In Robert Edwards‘ first two seasons as Riverwood’s head coach, the Raiders had unprecedented success.

In 2018 the team won eight games and hosted its first postseason game since 2001, which was also the last year it won at least eight contests. The following year, Riverwood went 10-0 in the regular season and won the Region 6-5A title before falling in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs to Duchtown.

So in 2020, when the Raiders went 4-5 and just missed the 6A playoffs, it was certainly a disappointment.

“We’re just going to (have to) play solid football,” Edwards said when asked how Riverwood can return to the postseason this year. “A lot of those (2020) games we lost by three to seven points, and we were in it up until the fourth quarters. One or two plays a game would have changed the outlook on those games.

“We’re going to try to make plays when it’s our turn to make plays. We have a good group coming back. A lot of these guys were first-time players last year because we had a good senior group the year before when we went 11-1. We have a good senior group (this year), so we should be better off going into this season.”

The Raiders will miss three key starters who graduated: TE/OL/DE Jonathan Brown (now at Myrtle Beach Prep), SB/CB Khalil Anderson (Pitt signee) and DE Tillman Weaver (Miami of Ohio signee).

But Riverwood returns eight starters each on offense and defense and has a senior class of about 12 players providing leadership. That group is led by OL/DL Michael Simon, OL George Thomas, QB Avery Smith, DB Keith Harvey, LB/RB twins Zach and Burke Cigelske, OL Jaron Holzer, WR Tim Dorcé and DB Jaden Harris. FB/LB Jakobe Omalho, a senior who played OG/DT last season, is expected to have a larger role this fall.

Three others – senior S Gus Olidge, juniors Taijeon Dorcé (LB) and Levi Linowes (TE/DE) and sophomore OL Jayson Green – also are expected to contribute.

“The number one thing is staying healthy,” Edwards said. “Even though we’re a 6A team, we’re … one of the smaller teams, numbers-wise. The main thing is to try to stay healthy, play smart football and put the kids in the best situation to win games.”

He added his six-person coaching staff has undergone major changes, with him and assistant Robert Hicks the only holdovers from last season.

“A lot of our old coaching staff went to other teams, so we’ve got a whole new coaching staff,” Edwards said. “That’s going to be a difference for us, those guys being leaders as coachers leading the kids to make the right decisions on and off the field.”

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