Friday, August 20, 2010

SPORTS>>Riverview hits on new front for its defense

Leader sportswriter

Riverview’s shift in defensive philosophy that came with new defensive coordinator Larry Davidson is perhaps the first significant change to the youthful Raiders program.

Now in their third year of varsity football, the relatively new Raiders are looking to improve on the 30.1 points a game they allowed in 2009. Riverview’s 4-4 formation was unable to prevent a pair of critical 2-3A Conference losses to Mayflower and Little Rock Episcopal, and the setbacks ultimately kept the Raiders from qualifying for the playoffs a second straight year.

Davidson, who was with Cave City last year and was a junior high coach at Newport before that, has installed a linebacker-heavy, 3-5 package. At 3-3Aconference member Cave City, Davidson’s Cavemen allowed an average 11 points a game with three shutouts and four games in which opponents scored once.

Their points allowed led all of the 3A classification.

“We feel like our strongest position on the defense is our linebackers,” Riverview coach Stuart Hill said. “He brought in the 3-5, and we kept it.”

The Raiders have depended on the hard hitting of senior linebacker Chayse Parson since he earned a starting spot as a sophomore two years ago. Parson has earned all-conference honors in his first two years of varsity, and has made more strides in the weight room during the offseason.
Parson, 5-10, 200 pounds, now benches just under 350 pounds and can squat almost 450. He led the team in tackles last year with 106.

The Raiders are inexperienced in some areas, but seniors and returning starters Dillon Johnson and Jordan Daniels join Parson as outside linebackers to form a seasoned crew in the heart of the defense.

Now that the Raiders are going into their third full season, the learning curve has flattened and the expectations have steepened.

“They are learning what’s asked of them, and we ask a lot,” Hill said. “It’s getting to the point where there are no more surprises, everyone knows what’s expected of them.”

Hill also has strong hopes for the secondary, which will include sophomore McKenzie Jones at the lone safety position.

“He’s done a fantastic job in camp,” Hill said. “He’s aggressive, he’s got speed. He’s the best we’ve had at that position so far.

It’s been safety by committee for the first two years, so it’s good to get him in there.”

Junior Tony Riley sat out last year injured, but earned one of the starting cornerback positions following his return. Hill has been impressed with Riley’s speed and said that playing 7-on-7 helped him get back into game shape.

The other corner spot is undecided, with Heath Hoofman, Dallas Johnson, Wes Eslinger and Dillon Hays all vying for the spot.

The Raiders will get their first test for the new defense Monday when they travel to Augusta for a scrimmage with the Red Devils. They will open the season Sept. 3 at Carlisle.