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Running game holds key for Sharks

Avious Steadman could carry a big load as Riverview faces a tough schedule.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


RIVERVIEW -- The numbers just don't add up.

No matter how he configures them, Riverview coach Alex Albert can't seem to account for all of the yards the Sharks lost to graduation.

And in Riverview's case, there is a direct correlation between yards and wins.

Riverview went 8-4 last season, advancing to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. In each of the losses, the Sharks gained fewer than 300 yards.

Running back Avious Steadman gained 1,600 of Riverview's 3,400 rushing yards last year. Charlie Ross ran for 900. Fullbacks Chad Kaa and Dustin French combined for 900.

Problem is, Ross, Kaa and French graduated. Plus, Riverview moves up a class and plays a tougher non-district schedule. Albert is counting on Steadman for 1,500 yards. But to approach last year's success, Riverview might need him to reach 2,000.

"Obviously, he's over one-third of the offense," Albert said. "But is he half? That's the question."

Steadman is up for the challenge.

After running the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds in previous years, Steadman has been timed consistently at 4.5 this year.

Furthermore, with about 3,500 career yards, he is approaching Gaither graduate Lydell Ross' county record of 5,120, providing additional motivation.

"He's much faster," Albert said. "You can see it. He just has one more gear to step out there."

Without a passing game to support him, Steadman will need the extra speed against a Class 5A schedule that includes six playoff teams (East Bay, Armwood, Gaither, Chamberlain, Lakeland and Haines City) from last year and another (Plant City) that made the post-season in 1999.

"We have such a tough schedule this year," Albert said."I think we actually could be a 3-7 team and be a better offense and defense."

OFFENSE: Barring injury, Albert said he knows what to expect from Steadman. It's the rest of the backfield he's unsure about.

Fullback Paulus Jonathans is not as big as Kaa or French, but the Durant transfer has the ability to make cuts in a hole and is quick getting to the perimeter to block on sweeps.

Senior Richard Woodbury moves into Ross' spot. Though not the blocker or punishing runner Ross was, Woodbury has 4.5 speed and is a better receiver. Albert said he hopes Woodbury can produce 900 yards through a combination of his running and pass receiving.

"That's the way we're going to try to equal Charlie's numbers," Albert said.

To ease the pressure on Steadman, Albert said Riverview will throw more play-action passes. Sharks quarterbacks completed just 37 percent of their passes a year ago.

Returning starter Matt Mazur will be pushed at quarterback by Dwayne Sanders, who chose not to renew a special assignment at Brandon. Mazur has more experience, but Sanders is more athletic.

Riverview answered a major concern when it moved Mike Miller, its best drive blocker, to the tackle spot vacated by Rocky Velasco. Two-year starters Josh Trepl, Matt Stephens and Eric Justice also return.

Senior Dustin Yates did not start but saw plenty of action. Dorian Moore would have started had he been academically eligible. Underclassmen Alex Sanchez and Josh Davis also will see time on the line.

DEFENSE: Riverview returns eight players with experience, including six two-year starters.

Jermaine Jackson, Cinque Barnes and Steadman's brother, Tony, provide athleticism along the front line.

Barnes was slated to start a year ago but broke a leg during the first week of practice. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder bench presses 300 pounds and has 4.5 speed.

Senior Darren Glass anchors a physical and experienced linebacking corps. Outside backers Glass and Ronnie Kleinatland and inside backer Joey Gerstel are two-year starters. Inside backer Dan Hardy played last year at Jefferson.

The weakest link is the secondary, where Riverview lost strong safety and West Virginia recruit Jahmile Addae.

"We absolutely will not be able to replace him," Albert said.

Cornerbacks Brandon Sherrod and Pat Thomas and safety Keon Hines started the past two years. Terrance Reaves, a hurdler who played junior varsity last year, probably will start at the other safety spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Soccer player Steve Brylski, a free safety last year, will handle kickoffs and field goals. His kickoffs reached the end zone in the spring jamboree against Gaither.

Sherrod returns for a third season as punter. His only punt in the jamboree covered 50 yards.

Avious Steadman will return kicks.

He averaged 10 yards on punts and 22 yards on kickoffs last season. Woodbury will join him on kickoff returns.

RIVERVIEW SHARKS AT A GLANCE

COACH: Alex Albert, fourth season (13-18, 62-70 in 13th season overall) ASSISTANTS: Mike Hernandez, Justin Shive, Tom Snyder, Dustin Almeida, Noel Hike, Jim Hutchinson, Barry Jacobs, Dan O'Reagan, Scott Palmer, Bob Heckathorn, Carey Reed.

COLORS: Royal blue, black and silver

STADIUM: Shark Field, 11311 Boyette Road, Riverview

CLASS: 5A, District 5

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 2000

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Tampa Bay Tech 37-0, lost to Bradenton Southeast 46-14

THE BIG GAME

SEPT. 21, ARMWOOD: The Hawks will throw the ball all night. The Sharks will run all night. The Sharks made a name for themselves last year, going 7-3 in the regular season. A win here would ensure that reputation lives on.

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