During practice Tuesday, River Riders players envision hitting and pummelling Falcons players, whom the squad plays in their opener in Saskatoon tonight. Herald photo by Gary Pearson
--PRINCE ALBERT-- The River Riders open their campaign Wednesday in hostile territory, but have available a core group of veterans to guide them through their encounter in Saskatoon.
After finishing last season with a single win compared to six losses, the bantam boys are ready to stride towards improvement.
“Practices have been really good,” said head coach Ryan Hughes, whose coaching tenure has lasted as long as the River Riders five-year program. “The guys are developing quickly. We’ve got a lot of veterans and they are helping out the rookies and taking leadership roles.”
And a stalwart veteran presence is just what the doctor ordered for this season’s outfit. Fullback Kyle Deibert, 14, has been playing football for four years and is compelled to tutor and guide his team to prominence.
“I will try to keep them (rookies) in sync and keep them focused on the game and help them as much as I can,” said Deibert, who, along with running back Albert Cooper are sure to be at the focal point of innumerable Riders’ offensive forays.
Hughes said his roster consists of 36 players, of which about 16 are veterans of the bantam division. This season’s team boasts depth scarcely seen since the club’s inception five years ago, said Hughes.
“These guys want to do well and want to succeed and push themselves, but at the same time they are still young, so it’s all about skill development,” said the burly head coach. “But the expectation is higher this year because the guys put it on themselves.”
Defensive end Ryland Gibb agrees with his coach’s sentiment. The pressure this year, Gibb said is elevated, but the boys are in good standing to live up to their lofty expectations.
The Prince Albertan takes to the field for his second season of football tomorrow in Saskatoon versus the notoriously formidable Arns Falcons. The 13-year-old has no intention of succumbing to the pressure an away game entails, as he envisions a torturous evening ahead for the enemy quarterback.
“It’s more like trying to blow through the guy and get around him, do whatever it takes,” said Gibb. “I want to hit the quarterback.”
His size and speed will inevitably cause the Falcons fits in tonight’s clash.
Deibert’s long-standing rivalry with the Falcons recommences tomorrow, and while the fullback understands their opposition’s credence on the field, he has no intention of playing a subservient style or granting the Falcons too much respect.
“Ever since I played I know Arns has been one of the best, so I just want my team to go out there and attack,” said the committed fullback. “Get the first points and just go at them, try to run up the score.”
The River Riders will breath a sigh of relief upon completion of Wednesday's season opener, as the team looks forward to three consecutive home games. The first of which takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at Prime Ministers’ Park.