Riverside looks to find rhythm in playoffs at Dunham

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Practice makes perfect. Repetition produces consistency. You play to win the game.

It is hard to win games when you don’t play. It is difficult to move closer to perfection if you don’t have game experience. It is even tougher to achieve consistent performance without the proper time on the field in real game time.

For defending Division III state champion Riverside, that is the dilemma in 2017. The Rebels are still trying to find their rhythm.

When you are an elite team, it is tough to schedule.

To come close to filling their 2017 schedule, first-year head coach Chris Lachney had to play the likes of 5A power Barbe and Division I power Archbishop Rummel, along with Division II power De La Salle.

Needless to say, the Rebels lost all three games, despite doing some impressive things on offense.

The problem was that Riverside had just an eight-game schedule.

It was originally set to be nine games, still one short of where you want to be. That was as a result of a scheduling mistake by an opponent which had agreed to play the Rebels but pulled out after scheduling another opponent on the same date.

Then, the threat of Hurricane Harvey forced South Plaquemines to cancel its game with the Rebels, leaving them with just seven games.

The result of playing an extremely difficult schedule and a lack of games left Riverside with a 3-4 regular season record, including a heart-wrenching 31-30 overtime loss at Newman.

“You play those types of teams so that this time of year, you can kind of cash in your chips a little bit,” Lachney said. “That’s what we’re hoping that happens. We’ve kind of run the gauntlet in terms of good teams and also diverse teams that do different things offensively and defensively. Despite playing only seven regular season games, we have seen a lot of diversity in terms of scheme and players. Hopefully, we are as prepared as we can be.”

Despite the strength of schedule, Riverside earned just a fifth-seed.

“I can’t imagine any other season that had as many curve balls and ups and downs as this one has,” Lachney said. “It was tough for us to get any continuity going. I think if affects you more offensively than it does defensively just from a timing standpoint. Our kids have handled all of it the way I would want them to. We have a tough football team made up of tough football players.”

The Rebels started slowly before downing 12th-seed Northlake Christian 42-21 in the opening round of the Division III playoffs a week ago. Now, Riverside travels to face fourth-seeded Dunham (9-1) in the quarterfinals Friday night.

“It took us a little time to get going offensively,” Lachney said. “We gave up a touchdown early on defense. Our kicking game was our weapon and it really spurred us to win the game. I know we have not played our best football yet. We probably played our best game in week one in the 54-0 win at Southern Lab. They are a good team, the defending Division IV state champions. We haven’t quite found that level again. I am hoping that comes now.”

For Riverside to advance, it will have to come now.

The Tigers (9-1) are a very good football team.

Neil Weiner’s squad lost its opener (42-28) to 5A Central and has ripped off nine consecutive victories since. That includes a 55-6 victory over 13th-seed Pope John Paul II in the opening round of the playoffs a week ago.

Dunham is led by senior quarterback Mike Williams, who is huge, imposing, experienced and quite good. Junior Derek Stingley, Jr. is an elite athlete and a two-way star as an outstanding receiver an elite defensive back with 10 interceptions and a brilliant kick return specialist. Junior Treylan Mouton is an outstanding running back. Junior Jordan Roberson is outstanding as well in all aspects of the game.

Riverside has a bevy of skill players, led by senior quarterback Jordan Loving and senior running back Jeremy Gibson, an Arkansas commit. Junior Kash Foley, senior Garland Robertson and senior Jalen Banks are excellent receivers for the Rebels.

Dunham is still smarting from last year’s 41-40 upset loss to Newman, falling at home as a fifth-seed to the 12th-seeded Greenies.

“I expect our kids to play physically, to be tough, to play fast,” Lachney said. “This is certainly a great opponent with a couple of great players. Mike Williams is as imposing a player as we have seen. Derek Stingley is as explosive a player as we have seen and we played Ja’Marr Chase and Julien Gums. I know we are capable of playing at a higher level,” Lachney said. “If it is going to happen, it needs to happen now.”

The winner advances to play the winner of the quarterfinal matchup pitting eighth-seed Episcopal at top-seed Notre Dame in the semifinals.

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Ken Trahan

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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