Riverside set for Northshore scrimmage

Published 11:45 pm Friday, May 16, 2014


RESERVE — 2013 represented a true roller-coaster ride of a season for Riverside Academy on the football field.

The Rebels began the season with high hopes, then fell in jamboree competition to rival St. Charles Catholic. Riverside had Evangel rocked and on the ropes before the Eagles escaped with a last-minute game-winning touchdown pass.

Then the Rebels piled up win after win and established themselves a favorite to reach the Superdome, the signature victory a 35-28 win over Newman in a battle of 2A’s top-two ranked squads. But in the process, quarterback Deuce Wallace suffered a broken leg — a week later, South Plaquemines upset Riverside before the Rebs bounded back to win their final two regular season games, aided by the capable play of backup quarterback Herb McGee. Wallace returned in round one of the playoffs, but visiting St. Thomas Aquinas shocked the No. 8 seeded Rebels, 34-29.

The good news for Riverside and its faithful is that most of that roster will be back for the 2014 campaign, emboldened with the experiences forged from those peaks and valleys. At 4:30 p.m. today, Riverside is set to travel to Northshore for spring game competition, representing the first time in Coach Bill Stubbs’ three-year tenure that Riverside will cap the spring against live opposition. The Rebels concluded spring action with the intra-squad “Pie Bowl” in each of the past two years.

After Thursday’s spring practice, Stubbs said there won’t be many large scale changes notable to the naked eye in the coming season, but was enthusiastic about a group that he said is starting to “get it” from a toughness and togetherness standpoint.

“You know, when you talk about intangibles and team unity, a lot of people are gonna think it sounds corny,” Stubbs said. “But it’s vital. Your locker room, the closeness of your players, how they respond to each other and how they play for one another. For us, a lot of these guys have been here together for the past two years. We’ve set a foundation.

“It’s something we’re emphasizing. As always, toughness is another thing. And obviously execution … so there’s a lot for us to squeeze into eight or nine days even beyond just the X’s and O’s of it.”

Now fully healed, junior-to-be Wallace will command the Rebel huddle for the third consecutive season. He finished his abbreviated 2013 season with 1,764 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight games. Over his 21 total games as Rebels starter, he’s passed for 5,238 yards, 61 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.

“It’s a much more mature Deuce,” Stubbs said. “He’s throwing it stronger. His throws have a pretty good pop to them. He’s just gonna continue to improve.”

He has a litany of weapons once again to throw to. Riverside lost a key offensive lineman in Cameron Bivona, but most of the offense will be back, including wide receivers Herb McGee, Von Julien and Darrion Cook. The 6’1” McGee finished third in St. John Parish last season in receiving despite playing two games at quarterback, and topped the parish two years ago as a freshman.

They will be under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Shane Bohrer, the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Brother Martin in 2013.

Defensively, the Rebels remain stout up front with the return of All-State end Joe Anderson and defensive tackle Ritchie George. Linebacker Evan Veron is also back after a strong 2013. Riverside must retool its secondary, the position group on the team hit hardest by graduation. Stubbs pointed to 2013 nickel back JuJuan Bell as the most experienced veteran among defensive backs. As for today, Stubbs said the switch to scrimmaging another team as opposed to sticking with an intra-squad scrimmage is another way to evaluate his team’s makeup beyond X’s and O’s.

“We’ve got a few guys nursing injuries that’ll sit out, and also our guys up at the baseball tournament,” he said. “But what really excites me is that it’ll give a lot of guys a chance to show what they can do. I like our depth and I’m looking forward to seeing those guys out there.”