DECATURVILLE – Ask Riverside High head football coach Jeff Robertson which he would rather have, experience or athletic skill, and he may not have an opinion leaning either way.
That could change later this year based on the results of the upcoming season because the Panthers could shed some light on the subject about which is better.
The offensive line was a strong point for the Panthers last year. There were a lot of guys up front who were big and had been a part of the program playing meaningful snaps for two or three years.
A lot of those guys graduated after last season, taking a lot of experience and institutional knowledge with them.
“We’re going to miss that because of how valuable it is,” Robertson said. “But this year’s group I think is a little more athletic.
“Will that make them better than last year’s group? It could, but we’ll coach this group up and get them ready and see how they do.”
Either way, the Panthers need to be ready in a hurry.
After opening at home against Perry County, Riverside travels to neighboring perennial big school power Lexington, who the Panthers haven’t beaten since 2010. After that is a region game against Lewis County and a trip to Wayne County, who could contend for the Class 1A championship this year.
“Every team we play this year is either a region game or a game against a team we like to play for different reasons,” Robertson said. “Lexington is a big rival for us, and so is Perry County.
“We’ve played Wayne County and Collinwood off and on through the years, so playing them again for the next two years will be good again. McKenzie will be another game that should be good for us too.”
That athletic line referenced earlier will block for a backfield that includes second-year starting quarterback Drake Smith, who actually started a couple of games under center as a freshman when then-starter Luke Ward was injured. His experience and elusiveness will be important for the Panthers if they want to contend with the likes of Lewis County, Hickman County, Waverly and Scotts Hill for a playoff spot and region championship.
“Drake’s a special athlete that we’re glad to have in our backfield,” Robertson said. “This whole group is a bunch of great kids I’m glad to have on our team.
“They work hard and are ready to go whenever they come in no matter what time of the year it is – the season, offseason workouts, spring ball, summer – it doesn’t matter. Hopefully that work will help us this year.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751