By Doug Gorman
When Riverdale head football coach Nick Davis speaks about the Raiders' upcoming season, there's plenty of optimism in his voice.
By Davis' account, the past three weeks of preseason drills have been successful.
"We have battled the heat, but we really haven't had too many problems," said Davis. "That says an awful lot about the condition of this football team. They have worked hard to get themselves in shape."
The off-season dedication could be the key for the Raiders as they begin the second season under Davis.
"It's easier the second time around," said Davis. "Everybody knows what to expect."
Davis admits he has high hopes for his squad. A year ago, the Raiders finished with a 6-5 record and advanced to the first round of the playoffs.
This time around, Davis wants more from the Raiders.
"We know we are a playoff team, and we feel we can make the playoffs every year, but we aren't going to be satisfied until we play for the state championship," he said.
The Raiders bring back plenty of experience on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Rod Mason is projected to be the Raiders' starter again this season with Kelvin Colbert returning at running back.
Also, junior wide receiver Tashad Tukes returns to the wide receiver spot.
Plenty of experience also returns to the defensive side of the ball in the form of Vandral Shackleford and Justine Cobb, both linebackers.
Corner back Emmitt Merchant brings senior leadership to the Raiders' secondary.
Getting his team ready to play shouldn't be too difficult for Davis.
The Raiders first four games are against Clayton County rivals. The Raiders open against North Clayton on August 19 at Tara, arguably the school's biggest rivalry.
"There's not a whole lot you have to say about that game, " Davis said. "Our guys will be ready."
Morrow (Aug. 25 at Tara), Lovejoy (Sept. 2 at Twelve Oaks) and Mundy's Mill (Sept.10 at Tara) are the next three games on the Raiders' 2005 football season.
North Clayton 31-24 L
Morrow 24-0 W
Lovejoy 23-20 L
Mundy's Mill 27-26 W
Lithonia 42-21 W
Newton 42-27 W
Redan 17-0 W
Tri-Cities 21-7 W
Douglas 24-27 L
Stephenson 21-0 L
Starr's Mill 24-6 L