“Another year to mature”

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2005

With one of the youngest squads in recent memory having a year under their belts, Riverside Head Coach Mickey Roussel is excited about the future of Riverside Academy football and its chances for success as it enters a tougher, more competitive district in the 2005 season.


Sports Editor

RESERVE-Another year.

Another year of maturity, another year of seasoning.

Riverside Head Football Coach Mickey Roussel hopes it translates into another year of wins.

Returning a majority of their starters on offensive and many on defense, the longtime head coach is excited about the prospects for the Rebels this upcoming season as well as the challenges of a new district.

“It’s going to be the survival of the fittest in our district,” Roussel said. “It’s going to be a physical war every Friday night. That is going to be different for us because last year we had a couple of good teams in our district, but we also had a couple of teams that were not so good. There are no breaks in this schedule whatsoever.”

Roussel said he is interested to see how his team responds to state powerhouse John Curtis, who will enter the Rebels district beginning this season.

“It is going to be interesting to see how not just us, but St. James and everybody else in our district match up against a former 4A powerhouse in John Curtis.”

One thing that brings a smile to the long-time coach’s face is the number of starters and key players coming back from an offense that was very effective.

“We have nine starters coming back on offense,” Roussel said. “The only starters that we have to replace are a center and a guard. We have all of our skill position players back. (Sophomore tailback) Jarid Caesar had over 1000 yards last season, A.J. Delaneuville had over 500 yards rushing. Having over 2000 yards on the ground coming back next season will be a nice thing.

“Overall we have 16 starters coming back, so we are in pretty good shape right now.”

Only a sophomore this upcoming season, Roussel said the sky is the limit for Caesar in 2005 and beyond.

“It is going to be fun to watch him,” Roussel said. “As a freshman he had over 1000 yards and I think he had 18 touchdowns. Hopefully we will get him a little bit stronger in the weight room. Having played here for a year already he is going to be a little more consistent in our offense. He is also going to be a year older and a year more mature.

“The great thing is that we have a lot of skill players around him. We are not just one dimensional. It is not like he scored all the touchdowns and got all the yards. He is going to be better and hopefully he is going to be better because of the people around him.”

One of the things that Roussel hopes to see improved from his squad is a more developed passing game. In 2004, the Rebels only threw 75 passes for 594 yards.

“We are going to have to throw the ball more effectively this year,” Roussel said. “Last year we rushed the ball really well but in crunch time when we needed to throw it, we probably did not throw as well as we wanted to. I think we got a little complacent in the middle of the season because we had a seven game winning streak and rushing for close to 300 yards a game. We didn’t have to throw the ball that much.

“Our mentality has to be whether you are running the ball effectively or not, you have got to go out every Friday night and keep the defense honest and throw the ball. You don’t have to throw it 50 times a game, but at least 15-18 times a game and hopefully your completion percentage is around 50-percent.”

The main burden of finding a effective passing game falls on the shoulders of Delaneuville. Only 29-74 for 594 yards and five touchdowns last season, Roussel said he is confident that his quarterback will make the necessary adjustments to become a better passer in the 2005 season.

“AJ just has to keep working on his mechanics,” Roussel said. “We also have to have a little more confidence in him and us just throwing the ball more. Instead of throwing the ball when we have to, throw it on first down some.

“He’s going to be fine. We were not totally inept throwing the ball last year. This year with everybody back the receivers know what the quarterback is going to do and will all the skill people back, hopefully we will be able to throw the ball a little more effectively and that in turn will make us better.