Drama kings are district champs
The boys of Riverview High keep up their reputation as the comeback kids. They shine off the field, too.
By BRYAN BURNS
Published November 4, 2005
RIVERVIEW - Down 21-10 with five minutes remaining in a game that would decide the Class 6A, District 6 championship, the Riverview Sharks looked dead in the water against Sarasota.
Unfortunately for the Sailors, Riverview had them right where they wanted.
Two Sarasota turnovers deep in its own territory led to two Riverview touchdowns, the second coming on a Jahleel Addae 11-yard run with 1:50 remaining. Riverview held on for a 24-21 victory and their first district championship in the school's seven-year history.
"It happened so fast," Riverview head coach Dan O'Regan said. "We must have had 600 people there on the field after the game. I had people coming up to hug and kiss me, people I don't even know. It was just pandemonium."
It was an improbable comeback victory in a season full of comebacks for Riverview (8-1).
"Comebacks have been our thing this year," O'Regan said. "It seems like every game we have a comeback."
In three of Riverview's biggest victories, the Sharks trailed at halftime. Riverview fell behind 7-0 to East Bay and 10-0 to Sarasota Riverview at the half, only to come back and win. In the district championship game against Sarasota, the Sharks went into halftime down 14-7.
"East Bay had us 7-0 at halftime, and that was a big rivalry game for us," running back Antwain Powers said. "We came out in the second half and got momentum. Once we get momentum, I feel like we can't be stopped."
"Since that game, we've been a second-half team," Addae added.
That Riverview has been able to come through when things looked their bleakest speaks to the character of the 2005 Sharks.
"There's no bickering (when we fall behind). There's no finger pointing. The kids really like each other," O'Regan said. "We probably had some better athletes in previous years, but chemistry is an intangible thing. Overall, just the attitude is so different. They have confidence in the coaching staff, and the coaching staff has confidence in them."
That attitude has extended to areas outside football.
"They're not getting in trouble in school," O'Regan said. "Their grades are fine. Seventy-five percent of the team has been on the honor roll. They're being smarter about their grades and their actions. That's really the big difference, and that's what makes a winner, I think."
The positive attitude didn't appear overnight. It was fostered by O'Regan and his coaching staff.
"We teach our kids to be smart," O'Regan said. "You play hard, you play smart, and good things will happen. It's something we've been preaching for a while. This year it seems to have clicked."
Before the school year started, O'Regan challenged his players to be accountable for their actions. He told the team he wanted them sitting up front in class, paying attention. When he and his coaching staff periodically checked classrooms to note where the guys were sitting, nearly every one was sitting up front.
"I've had teachers come up to me at lunch and say, "I've had three or four of your players in class and they've just been great. They're the leaders,' " O'Regan said.
Coming into the season, there were plenty of concerns whether Riverview could improve on consecutive 5-5 seasons. Riverview had traditionally been a power running team, but entering 2005, the top two running backs, Addae, a sophomore, and Powers, a junior, were listed at 5 feet 10, 155 pounds and 5-7, 160 pounds, respectively.
"We worried whether Addae was going to be old enough and mature enough to take the pounding in 6A football against some of the bigger schools that we play," O'Regan said.
What both backs lack in size they have more than made up for with speed and elusiveness. Powers leads the team with 833 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Addae is right behind with 819 yards and nine touchdowns. "Everybody said that this offense wasn't designed for a lot of fast running backs," Powers said. "Jahleel and I make it work, though. We must be doing something right. We're 8-1."
Senior quarterback David Hike added, "Those guys make some miracles happen."
The only blemish on the Sharks' record remains a 15-14 loss to Brandon on a last-second, 51-yard field goal. O'Regan feels that loss probably did more to help the team than hurt it.
"Our kids still have a chip on their shoulder about that loss. It's one of those things where it just motivates you for the rest of the year," O'Regan said.
That chip is no more evident than when Addae is asked about what the team hopes to accomplish in the upcoming playoffs.
"We're not losing another game. We're going to be state champions," Addae said. "Keep that in the back of your mind."
[Last modified November 3, 2005, 08:48:08]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]