There’s a lot of work to do at Riverwood this spring, where second-year coach Robert Edwards and his staff is busy identifying the 11 players most likely to start on offense this fall.
That’s right, all 11 starters from Riverwood’s 8-3 season graduated and have moved on. Which leaves Edwards looking long and hard to replace starters like quarterback Aaron Graham (1,734 yards, 16 TDs passing), running back Reese White (1,771 yards rushing, 21 TDs) and receiver Tre Young (42 catches, six TDs).
“We graduated a great group of seniors,” Edwards said. “That’s what we’re trying to do this spring, find players to fill those spots.”
That’s the bad news. But the good news is that last year’s success – which resulted in the team posting its most victories since 2001 – has helped encourage more students to come out for the football team. Edwards has seen soccer players, lacrosse players, wrestlers and basketball players sign up to play football – either for the first time or returning to the program.
“It’s been a tremendous help,” Edwards said. “Now they believe, they believe in the program and they want to get in there and help.”
One of the biggest battles this spring is for the quarterback job. Austin Simmons and freshman Burke Cigelske are the main candidates, but Simmons is involved with track – he’s a hurdler headed for the state meet in the 110 and 300 hurdles and will miss part or most of the spring. If Cigelske gets the nod, Simmons will likely start at running back. Zack Cigelske, Burke’s twin brother, is also a running back candidate. Junior Donovan Logan is a receiver with game experience and skills. He caught eight passes in 2018.
The defense is in excellent shape, despite losing four starters. The backups at those spots are already in place and most of the returners are linemen.
“If you bring the guys up front, you’ve got a chance,” Edwards said. “And our backups played a lot.”
The top prospects are defense end/outside linebackers Kyle Kenard (6-6, 215) and Larry Thomas (6-3, 205), a pair of seniors. Kenard has already received 15 college offers and has visited Georgia Tech. Thomas has received three offers.
Other top returners are in the secondary – junior cornerback Khalil Anderson (5-11, 170) and senior strong safety Elijah Kirby (6-1, 180). Simmons (6-1, 170), perhaps the best athlete on the team, will likely play both ways.
Riverwood will be trying to post back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1983-84, when the Raiders went 9-2 in consecutive seasons. The Raiders should again be a factor in the wide-open Region 6-AAAAA race.
Riverwood will complete its spring workouts with a scrimmage at North Atlanta on May 16.
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