Riverwood has established itself as a contender in Region 7AAAAAA as it enters the second half of the 2021 football season.
With a 5-1 overall record and 2-1 mark in 7AAAAAA, the Raiders are only a game behind first-place Johns Creek (3-0) and only half a game behind second-place Cambridge (2-1).
It is a return to form for Riverwood, which won its first 11 games of the 2019 season before losing to Dutchtown in the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
The Raiders won their first three games of the 2020 campaign before losing five of their last six contests to finish 4-5 and fall short of a postseason berth.
“It’s going well,” Riverwood coach Robert Edwards said. “We started out good last year too, but we kind of fell short, so our focus this year is to maintain and finish what we started. Right now, we’re doing pretty well as far as completing games and playing them all the way through, so we want to continue doing that and get better every week and be competitive in the games week in and week out.”
For Edwards, staying healthy and avoiding many of the injuries that plagued his team a year ago has made the biggest difference in Riverwood’s turnaround
“We’re a small team in (Class) AAAAAA, so we always predicate on injuries and everyone staying healthy,” Edwards said. “So right now, we’ve been able to stay healthy for most of the season and that’s been the difference. All our key players are healthy and we’ve been able to go out there with a full squad and compete.”
Riverwood scored its biggest victory of the season with a convincing 44-15 win over River Ridge, which was ranked third in the state in AAAAAA going into the game, Oct. 1.
“Everybody was doing their job,” Edwards said. “We preached do what you’re supposed to do when you have the opportunity to make the play. I think offensively and defensively, those guys stepped up when they had the opportunity to make the play and they made those plays.”
Leading the way as always was senior quarterback Avery Smith, a Toledo commitment who completed 23 of 33 passes for 360 yards and five touchdowns in the win over River Ridge.
“We’ve got a great leader in our quarterback on offense, so we rely heavily on him to make the right decisions,” Edwards said. “Thus far, he’s done a great job of putting everybody in the right spot and getting the ball to the right people and we’ve been able to put up points.”
Smith leads a strong senior class that includes twin brothers Zach Cigelske, a strong safety/outside linebacker, and Burke Cigelske, an outside linebacker/running back, as well as offensive linemen/defensive linemen George Thomas and Michael Simon, cornerback/running back Jaden Harris, wide receiver Tim Dorce and wide receiver/cornerback Alan Reid.
After a bye week following the River Ridge game, Riverwood now faces a couple more tough 7AAAAAA opponents as it hosts both Creekview (4-1, 1-1 as of Oct. 7) Oct. 15 and Cambridge (4-0, 2-0 as of Oct. 7) – ranked 10th in AAAAAA as of Oct. 7 – Oct. 22 at Bill Hoskyn Stadium.
“We don’t underestimate any team, simply because we’re one of the smaller teams in the region,” Edwards said. “A lot of our guys play both ways (offense and defense), so we know we have to start fast and finish strong, that’s our motto ‘Start fast and finish strong.’ Because we know a lot of teams are going to be bigger than us. Creekview is definitely a challenge. They have a pretty good defensive line that gets after it, so we know that’s going to be a challenge for us and they beat us last year (19-7) as well as Cambridge (24-13). So these are teams that beat us last year, so we want to make sure that we’re prepared to go into each game and compete to win.”