Lutcher’s Riley has spent some time in end zone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 30, 1999

LUTCHER – Taking it to the house.

It’s the dream of every defensive player, getting their hands on the football and returning it for a touchdown. But for many defensive players,it’s a dream that they may experience once in a career at best.

That makes what Lutcher defensive back Bernard Riley has accomplished this season all the more remarkable. Through the first eight games, Rileyhas lived that defensive player’s dream four times – returning two interceptions, a fumble and a blocked punt for scores – helping the Bulldogs to an 6-2 record heading into last night’s game with St. James.”Every time I touch the football I try to bring it to the end zone,” Riley, a senior, said. “If I get my hands on the ball, I try to bring it in, and if I stayon my feet, I try to bring it to the end zone.”It all started in Lutcher’s second game of the season against Vandebilt Catholic. With the Bulldogs clinging to a 7-0 lead in the second quarter,Riley intercepted a pass and returned it 29 yards for a score. Later in thegame Riley blocked a Terrier punt and returned it for a score, helping the Bulldogs to a 35-8 victory.

Two weeks later Riley intercepted a pass by Walker’s Mike Dumiller and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown for the Bulldogs’ final score in a 26- 6 upset of the sixth-ranked team in Class 4A.

Riley’s best return might have come in the Bulldogs’ 38-14 victory at E.D.White in Week 7. Early in the fourth quarter Riley picked up a fumble atthe Lutcher 42 and zig-zagged his way to the end zone. The return mayhave been listed at 58 yards, but Lutcher coach Tim Detillier said it was probably more like 80 after he finished cutting across the field.

“He’s earned all four touchdowns,” Detillier said. “He’s having a heck of ayear.”Riley began playing football at the age of 6 in Atlanta. He came to theRiver Parishes with his mom when he was in the eighth grade and played at Lutcher Junior High.

“Coming from a big city, I had to get used to it,” Riley said. “I had comedown before to see my grandmother during the summer, so I knew I had to slow down.”Riley followed in his uncle’s footsteps in going to play football at Lutcher High School. He started as a running back but moved to cornerback hissophomore season.

“I liked cornerback better,” Riley said. “I knew I could play the positionand I could come in and play right away.”Riley started that season and then really came on as a junior. That season,he would be named to the District 10-3A first team and the all-River Parishes team after intercepting a team-high four passes and recording 40 tackles and a fumble recovery, helping the Bulldogs reach the semifinals before falling to Independence.

“It was a great accomplishment,” Riley said of advancing to the semifinals. “Not many people thought we could do it.”Riley kept it up this past summer when he attended the University of Southern Mississippi football camp and was named the MVP for the secondary.

Riley and the Bulldogs faced a stiff test in the opening game of the 1999 season, traveling to traditional rival East St. John. The Wildcats featuredquarterback Floyd Smith and arguably the best receiving duo in the state in Chris Bush and Roydel Williams. Riley knocked away a potentialtouchdown pass to Bush in the first quarter and then held Williams in check in the second half as the Bulldogs rallied for a 35-28 victory.

That would be the first in the line of higher classification opponents the Bulldogs would face. Lutcher stepped up to the challenge, upsettingCapitol and Walker in going 4-1 in pre-district play.

“Playing a schedule like that should get us ready for the playoffs,” Riley said. “Playing tough teams makes you step up and makes you better.”One of the main reasons for the Bulldogs’ success so far this season has been the play of its secondary.

“We knew our secondary was pretty good,” Detillier said. “They have beenmaking plays when they had to. One of the strongest parts of our team hasbeen our secondary and that especially includes Bernard Riley.”Riley said Williams, one of the top receivers in the state with over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns through seven games, is the best receiver he has faced this season. He has also gone up against Keith Smith of Capitol andLionel Turner of Walker, two of the top receivers in Class 4A. Riley said adefensive back cannot be afraid to go against the best even though their mistakes are going to be out in the open.

“It’s pretty tough,” Riley said. “You are all alone. If you make a mistake,people see you. On the line, you have people to back you up. But in thebackfield, it’s only you and the man you cover.

“You can’t be timid to play back there. You have to have amnesia. If youmake a bad play, you have to come back.”Riley’s play has caught the eye of college recruiters. He has talked toSouthern Miss and made a visit there two weeks ago.

He has also received interest from Jackson State and received numerous letters and calls. Riley said he will wait until after the season to make adecision, after he has accomplished a few of his goals.

“I’d like to have a solid season,” Riley said. “My personal goal is to get sixinterceptions (he has four already), to have a solid season and hopefully get us to the Dome.”

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