleared to play since injuring his foot.
What’s the good news?
Riverside has a bevy of players with two or more years of game experience who will help out on both sides of the ball.
The list includes all-conference outside linebacker Jeffrey Gunter, who’s likely to see some action at tight end, too. Senior lineman Jaden Davis also will play some on both offense and defense, and running back/receiver Kaligah Murrell might play some at linebacker.
Who starts at QB?
Howell said a pair of rising seniors were battling for the position: Cole Infinito and Ephraim Isreal.
Infinito had the edge and “would start today, if we had a game,” Howell said, because he’s been a quarterback since middle school and understands the playbook. Israel is trying his hand at quarterback for the first time, and he’s talented and versatile enough that he will play somewhere on the field.
Howell planned to make a decision after evaluating video of the Pirates’ first scrimmage against an outside opponent.
What’s the biggest key this year?
Ironically, Howell said, the design of the playbook is not all that important. It’s execution that counts.
“Belief in ourselves is the most important part of our game,” Howell said. “It’s not the X’s and O’; it’s not the Jameses and Joes, or the running game or the passing game or the offensive line or the defensive line. It’s the belief that we can get the job done.”
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Last year: 3-8 (1-5, Big-8 3A)
Five year average: 4-7 (2-3)
Preseason N&O rank: Unranked
Coaches: Chris Howell (Head coach, 3rd year), Monte Owens (Off. Coordinator), Mark Morgan (Def. Coordinator, LBs), Jon Bell (RBs), Darryl Bright (WRs), Bernard Gains (DBs), Norris McCreary (OL/DL), Ryan Samuels (QBs).
Contributors: Jeff Gunter (Sr., LB/TE), Jordon Riley (Sr., DL), Jaden Davis (Sr., DL), Jakob Cabrera (Sr., TE), Kaligah Murrell (Jr., RB/SB/LB), Chuck Manning (Jr., DE/RB), D’Anthony Bright (Soph., RB/SB), Cameron Grant (Soph., WR/HB).
The main number: 1 - winning season since Riverside played in the 2006 NCHSAA 4A championship game.
Aug. 19 vs. Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Pinecrest, 7 p.m.
Sep. 2 at Orange, 7p.m.
Sep. 9 at Cedar Ridge, 7 p.m.
Sep. 16: at Wakefield, 7 p.m.
Sep. 23* at Northern, 7 p.m.
Sep. 30* vs. Cardinal Gibbons, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 open date
Oct. 14* at Hillside, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21* vs. Jordan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* at Person, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. East Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game.