Jersey No. 55 holds special meaning for Riverdale coach Scott Jones. That’s why he assigned it to Derrick Ransom.Jones was an assistant coach at Mariner 15 years ago when senior linebacker Tony McKenna — who wore No. 55 for the Tritons — was struck and killed by lightning. He remembers what an exceptional person and player McKenna was, and sees similar qualities in Ransom, a Raider junior.”Derrick reminds me of him, as far as his work ethic and things like that,” said Jones, who was on the field when McKenna was struck down Sept. 5, 1989. “Tony was the same way. He worked hard, and everybody liked him.”
Jones’ gesture wasn’t lost on Ransom, a 6-foot, 205-pound linebacker and fullback who carries a grade-point average of better than 4.0.”I was kind of proud — I knew it was hard for him to give out that number,” said Ransom, 16.
Ransom’s determination derives in part from a tragedy of his own. His father, Dale Ransom, died of cancer 10 years ago this November.”When I think about my dad and stuff, I try to work harder,” Ransom said. “My dad was a hard-working guy, so I try to be like him, and pay respect to him.”According to Jones, Ransom is “the one kid who everybody’s probably a little afraid of in hitting drills.”
If not fearful, Ransom’s teammates are certainly respectful of their teammate’s character.”He’s just confident in everything he does,” said junior linebacker Jake Arbuckle, who rotates at linebacker with Ransom and senior Corey Allen.
Confidence is something Riverdale is gaining rapidly as a team. The Raiders finished 2-8 last year, but were 2-2 in District 3A-12 and literally missed out on the playoffs by seconds. Sebring kicked a field goal with eight seconds remaining Oct. 24 to pull out a 35-33 victory and grab the second playoff berth in the district, behind champion Lemon Bay.With a core that includes Ransom, sophomore quarterback Bo Greenwell and junior running back Chevon Walker returning, expectations at Riverdale are higher than they’ve been in some time.”We have the potential to be real good,” Ransom said.