By Molly Seales
On Monday, July 25, the Riverdale Rebel varsity and junior varsity football teams had their first official practice for the 2022 season. The guys were eager to get back on the field, and most of them had been working out and conditioning for most of the summer. With the loss of 7 seniors, many expect this to be a rebuilding year for the Rebels-but the players disagree.
I caught up with a couple of the football players and asked for their thoughts on the upcoming season. Senior wide receiver and defensive back James Wagoner, who started playing football at Riverdale in 3rd grade, said, “I feel like we are going to have a great season. I feel like the 6×6 tournament boosted our confidence, and personally we can beat anybody because of the raw talent we have. I’m just ready to end my senior year with a ring on my finger.” Returning junior quarterback and linebacker Ryder Huddleston, who also started playing football for the Rebels in 3rd grade, shared some of the same sentiments as James. Ryder said, “My expectations for the season are high. A lot of people are calling this season a ‘rebuilding year.’ However, I know what the team brings to the table, and I know we all will do our jobs on and off the field.”
Head coach Jared Smelser is pumped up and ready for the season. He said, “With new seasons come new challenges. We lost 80 percent of our offensive scoring from last season. We have to rely on some new faces and some key players that played sparingly last year. Every year there are several unknowns. We must focus on what we know. I know that we will play Riverdale football. We will do what we do best. We will play hard and bring tons of energy. The schedule won’t be easy, but this program continues to amaze me. We will continue to lean on our leaders. These guys have been working hard all summer long. Now it’s time to put this hard work to the test. Let’s go Rebels!”
Assistant Coach Jensen Spillum, who is one of the biggest team motivators, had great things to say about the Rebels. Coach Jensen said, “Our expectations are always to win it all, but we need to focus on winning one week at a time. We have a young group of guys this year with some underclassmen that are expected to step up into important roles. We have a lot of positives on both offense and defense, but we also have plenty to improve on when it comes to zone coverage on defense and our run game on offense. I am really excited for this season because of the group of seniors we have as well as younger players we have. Rebel football is back!”
The Rebels will kick things off with a jamboree at Tallulah on Friday, August 12. They will begin their regular season on Friday, August 19, as they travel to Prairie View Academy in Bastrop. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. We are ready to watch our boys of fall!
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