Prep Preview 2014: New coach has high hopes for Riverside
If first-year Riverside high school football coach Chris Howell has his way, improvement will be the mantra for his Pirates as they embark on the 2014 campaign.
Howell replaced veteran David Hackney, who resigned to move into an administration post.
Howell likes Riverside’s chances of meeting that goal as long as the Pirates stay focused on themselves and improving on both sides of the football.
Howell likes his mixture of youth and talent and cites strength and experience in his starting quarterback, 2013 All Pac-6 Conference senior Dianté Strothers, and wide receivers including all-PAC-6 returnee Deon Yarborough and Troy Hill.
“We have more upperclassmen than in the past but we are still a relatively young team but we’ve got experience in a few key spots” Howell said. “I feel like we’re getting better every day. All we have to do is worry about us. That’s what we have to concentrate on first. Let’s just worry about us and let’s just concentrate on us.”
The Pirates finished second in the PAC-6 a year ago at 8-4 (4-1 PAC-6), falling only to perennial power Hillside, which took its fourth straight undefeated league title.
The second place finish was good enough to earn the Pirates a berth in the 4-A state playoffs where they lost in the first round to Hope Mills Southview 20-17.
Howell quickly pointed out that while Riverside is strong at both the quarterback and wide receiver positions that the Pirates plan to employ a ground game to play with a strong running back duo of seniors Jaquan Sowell, a standout wrestler, and Tyrek Davis who Howell states “is kind of like duct tape, he does a little bit of everything.”
“We’re going to run the football,” Howell said. “We’re going to be fine (at the) running back position. We’ve got a lot of talent there and we’re going to be a lot better than people think”.
In addition to Sowell and Davis, Howell fells fortunate to have Darryl Nickerson who has been getting a look by a few collegiate programs. “Darryl is an athlete who we’ll use in a multitude of offensive roles. He’ll line up sometimes at wide receiver, sometimes at running back and sometimes in the slot,” Howell said.
Howell also cited strong improvement in his offensive line during the 2014 preseason that will provide a catalyst for the Pirates ground game. The offensive line is anchored by center Deandre Foust and rounded out by Dorian Burton at left guard, Chris Gambrill at left tackle, Amir Toomer at right guard and Lewis Hicks at right tackle.
The Pirates have a double threat at tight end with Jawan Parker carrying some of the duties while Andre Christian will be the blocking and red zone tight end.
On defense Howell is pleased with the Pirates preseason improvement in his linebacking corps and, in particular, the improvement of the two inside linebackers Clinton Magwood and Deon Hurst. Magwood and Hurst are joined by outside linebackers Justin Beirman at the right outside linebacker spot and Derrick Gregory at left outside linebacker.
The linebackers are complimented by four down linemen: Jordan Riley at right defensive end, Justin Thomas at right defensive tackle, De’Ante McQuaig at left defensive tackle and Marcus Willoughby at left defensive end. The defense is rounded out by Jeremiah Davis and Marquis Burton at the cornerback positions and Darius Catrell and Johnathan Rue will share the safety responsibilities.
On special teams junior Addison Oliver will take responsibility for the punting and kicking duties while wide receiver Deon Yarborough will lend his talent to returning punts and kick–offs.
Riverside opens its season on Friday when it hosts Chapel Hill High School at 7 p.m.
PREP PREVIEWS 2014: This is one of a series of previews of area high school football programs. The series concludes Friday, opening day of the 2014 season for most area football teams.