In 28 years of coaching high school football, Riverside High School coach Jim Risen has never been through a situation like this.
On Sept. 10, the Western Line School District announced that it would reinstate football. Risen’s Bulldogs first game is scheduled for Oct. 2 against fellow Western Line rival O’Bannon High School.
“The toughest challenge has been getting them to practice each day. Since we are not having in-class school yet, it has been hard work trying to help get the players to practice,” said Risen, who is in his second year at Riverside. “I have been through hurricanes as a coach, I went through Sept. 11th, but this has been different because the uncertainty lasted so long. It has been challenging, and It has required that all of us be flexible. It has required us to stick together.”
If there is a silver lining, Risen said he knows he will have a handful of senior leaders who can lead the Bulldogs.
Two of these senior leaders, quarterback D’Vonta Gaston and running back Demarieus Pam, said they are willing to help their younger teammates in any way possible.
On Wednesday before practice, Gaston stated he was especially thrilled his team will get to play since his team has the potential to be so much better than they were last season when they went 2-9.
While seven Riverside players transferred after the season was originally postponed, Gaston and Pam are two who decided to stay.
“This is our home. We started here, and we are going to finish here. We have some seniors on this team who are determined to finish the right way ,” said Gaston.
Said Pam, “We are happy to be playing football again, but we want to do more than play. We want to finish our high school careers strong.”
Along with Pam and Gaston, other key contributors for the Bulldogs this season will be defensive back J.J. Allen and linemen Justin Irion and Jason Irion.
“Going to the playoffs will be a major accomplishment for us, but the main thing will be keeping them together because we have all been through a tough ordeal. Right now we are getting back to basics and getting them back in shape.”
After hosting O’Bannon on Oct. 2, the Bulldogs are scheduled to host Northside on Oct. 9, travel to Coffeeville on Oct. 16 and Pisgah on Oct. 30. The Bulldogs will conclude their regular season Oct.30 with a home game against Madison St. Joseph.