Published 12:04 am Wednesday, August 28, 2019

RESERVE –  Things are looking up for Riverside Academy football coach Kevin Dizer.

Last year Dizer underwent a baptism of fire, taking over a program that had lost seven games in the previous two years and finished 3-7. It was a tough term for the dual sport coach in his first year as a football head coach.

But things are different this season as he heads into year two.

“Right now, in year two, it’s been night and day different from last year,” he said. “The kids’ attitudes are way better. They want to practice hard every day. They’re getting after it every day in practice. And the organization of the program is completely different from last year. A lot of that has to do with the numbers.”

Besides a drop in wins, Dizer saw a dramatic drop in the number of players last season. He started with 40 or so and finished with 37 or so. This year the team is back up to 55.  But Dizer’s biggest challenge in his first year was the schedule he inherited from his predecessor. The Rebels faced Southern Lab, Barbe, Archbishop Rummel and De La Salle before beginning district play. Then they had to face the likes of Newman and Country Day.

“The schedule, combined with the low numbers, was just too much to overcome,” Dizer said. “Honestly, we didn’t have that bad of a team. I just didn’t make it any better because I chose to make them believe we could win every game.”

The schedule part won’t get easier this year, but Dizer did manage dial it down just a tad. He still opens on the road at Class 5A Thibodaux, then travels to Ascension Catholic, hosts 4A Woodlawn, then goes to Catholic High of Pointe Coupee before starting district. But that district includes Newman (led by Archie Manning’s grandson), St. Martin’s, West St. John and Country Day. And the Rebels still aren’t that bad of a team, even with the losses of running back Louis Cheneau, who now is at Louisiana College, and wide receiver Kash Foley, now at Grambling State. Returning to the quarterback spot is junior Gage Larvadain, who passed for 1,5555 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He will have a host of weapons to choose from, including receivers Tairyn Lockhart (returning) and Cade Middleton (new).

Running back Ahmonte Watkins, who rushed for 350 yards last season is a returner but freshman Elijah Davis will be competing for a spot. On defense, the Rebels have four starters returning, including senior defensive lineman Connor Naquin (5-10, 175, Sr.), who will be the de facto leader of the team. Junior defensive lineman Nick Washington (6-1, 225, Jr.) returns, along with linebacker Chamar Jackson (6-0, 185, Jr.), defensive back Bryan Simmons (6-0, 180, Sr.), and defensive back Herbert Keys (5-8, 150, Sr.)