Youthful Riverdale concentrating on getting stronger

By Jeffery Armstrong

For the last couple of years, Riverdale Raiders head football coach Rodney Hackney has preached team play, even though he's had a couple of impact players that took over the games.

After losing 45 seniors in two years, he's really emphasizing team play more than ever in 2003.

"This is going to be an interesting year for me, especially since we've lost so many seniors," said Hackney. "This will be a whole new team; the youngest team I've fielded here at Riverdale. There are no superstars, no go-to guys. We've got to play as a team or we may lose."

Hackney said he is looking forward to the challenge of playing younger athletes on the gridiron this year. He has had 50 players come out for summer practice so far; he expects a total of around 80 once the season starts.

Hackney said the Raiders haven't done a whole lot this summer. They've been looking at film and doing agility drills. The majority of the summer so far has been spent in the weight room.

"We've got to focus on getting stronger this year, especially since we are in such a tough region (4-AAAAA)," Hackney said.

The Raiders started a "Lift-a-Thon" Monday evening in order to incorporate lifting weights and raising money for the team. The players asked their parents and other relatives to pay 10 cents for every pound they lift each day. The team's goal is to raise $2,000.

The players compete in such events as the bench press, the squat and the military press.

The Lift-a-Thon starts from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the school and will last until Wednesday. Hackney said he was pleased with the turnout Monday.

"We had a nice crowd of parents supporting their kids tonight," he said.

"If I had to guess, I'd say we raised about $500 dollars already."

Hackney said this team won't be concerned with what happened to the 2002 Raider team, a team which had to forfeit nine of its 10 games due to unknowingly using an ineligible player.

"Last year was unfortunate, but we'll have to play the game on the field and move on," he said. "I lost some coaches, but I'm happy with the new coaches that have come on board. It should be a good year."