After last season’s 5-5 campaign, their best record in six years and which included a 44-26 rout of powerful Grady, the Raiders feel more strongly than ever they are on the verge of breaking through and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
It’s showing in their attitude toward one another and having an “us against the world” mentality, said coach Robert Ingram.
“We talk about what it is to be a brotherhood, having a passion for the game and respecting the opponent and loving one another,” Ingram said. “This group of kids, more so than any group since I’ve been here, does that.”
Ingram’s helped rebuild a program by giving it some needed stability. Now in his fifth season, he’s the longest-tenured coach since Milo Mathis (1983-88) according to GHSFHA.org.
Riverwood has more than 100 players for the first time under Ingram, and those numbers will be needed as the Raiders face the jump from Class AAA to AAAAA. They’ll compete in Division B of Region 7-AAAAA against the likes of Kell, Pope and Sprayberry, three consistently strong Cobb County teams.
“It’s a heck of a jump and it’s a heck of a region, and we’ve got to show up every Friday night ready to play,” Ingram said. “We won’t be scared of anybody. We’ll respect them, we’ll understand how good their programs are and all that stuff that you’re supposed to say, but we won’t be scared of them.”
The Raiders’ triple-option offense is led on the line by returning center Henry Hope and tackle Zach Kilgore, as well as two-way lineman Darius Jenkins. At quarterback, Buck Woodcox is currently No. 1 on the depth chart, with fullback Preston Stewart, slotback Tyler Blake, receiver Jonathan Goodson and multi-talented Grant Drakeford also expected to contribute.
Defensively, Jermel Johnson, who had a team-high 117 tackles last season, returns at linebacker, along with Izaiah Prouse-Lackey and Zack Houston. Stewart also plays defensive end and leads the front four there, and Aaron McIntosh should be a strong contributor at cornerback.
“We’re just deeper than we’ve ever been, and that’s a good thing, a good problem to have,” Ingram said.
To get back to the postseason for the first time since these players were starting elementary school will mean getting off to a better start. The Raiders dropped to 2-5 and 1-3 in region play last year before getting on an offensive roll and a three-game winning streak.
“The last two years we’ve come out slow,” said Stewart, a senior. “We’ve been a couple games under .500 to start, but we’re looking to start the season strong.”
Aug. 31 at Cambridge
Sept. 7 Holy Innocents’
Sept. 14 at North Springs
Sept. 21 at Sequoyah
Sept. 28 Northview
Oct. 5 Kell*
Oct. 12 at Sprayberry*
Oct. 19 Osborne*
Oct. 26 Pope*
Nov. 9 region play-in game
*denotes region game