The offense is without nine starters from last season, including Avious Steadman, the county's all-time leading rusher.
By ANTHONY GAGLIANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
RIVERVIEW -- This must be old hat for Riverview. In consecutive seasons, the Sharks must replace three key members of their backfield.
This time, though, Riverview will have to find a replacement for Hillsborough County's all-time leading rusher, Avious Steadman.
As the Sharks went 8-2 last season, Steadman gained 1,516 yards to finish with 5,320 for his career. Riverview will also be without fullback Paulus Johnathans and tailback Richard Woodbury, who paved the way for a lot of Steadman's yards.
Running back won't be the only position with new faces as Dustin Almeida takes over the coaching reins from Alex Albert.
Almeida served as an assistant last year when Riverview reached the playoffs as a wild card and lost to undefeated Kissimmee Osceola 33-8.
Even with all the changes, the Sharks will look the same. Riverview will continue to push the power running game behind its double wing-T.
"It's an attitude thing," Almeida said. "'Here we are, this is what we do, come and stop us.' The kids take a lot of pride in that."
THROUGH THE AIR: The Sharks tried three quarterbacks in the spring, and Almeida narrowed the search to two. Either way, the Sharks figure to keep the use of the passing game to a minimum. ON THE GROUND: Perhaps more important than the loss of Steadman, Woodbury and Johnathans is replacing those who opened the holes for them.
While the Sharks will cycle in fresh faces such as Terrance Reaves and Keon Hines at tailback, can Riverview find enough muscle to pave the way? Tyrone McKenzie established himself on the junior varsity last year and is another back who will contribute.
The Sharks have only two returners on offense in tight end Josh Davis and undersized, but certainly not overmatched, guard Alex Sanchez. Sanchez started every game last year, the only underclassman to do so. However, Riverview will have to replace a trio of two-year starters on the line.
DEFENSE: The scheme will remain the same, but Almeida promises more aggression. Against Brandon in the spring, the Sharks were effective blitzing from the outside. Linebacker J.R. Gillard registered a pair of sacks and forced a fumble.
Gillard also figures into the mix at tailback.
Almeida doesn't expect his line to be big, but it will be quick. Tony Steadman, Avious' brother, fits that mold and returns to anchor the defensive line.
Jermaine Jackson was slated to be Riverview's starting nose guard last season, but broke his foot in the first game. Dan Hardy is the rock for the Sharks' defense at inside linebacker after Riverview lost three linebackers.
Hines, a third-year starter at safety, and Reaves are expected to man the secondary, but how many plays can they get in between offense and defense? BIG GAME: East Bay, Oct. 4. Take Almeida's word for how big this contest will be.
"The East Bay rivalry is huge here," Almeida said. "We have total respect for their players and coaches, and I feel they have that towards us. And that just fuels the thing even more. It's a friendly thing, but man, when we go out there and the lights go on, everybody in the park wants to win."
Add in the fact that a blocked field goal gave the Indians a two-point victory and a guaranteed playoff berth, while the Sharks had to sweat out a wild-card spot.
AT A GLANCE
COACH: Dustin Almeida (first season).
ASSISTANTS: Dan O'Regan, Barry Jacobs, Mike Hernandez, Scott Palmer, Jim Hutchinson, Carey Reid, James Grant and John Collier.
COLORS: Royal blue, black and silver.
STADIUM: Shark Field, 11311 Boyette Road, Riverview.
CLASS: 5A, District 5.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 2000, 2001.
LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Kissimee Osceola 33-8.